As we come out of lockdown, many people will be excited about the prospect of a night out with friends in the near future, whether it’s going to the pub, a bar or to a club. However, for those with a disability, it isn’t always something that can be enjoyed so easily, and the prospect of a night out can cause worry and anxiety.
In many cases, nightlife is not accessible for those with disabilities. This may be because of a lack of physical access, such as ramps and disabled toilets, or bouncers and bar staff not being trained to recognise, show respect for and speak appropriately to people who may need additional support. Sometimes, staff members even see disabled people as a problem.
Sarah Sharples, Paralegal at MSB, decided to take matters into her own hands. She wanted to make a change. Along with a friend, Sarah contacted Liverpool Labour Councillor Pam Thomas, Cabinet Member for Inclusive and Accessible City.
Together with Pam, in early 2020, Sarah met with the team at Baltic Triangle-based venue, Camp & Furnace, to discuss a way forward and talk about how they could support people with disabilities. Sarah’s aim was to ensure that those with disabilities, including hidden disabilities, have the best possible time on a night out. At that time, Camp & Furnace did not have a policy for dealing with disabilities or for accessibility.
Recognising that by introducing a policy and working to make the venue more accessible they could not only increase inclusivity, but widen their audience and customer-base, Camp & Furnace has now created a comprehensive policy for staff and has significantly improved its accessibility.
Stuart Moore, Licensing and Compliance Manager at Camp and Furnace, said:
“Camp and Furnace is a responsible operator in the night-time economy of Liverpool. We were made aware of the fact that our processes for dealing with the requirements of people with disabilities were not as good as they should have been. We engaged with Liverpool City Council and a company called “Attitude is everything” who specialise and support companies in such matters and help them to reach and maintain an acceptable standard of compliance with regards to people with both visible and hidden disabilities.
“I am pleased to say that we are making great progress with this and we look forward to rolling out our new policies in the near future.”
Sarah Sharples, said:
“I’m a firm believer in equality and inclusion as well as standing up for what you believe in. I feel strongly that those with disabilities shouldn’t be made to feel excluded, upset or treated any differently. Socialising should be an enjoyable experience for everyone, whatever their circumstances.
“By making venues so inaccessible, a whole group of people is being excluded. I’m incredibly proud to have played a part in improving accessibility. I hope that venues, not just in Liverpool, but across the country reconsider their policies and follow Camp & Furnace’s leading example.”
Councillor Pam Thomas, added:
“It is pleasing that Camp and Furnace have taken this action. Disabled people face discrimination in most areas of life, because we are not taken into account, are overlooked and excluded by systems and practices. So, when we do turn up it can come as quite a surprise to those who do not expect us to be there. They may not know what to do to make sure we are welcome along with our friends and family.
“For many disabled people this creates such a hostile environment that we do not even want to go to places anymore. By taking part in training that identifies and remedies disabling barriers in systems and practices the Camp and Furnace are showing that they welcome disabled customers, our families and friends, they have set an example that others in this and other sectors ought to follow.”
Emma Carey, Managing Partner at MSB, said:
“At MSB, we’re passionate about ensuring everyone is given a platform to be able to stand up for what they believe in. It’s inspiring to see our junior team members championing justice to make a difference in our communities.”