Design tips for making your pub disabled friendly

By Fiona Jarvis

- Last updated on GMT

Design tips for making your pub disabled friendly

Related tags Wheelchair

With the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and the Equality Act 2010 coming to the fore, attracting disabled customers can give bars a competitive edge in the growing market estimated by the Department of Work & Pensions to be worth £212bn a year in the UK.

But where to start? It can be a daunting subject for publicans and bar owners.

Blue Badge Style reviews venues and rates them on their accessibility, facilities and style. I had the idea for Blue Badge Style because, despite becoming increasingly less mobile, I still wanted to enjoy a social life. The trouble is that in my efforts to get a drink in a bar, I’ve been in the goods entrance, wheeled through pub kitchens and hauled up steep steps! None of it very stylish.

But this isn’t just about attracting the disability dollar. It’s about improving reputation by doing the right thing and a review is also the quickest way to be anticipatory, as the Equality Act requires. In the end, it’s about offering people an informed choice so they can get on with having a good time!        

So, how can you make your pub more appealing to customers with disabilities? Here are some ideas to consider:

Look at your lavatory

Every pub needs a decent toilet for its customers. The toilet for a customer with disabilities needs a few additions, but these needn’t been difficult to do.

We suggest you take a look at:

  • Junk - it’s not a secondary storage space, it’s a toilet for someone who has difficulty getting about and needs a bit of room. We’ve tried to use disabled loos that are stacked to the ceiling with boxes of beer! 
  • Grab rails - one each side is best, so your customers can lift themselves across from the wheelchair. 
  • Space - if you’re not sure how much space is needed, try sitting on a chair and lifting yourself across, or get someone to lift you, which will show the space a carer needs.
  • Emergency cord - get one, connect it and make sure it reaches the floor. It seems obvious, but so often they’re tied up; out of the way and, therefore, out of reach.

Test your ramp

Try wheeling someone up it on a scooter or in a wheelbarrow. This way you can find out about it before your customers need to use it and be ready when they do arrive.

If you haven’t got a ramp, find something that will do the job. People with disabilities are often the mothers of invention out of necessity. If they’ve got to the door of your pub, they’ll probably try even a makeshift ramp to get in.

Advertise your accessibility​ 

Once your loo is clear and your ramp is tested, let everyone know. Not surprisingly, people with disabilities like to check a place out online before they visit. Nowhere is 100% accessible to everyone and people with disabilities are used to overcoming obstacles, we just like to know what they are in advance.

This should be more than just ‘wheelchair access’ (which could mean anything), or a health and safety/regulatory document. Ideally we’d like some images of the steps, ramp, floor coverings and your newly revamped toilet.

Offer help

When people with disabilities visit your pub, ask them if they need any help and then if there’s anything you could do better. You might be surprised by the answers!

Blue Badge Style give visual reviews of the accessibility of venues

Ideas when refurbishing

Disability can be an engine of innovation and thinking about your customers with disabilities could make your pub or bar more attractive to everyone. While you're having a refurbishment, consider these ideas:

  • A large unisex toilet. Building regulations now state that a disabled toilet should come first when designing facilities for your customers. Yes, a disabled loo takes up space, but if you’re considering improvements why not create one really fantastic unisex loo, rather than two small regular ones? They don’t cost as much as you think.
  • Create a lower bar, so that people in a wheelchair can be seen by the bar staff and order their own drinks. At the same time, consider making a part of your pub seated with table service. People in wheelchairs, or those who need to sit down rather than stand, can find themselves in a sea of legs. A lower bar and seating spaces can make a big difference to their night out.
  • See if you can flatten out the small steps in your pub with a ramp. Even a two-inch step can be a barrier to people in a wheelchair or using a stick. An able-bodied person will hardly notice a ramp.
  • Wood and stone flooring are great for a wheelchair but might pose a problem for a walking stick user. Occasional carpets also need to be pointed out.
  • Good table leg positioning helps wheelchair users get close to the table.
  • Hard surfaces can maximise background noise, which can be a challenge for those with hearing difficulties.

At Blue Badge Style, we rate bars with ticks. One tick means that a bar is very stylish, but doesn't have a disabled toilet. So come for one drink and move on. But if you want your customers to stay, you want to get three Blue Badge Style ticks. So a review of your whole space, with the results on your website, can make you more attractive to that £212bn market. 

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