By Fiona Jarvis, Founder of Blue Badge Style

Blue Badge Style is redefining disability with style through its website and app. Too often people with disabilities don’t go out because they don’t know what to expect when they get there. We want to change that with our Galleries and Awards so that everyone can have a stylish social life!

Being able to see stylish images of a restaurant and its food before we visit has changed the way guests choose where to go, whether they have disabilities or not. Customers want to know what the restaurant looks like, what’s on the menu and what’s behind the bar. Often the quickest way to show this is with images.

The same is true for guests with disabilities; they want to see the restaurant and bar too, only the extra information they need in order to get in is slightly different. It’s also not covered by a statement saying ‘we are wheelchair accessible’. It’s much easier to show this information via an image with notes rather than with a dry statement. But how can restaurants know what to point out? What exactly is accessible? Nowhere is 100% accessible to everyone and people with disabilities are used to overcoming obstacles. We just like to know what they are in advance, then we can make our own choices about what’s possible.

To help, we’ve developed a decent online Gallery for and created by, people with disabilities, which can sit next to the existing gallery in the website menu.  It can include detailed information on; lighting, induction loops, hardness of walking surfaces, and small steps or bumps, the nearness of parking, distance from the entrance to reception, the position of rails and height of tables. This information is gathered by assessors who have disabilities themselves and is then added to interactive information pins overlaid on to the brand-compliant images.

The process of creating a Gallery means it also acts as a training exercise and permanent resource for restaurant staff. By highlighting the restaurant’s facilities and addressing any potential obstacles, staff also get a good idea about what to expect. No-one wants to feel anxious or nervous about a new experience, whether they are staff or guests. So a stylish Gallery could help restaurants to provide the right information to attract guests with disabilities.

Some of the best places that are already doing this will be at the Blue Badge Style Awards at Lutyens in Fleet St, London on 5th October.  The Awards are about promoting stylish venues which make the effort and offer good access and facilities. This year, it’s the third Blue Badge Style Awards and to celebrate, we have new awards for the hospitality sector.

Improving your access and facilities for guests with disabilities is also an opportunity to reach into a new market. Spend by disabled households is now £212bn per annum according to the government’s Department of Work & Pensions. So how can you improve your access and facilities to make a difference now? We have some quick wins in mind:

  1. Look at your loo. The toilet for a customer with disabilities needs a few additions, but these needn’t been difficult to do. Start with these three:
    1. Junk! It’s not a secondary storage space, it’s a toilet for someone who has difficulty getting about and needs a bit of room.
    2. Grab rails. One each side is best, so your customers can lift themselves across from the wheelchair. If you’re not sure, try sitting on a chair and lifting yourself across.
    3. Emergency cord. Get one, connect it up and make sure it reaches the floor.
  2. Get a ramp and give it a trial run. Try wheeling someone up it on a scooter or in a wheelbarrow. This way you and your team can find out about it before your customers need to use it, and be ready when they do arrive.
  3. Advertise your accessibility on your website. Once your loo is clear and your ramp is tested, let everyone know! Not surprisingly, people with disabilities like to check a place out online before they visit
  4. When people with disabilities visit your restaurant or bar, ask they if they need any help and then if there’s anything you could do better. You might be surprised by the answers!

And then come along to the Awards ceremony on the 5th October to find out more! For tickets to the Awards check out Blue Badge Style or find out more about Blue Badge Style on the website, Twitter or Facebook.