We Can Access, where did it all start?
September 26 2019
When did the magic moment for We Can Access come to my wife, Emma, and I?
We were driving back from a family holiday in France, in early August in 2018. Our daughter is a brain tumour survivor with multiple access issues, she was 8 ½ at the time. Her older brother was and is dealing with the fallout from the cancer journey. I have a fractured vertebrae, which regularly makes its presence known and Emma not only has a life-long back condition but also has fibromyalgia. Thus, we not only had to plan our journey and holiday around what we wanted to do but also had to take into account our respective access issues, which include hearing and visual impairments, an inability to walk far, and a high likelihood of fatigue.
The holiday was great just what we needed, the place was just right for us, a resort campsite with lots to do for the kids, all in easy reach and a secure environment. We also started to notice that the number of people with disabilities on at the site was high, both those with visible and not so obviously disabilities. Our children made friends with kids in neighbouring caravans and, after chatting to the parents of two of the families, it turned out that one child was on the autistic spectrum and another child was also a cancer survivor! As a couple, we got chatting to the adults about family experiences, and shared many of the access issues they faced. It also turned out that these people had been coming to the site for years, as they could access the facilities.
One of our days out was to Le Mont Saint-Michel, which, if you have never seen it, is the most incredible structure – all turrets, rampart walls and underground crypts. Whilst there, we met Didier and his two children. Didier’s teenage son was using the most amazing wheelchair we had ever seen; it had six wheels and had the same indestructible air of a military All-Terrain Vehicle. However, the fortifications at Le Mont Saint-Michel clearly had it beat. When we met them, Didier’s family were returning, frustrated, not even being able to pass through the gate. Even though they had researched well beforehand and knew that their access would be limited, they had been told that they would at least be able to enter the site. What made things worse was that the visitors’ centre was very accessible – it had been designed with a lot of thought and care – it was, therefore, galling that the same thought and care has not been extended to either the information provided to disabled visitors nor the facilities on Le Mont.
During the holiday we were excited to see our kids grow, gain a bit of independence, we felt safe enough to let them explore and play. It gave Emma and me space to chat to other couples with similar experiences and consider our own battles with access. I have particular difficulties with literacy. I am not sure if I’m dyslexic but to be honest if it wasn’t for computers helping me with my spelling and grammar, and Emma there to edit me sometimes, I would struggle. Then there is the mental health side of things; it has been a struggle to understand why family members, particularly my daughter, have faced such cruel battles.
In the car on the way home, Emma and I talked about the things we’d seen. What was good and what needed to be improved to make our family’s and friends’ lives easier and how those improvements could come about. We thought a magic wand would be handy but haven’t come across one yet, so what could we do? “Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a way we could tell other people looking for the same things we are about this holiday?” we said to each other, and We Can Access was conceived. We talked about a review site that focused on access, we added a discussion area where people from traditionally different groups and communities could talk about shared experiences and needs, we decided we needed to hear about people’s stories, so added a blog space and then, finally, came the marketplace so people could find the goods they needed to help them access the world around them. By the time we reached home, we had dreamed up a global community that was supportive, safe and all about accessing life. We have just spent a year building it and hope you like it! Please have a look around the rest of the site and let us know what you think!
David Bara, CEO and Co Founder We Can Access. David has 15 years experience in the field of special educational needs as a teacher, university lecturer, researcher and parent.
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