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Real stories from WAIT members
WAIT (WECIL’s Access and Inclusion Team) are central to the work carried out by Disability.Inc. Formerly known as Bristol Physical Access Chain (BPAC), we are a group of Disabled volunteers who help to improve the quality of life, inclusion and access for the people of Bristol and beyond. We are a team of experts by experience who consult with building owners, organisations, developers and service providers within both private and public sectors to improve and promote access and inclusion for all.
We interviewed some of our members, Jess, Alan, Paul and Ellie, about their experience, what they enjoy, the impact they have had and why consulting those with lived experience is so important for businesses. We are always welcoming new members to WAIT, so read on to find out what to expect and how you can join us today!
Awareness for businesses
Groups like WAIT play a crucial role in helping businesses and organisations to become more accessible and inclusive, not just on paper, but in practice. The built environment is often not very accessible and there can be stigmas around disability, which is why WAIT are pushing for a higher standard of accessibility beyond just the bare minimum and increasing awareness around a wide range of impairments, including those that are non visible. By sharing our experience of buildings and services, we can show how Disabled people might face barriers that organisations haven’t even considered before. WAIT are involved in meetings, audits and discussion, leading to improved facilities, increased customer satisfaction and loyalty, better staff training and awareness, and the creation of more diverse and accessible spaces for all. We help make real change happen!
WAIT are helping businesses become more aware of accessibility and bringing it to the forefront by identifying immediate solutions and educating staff about these problems. We often teach people who don’t initially understand and make them aware, giving valuable insights and sharing our experiences in order to help remove barriers and improve access. For businesses, it is beneficial to be aware of improvements they can make rather than waiting until it is too late and someone complains, risking their reputation. As Ellie points out, a lot of WAIT’s audits are on buildings that need retrofitting and which were originally constructed without any design input from Disabled people. By sharing our lived experience, WAIT can help change these spaces to work for everyone in practice, not just now, but in the future too.
Importance of diversity and representation
WAIT pride themselves on being a diverse team and representing a wide range of disabilities and impairments. Everyone has a different experience that they can bring to the table. This is so important because it means that we can help improve accessibility for all rather than just one group of Disabled individuals. We give everyone a voice – Jess explains that by being involved in WAIT, ‘I feel able to share my own experiences and more importantly, I feel actually listened to when I share’.
WAIT share advice based on lived experience, and the diversity of the team broadens the discussion, educating not just staff at the projects we’re involved in, but other team members too. Paul shares that he has gained insights from colleagues with visual impairments and neurodivergence, enriching his own understanding alongside sharing his own experience. It is also important that people with lived experience of a disability have a voice in decision making, which are otherwise made by non Disabled people. Disabled people have a wealth of knowledge that is so valuable for making accessibility improvements, and we should share this if we can. Together, WAIT is a collective with more power to change things, and the diversity within the team is what makes our input so valuable.
WAIT are involved in a whole range of projects that have made a difference for Disabled people in Bristol and beyond – including Bristol City Council, the National Trust and other businesses, venues and charities. From physical audits on buildings to looking at documentation like survey wording and floor plans, every project has an impact on the community in a positive way. We can help with simple measures, like dropping curbs for wheelchair users, or bigger projects like the redevelopment of whole buildings.
WAIT members are also able to work on projects personal to them, like for Ellie; as a PhD student, she experienced accessibility issues in the Life Sciences building where she worked and got WAIT involved to do an access audit, leading to further staff training. It was great to know that her personal experiences are helping to improve the accessibility of the building for students and staff to come. WAIT has also advised on a series of projects for the Community Resilience Fund, providing information on improving accessibility for various community centres, a mosque and a probation office. These targeted audits included specific recommendations, like advising the Malcolm X Community Center on an accessible toilet and garden access.
Jess was part of an access audit for Hestercombe House and Gardens in Taunton, and she tested out their mobility scooter. They’ve started to put changes in place based on the audit and report that WAIT gave them afterwards, showing the progress that our team helped to make. Paul says it is the little wins that matter for him, and has made a difference in improving accessibility by advocating for better signage at Temple Meads station and is involved in some ongoing work around quiet spaces around the city for neurodivergent people. Another big project the team are doing at the moment is the Accessible Somerset project with Somerset County Council.
For our team, the most gratifying moments arise when our suggestions lead to real changes. We love seeing the light bulb moments when people realise and understand issues that they hadn’t thought about before, knowing that we are helping not only make practical changes but increasing long term education, awareness and understanding of Disability.
Join the WAIT team!
Our WAIT members have joined for all different sorts of reasons, from personal growth and community impact. Jess joined to improve her knowledge, skills, and make a difference in the local area, whilst Paul joined after noticing access issues in Bristol during the pandemic. Alan is a long standing member of about 17 years, originally joining BPAC which ran from 2006-2015 and was set up in response to the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995.
Being part of WAIT is flexible, with a mix of online and in-person projects – you can contribute as much or as little as you want to. We are a welcoming and friendly team, and you will have the opportunity to meet new people in a like-minded community. Joining WAIT has helped our members connect with others in similar situations, providing a sense of support. We are an ever-expanding team that are open minded, willing to learn and passionate about making a positive change. If you have any frustrations about accessibility and are experiencing difficulties making change as an individual, being part of a larger collective is a powerful way to make a real impact.
If you are a Disabled person and are interested in joining WAIT we would love to hear from you! You must be able to communicate your own accessibility needs and be interested in improving accessibility for all. We hold monthly team meetings and work anywhere from Scotland to Taunton. Our non-Disabled managers support us on audits and complete the audit reports for us. Paid sessional contracts are available alongside our volunteer contracts.