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A petition to create a system which rates business premises on their accessibility, has attracted thousands of signatures. Campaigners representing the Bridgend Coalition of Disabled People, reignited the accessibility debate, arguing that the government should do more to help those who with disabilities live normal lives.

While the initiative is being pushed across Wales, it could have wider implications for the entire UK if it gains momentum.

Grass Roots Movement

People with disabilities will be well aware of the obstacles they have to overcome from day to day, whether they are popping to the shops, eating at a restaurant or visiting a doctor’s surgery.

Those behind the petition want to make sure that anyone with a disability can work out how accessible a building is before they arrive. Rather than finding out too late that some vital feature or service is missing.

A score of between 0 and 5 will be given to businesses and other organisations based on how well they are equipped to cater to customers with disabilities and service users. This will then be displayed at entrances, on marketing material and online, much like the current food hygiene rating scheme.

Great Expectations

Campaigners have made clear that this is not just about guilting businesses into installing more wheelchair ramps and hearing loops. The hope is for it to ensure that staff are adequately trained in their use.

Project spokesperson Sally Clark told BBC News that she has herself experienced problems when trying to access hearing loops in a variety of premises. She said that they are either not working properly or switched off entirely, with employees unable to provide assistance.

Being unable to use such vital devices and services can rob a person with disabilities of their independence and even of their dignity.This is why the petition seeks to put businesses under greater scrutiny.

National Impact

The petition will initially be considered by members of the Welsh Assembly, with politicians already admitting that an accessibility rating system could be useful. If it achieves traction in one part of the UK, the changes may eventually rollout nationwide.

People can make informed choices

For millions of people with disabilities, this will mean an end to the ambiguity surrounding accessibility. Premises which are not up to scratch will be rated as such, while those with a progressive approach will reap the rewards of increased business.

For organisations themselves, there will likely be costs to bear in order to raise standards and achieve a positive rating. But those behind the petition say that the government will be expected to fund some of these updates, rather than insisting that smaller firms foot the entire bill to stay competitive.

Ultimately it should make life easier for everyone, no matter their disability or access requirements. But there is still much work to be done to instigate a real shake-up.

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