Accessibility goes beyond benefiting the 18.5 per cent of the UK population who live with some form of disability – it also aids families with young children, older people, those with temporary physical impairments and those with dietary requirements. In fact, all of us at some point in our lives are likely to benefit from an accessible venue or event.
A common mistake most event venues make is only taking physical access into account, when disabilities can include visual and hearing impairments and learning disabilities – not to mention the fact that 70 per cent of disabled people actually have a hidden disability.
Although the importance of accessibility has been stressed in recent years, there’s still much more that venues could be doing. Under the Equality Act 2010, it’s against the law to discriminate against those with ‘protected characteristics’, which includes people with a disability and those who are pregnant. This extends to being legally required to make reasonable adjustments to ensure those people aren’t at any kind of disadvantage when attending your venue or event.
While it can take extensive amounts of time, money and effort, every venue can and should be doing everything they can to ensure they are striving towards the goal of full accessibility. This can be anything from installing step-free access to considering how well your event space is lit. Of course, not every venue has the means to reach full accessibility – simply making sure you provide a warm welcome and useful information about your facilities can make all the difference to someone’s experience.
At the Royal Highland Centre, we have invested heavily in our accessibility over the last few years. We have two venues with a fully functioning Changing Places toilet, which allow those who need extra equipment and space to use the facilities safely and comfortably.
In addition to these, across our fixed venues on site we have 19 accessible toilets and 15 baby changing units – this number increases dramatically during the Royal Highland Show, where we install an additional Changing Places toilet and parent and baby rooms amongst other extra facilities.
On site, we also have lowered kerbs at all crossing points to ensure all customers have free access of movement, and our new event space is especially accessible, featuring complete ramped access to the east and west lobby areas and accessible bar and reception areas. New for the Royal Highland Show this year, we are installing an accessible platform at the main ring, enabling those on mobility scooters and wheelchairs to view performances unimpeded. At the Royal Highland Centre, we also have the flexibility to accommodate priority parking bays at the closest possible access points to our range of venues, depending on the needs of the event organisers.
Again, these facilities are increased during the Royal highland Show, where we add more than 500 accessible parking spaces across the east and west entrances.
We see first-hand the extensive demand for mobility scooters during the Royal Highland Show – last year more than 100 were being hired daily. The accessibility of our site is something acknowledged by the event organisers throughout the year who hire out our facilities. We are even hosting a couple of accessibility-focused events this year, Kids to Adultz Scotland and One Big Day. Kids to Adultz Scotland is an event dedicated to young people with disabilities and additional support needs and the parents, carers and professionals who support them, while One Big Day promotes the range of accessible vehicles, wheelchairs and scooters available on the Motability scheme. Both appreciate the unique opportunities the Royal Highland Centre presents for organising a fully accessible event, where visitors can experience a worry-free day out.
While there’s always more that event venues could be doing, our team is focused on navigating this complex landscape, driven by a passion and dedication to making our site as accessible as possible for everyone. While that’s a difficult task, we are invested in continually improving what we can offer eventgoers to make certain that their day out is memorable for all the right reasons.
Lorne Scott, commercial director at the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS).