Monday, 31 December 2018

Open letter to the Trades Club about accessibility

An open letter to The Trades Club in Hebden Bridge following my visit there. This was sent on 17th December. I waited for a response from them and include any response from them below. There is further comment and thoughts at the bottom of the post. 

To you all,

Apologies for contacting via facebook, I was unable to find a contact email address.

I made my first visit to The Trades Club on Friday 14th of December. Knowing the reputation of the place as inclusive and socially liberal I was looking forward to my visit. Sadly that excitement was soon quashed when I realised there was one group of people you are not inclusive for and discriminate against: disabled people. I am fortunate that I can manage stairs, but due to my disability it is not without pain and difficulty. There are many others who simply wouldn’t have made it passed the front door. Understandably considering there is no step free access, no accommodations have been made for wheelchair access such as wide aisles for getting through the main hall or adequate seating options in the bar. However these accommodations don’t just benefit wheelchair uses but help people with other disabilities including mobility issues.

You have no accessibility statement on your website. No accessible toilet (which isn’t just a matter of allowing a wheelchair in). No notices about hearing loops, lighting, seating or signing.
There are no accommodations what so ever for disabled people. As a minority group we have been forgotten or dismissed as not worth a thought or the time and money. Without even an accessibility statement on your website there isn’t even an indication that accessibility for disabled people has been considered at all.

What particularly makes this a sore issue, apart from people not even being able to get into the venue, are your multiple statements and posters stating that you are an inclusive venue. You promote acceptance and outlaw discrimination based on race, gender, sexuality and ethnicity. This is wonderful. I am included in more than one of those minority groups and appreciate that sentiment. But it is a bitter pill to swallow when you continue to discriminate against disabled people and I was lucky to get into the venue at all.

I understand the building is difficult. I understand you are not a big corporation with plenty of financial backing. But I don’t believe that is an excuse. How you choose to spend your budget, what you choose to say, what modifications to the building you do and don’t make are choices. I don’t expect every business and building to be a flagship of accessibility, but I do expect that groups which espouse inclusivity, acceptance and equality to make choices that do not discriminate against disabled people.
I am disappointed.
I am let down.
I am unlikely to visit again unless changes are made.

As is my standard practice I will be posting this as an open letter on my blog Axes n Yarn in one week’s time. I will include any reply I have received from you. I do this because disableism is an issue that needs to talked about and because disabled people as a minority group need their voices to be heard.

Though this is a personal email based on personal experience I should also disclose that I work freelance as an accessibility consultant and advisor via my website

Yours sincerely.

Robin Tynan

Their response on facebook on the 17th of December:

Hi Robin - thanks for your email. I can assure you, making the Trades Club accessable for all is at the top of our priorities. Will elaborate on email, of course. Best wishes Mal Campbell [email address redacted]

I gave them my email address so they could contact me there. I then received the following email on December 18th

Thanks for forwarding your email address. The Trades Club secretary, Michael Coneys, will be back with a response shortly.

Final Thoughts

As of writing this blog on 31/01/2018 I have had not further contact from The Trades Club. My original letter said I would publish this post a week after sending, but due to various factors I've left it until now - roughly two weeks. I appreciate that during that period it has been Christmas and the associated public holidays. However, I should note that The Trades Club has been open during this period.

I think my concerns and feelings on the subject are clear from the letter I sent to them. I am of course not pleased with their lack of response. It does not leave me feeling assured that accessibility is a top priority. It is difficult to believe that accessibility and ending discrimination toward disabled people is a priority when a business has no mention of accessibility or disability on their website or any of their public information. It is difficult to accept that accessibility is a priority when a business has been open for over 35 years and no modifications or adaptations have been made, save for a single line of small print text stating that they are not accessible on their website.

I am of course disappointed at the lack of response from the Trades Club. Though it has many qualities to recommend it, I am somewhat soured by this experience and even if accessibility weren't an issue (there are some days when I wouldn't make it past their front door) I would be hesitant to support them in the future. I honestly feel that any venue or business that claims to be inclusive and welcoming of all minorities and yet fails to address the barriers which are excluding a group of people is disingenuous and needs to examine their ethics closely.

Should I receive any further correspondence from The Trades Club I will post an update.

UPDATE 08/01/19

I received the following email on 07/01/19. I haven't replied as I am not sure if a reply is necessary at this point. I may follow up their offer to telephone to talk over various points but will be doing so in a professional capacity as Access:Check. I am accepting of their apology and acknowledgement of problems. I continue to dislike, from any group, passing blame on to landlords. That is not because I believe the landlords are without fault, but because I believe there is a shared responsibility between tenants and landlords to address structural accessibility concerns, especially in long term leases.

Hi, Robin,
Mal passed on your comments regarding the Trades Club.
Firstly, could I apologise for the delay in responding and secondly,
for the Clubs shortcomings.We fully acknowledge your critical
While major structural changes are in the hands of our landlord ,(plans have been drawn up to link the lower and upper floor ),
there can be no excuse on our behalf for the lack of information
on the website . Clearly,we will set about trying to implement many of your suggestions.
In the meantime if you wish to discuss this in more detail, please
feel free to contact me. [redacted]
Kind Regards ,
Michael Coneys, Secretary ,The Trades Club

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