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October-November 2021 | Features

Reach for the clouds!

Reach for the clouds!

Mark Esho, who has polio and is a member of Leicester Novus Rotary, describes an initiative which, he hopes, will give greater access to those with a disability.

We are three disabled people reaching for the stars but might touch the clouds! Rich Copson, Jig Vaidya and I created our social enterprise, Access Rating, because we are passionate about assisting disabled people in having a voice and in improving access to employment and within society itself.

According to the Papworth Trust, disabled young people aged 16-18 are at least twice as likely as their non-disabled peers to not be in education, employment or training. And 75% of disabled people and their families have walked away from a UK business because of poor accessibility or customer service.


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We have personal experience of this and know the hospitality sector is losing out on well over £160 million per month from not putting access as a priority for their customers.

There was a gap in the market for services that made businesses more disability aware, and also provided people, who have access needs, an easy way to have their say.

In February 2020, we launched Access Rating and now have approximately 500 users, over 2,000 venue ratings and, pre COVID-19, were completing market research on the access of over 400 venues per week!

75% of disabled people and their families have walked away from a UK business because of poor accessibility or customer service.”

The charity Scope described our free app as “groundbreaking”.

The app is now on its fourth version.  We have expanded the types of venues available to review a year ahead of schedule.

Originally, the app focused on the hospitality sector, but now covers all public venues in the UK. Users can review music and sports venues as well as airports and shops.

Finding somewhere suitable to eat, drink, shop and entertain yourself without worrying about access is why this app, the first of its kind, is becoming so popular.

Our users review venues as they visit them, and the rating will help and inform others. Hopefully, eliminating any access anxiety for future visitors.

Mark Esho centre with Rich Copson and Jig Vaidya.

Also, our new search filters offer the ability to view results based on venues accessible for manual wheelchairs, power/electric chairs, mobility scooters, customers who use a walking aid, etc.

Users can view where you are on a clear, concise map and see all nearby venues (if geolocation is enabled), find one you are interested in and use the search bar in the app to see any reviews left for that venue.

As well as the app, we carry out access audits to assist businesses. Before lockdown, we had five orders in the bag.

This is one of the main ways we fund ourselves. We don’t want to provide businesses with a problem we want to offer a solution as well.

We have partnered with AccessAble and Purple UK. And on February 25th next year, we are planning a Leicestershire Access Day.

The idea is to create awareness of the services available to disabled people in terms of education, jobs and sport.

We will be inviting businesses wishing to offer goods, services and jobs to disabled people. Basically, businesses wishing to tap into the purple pound which is worth £249 billion each year.

Finding somewhere suitable to eat, drink, shop and entertain yourself without worrying about access is why this app, the first of its kind, is becoming so popular.”

So why a social enterprise? My fellow co-founder, Rich Copson, and I have close connections with Ash Field Academy in Leicester, having both been students there.

Ash Field is a SEND school, specialising in educating and supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities.

We used our savings to help launch our company, I cannot be prouder of what my friends and I have achieved.

We plan to expand the range of disabilities in our app and have started work on version 5!

Access Rating may have put a big dent in our savings, but we would not have it any other way.  We have a chance to make a positive impact on how disabled people live their lives.

How can you help?  You do not have to be disabled to use the app.

Download the app onto your Apple or Android phone (search for Access Rating) and start rating places you have visited in the past and your local venues.

Helps us change disabled access one review at a time.

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