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Learning from lived experience

We want our places to be for everyone and we’re committed to reducing and removing barriers from our spaces to make them as inclusive as possible. Some of our places date back hundreds of years, and need to be adapted and modified for today’s world.

In the UK, there are 14.6 million disabled people, and with an aging population this figure is only set to increase. Without understanding the experiences of this large and diverse community, we risk creating inadvertent barriers, hampering positive experiences and designing places underpinned by privilege.

That’s why throughout the course of 2021/22 we’ve been trialling ways to actively seek out, listen to and learn from people with lived experience in and around our places. We have established an informal panel of ‘critical friends’ from communities local to our locations and with different disabilities and different perspectives to share.

Initially we worked with Tim and Lisa from the Windsor area, inviting them to share their experiences as visitors to the Savill Garden and Windsor Great Park. Tim is a tetraplegic and a permanent power wheelchair user, and Lisa uses a wheeled walker as mobility support. Both spent time with us and experts from AccessAble who were auditing the Windsor Estate as part of a wider accessibility assessment of our visitor destinations. By bringing together two sets of experts we could maximise the impact of future changes.

Tim and Lisa provided honest, open and enlightening insights, which have highlighted a number of areas for us to review and we are working through plans to address their feedback and recommendations, alongside those from AccessAble. Their thoughts will also inform our longer term planning.

Their feedback proved so insightful that we’ve since replicated the exercise in Central London to understand the user experience of Regent Street and St James, and in particular the experience of the temporary public realm scheme on Regent Street, which was created in consultation with AccessAble.

This time the panel comprised AccessAble ambassadors who regularly consult on disability and inclusion, as well as campaign to raise awareness through the consultancy and their online influence. Our London panel included Lydia, who is autistic, Callum who is vision impaired, and Tanvi, an electric wheelchair user. Their varied experiences and perspectives enabled us to get a clear understanding of the different considerations we should be taking account of not only on Regent Street, but across all our destinations.

Callum reflects: “From a personal perspective, having a voice and being able to influence and inform the choices a business makes is crucial because human beings, and by default businesses, are creatures of habit and we make decisions based on what we know. In other words, it’s very difficult for a business to understand the barriers disabled people are faced with if they have no lived experience of these.”

The level of insight gained from these pilot panels means we will look to roll out this initiative across our destinations as we seek to enhance our places and create accessible and thriving communities for the future which reflect the voices of everyone impacted by what we do as a business.

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