Community / ‘Stark’ figures highlight difficulties disabled people have accessing events

NEW research has shed light on the difficulties many disabled people face in accessing social or cultural events in Shetland.

Two thirds of disabled people who responded to the survey said they never, or rarely, attend social events or venues.

And more than half said there are events and venues that are difficult to access.

The research has been facilitated by Shetland Community Connections, using funding from the Knowledge is Power programme.

It sought to understand the reality of attending social and cultural events or spaces for disabled people in Shetland, as well as their families and carers, and how their experience can be improved.

Jane Haswell from Shetland Community Connections said: “It is a stark statistic that two thirds of respondents said they rarely or never attended social events or venues in Shetland with 58 per cent stating venues were difficult to attend for a variety of reasons detailed in the report.


“There is also a clear call for disabled people to be included in planning of events from early stages.”

Around half of all survey respondents also said they are not confident to attend social events and venues in Shetland.

Meanwhile 75 per cent said they felt organisers and venues need to improve their planning to support disabled people to attend equally.

The online survey was completed by, or on behalf of 96 individuals in Shetland. Around 40 per cent of respondents indicated they would describe themselves as a disabled person, and the rest stated they are a person who supports a disabled person to access spaces and events.

There is an acknowledgement that existing infrastructure – such as older buildings with stairs or stepped entrances – pose a challenge for accessibility, but a report into the research asks whether venues have “really tried” to get around these constraints.

Some of the suggestions offered by respondents to improve the experience include accessible toilets, better parking facilities, more room to move for people in wheelchairs and less queueing.

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The research also highlights some disabilities are “hidden”.

The report issues one plea on behalf of disabled people: “show me that you think of me”, even if challenges remain, so that everyone can feel a welcome participant in Shetland’s public life.

Haswell said: “Shetland has a rich and varied cultural and social life and the challenge is to ensure these are truly available to all.

“We need to take seriously the findings of this research. 

“For example; how can we turn around the issue of confidence to attend events which the research found was a significant barrier?

“That is about enabling attitudes and comes back to the title of the report and the challenge to ‘show me you have thought of me’ with inclusivity being embedded in the planning stages of Shetland’s events and venue’s activity.”


She said the hope is that key agencies, those who own and operate venues, and those who organise events will use the findings to inform their own decision-making and act to improve the experiences of disabled people and their families and carers in Shetland.

Haswell added that the next stage is to promote the findings and encourage the use of the research for useful change, as well as the reports use as evidence of need for funding applications.

The group is also looking at supplementary leaflets to accompany the research including a summary of existing disability led groups in Shetland who can help venues and event organisers with practical advice.

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