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Using the word “accessible”
Using the word “accessible”Posted by Josh Grisdale on August 6, 2021 at 10:47 pm
The other day I posted a video that had a helicopter with a lift for people to transfer from their wheelchair to the helicopter.
Here is the video:
I mentioned I liked the “accessible helicopter”. My friend pointed out that while it would work for some people with disabilities, it wouldn’t really work for someone who needed more support, and therefore shouldn’t be called “accessible”.
This got me thinking about the word. Is there a solid definition of the word we can use to state something is “accessible” with confidence because it meets xyz conditions? Is it fluid?
I assume it is similar to the word “affordable” – while we can call something “affordable”, there will always be someone to which it is not affordable.
Do “accessible” and “affordable” then lose meaning if even one person is not included? If that is the case, what words can we use?
There is also the “usability” of the word for delivering information. I assume most people would search “accessible xyz” on Google. So, if we define the word too strictly then a lot of places that are “mostly accessible” won’t come out in the results…
I want a handy flexible definition, but at the same time I want to respect others who fall between the cracks of the commonly used “accessible”…
I’m eager to hear everyone’s thoughts!
- 14 Replies
- MemberAugust 7, 2021 at 3:37 am
When I read the title of your post “accessible helicopter” I tought that it was an helicopter without seats in the back and with a ramp to go inside with a wheelchair, manual or electric, because it would easily be feasible. Not sure that the ICAO would give it’s approval though. So, for me the term accessible implies that the “architectural barrier” for that type of service is lifted.
- MemberAugust 7, 2021 at 9:59 am
Interesting, safety laws aside, as you mentioned. It was great to hear about your initial thought and the difference between that and the actual adaptation. Will keep your definition in mind. Would “adapted” helicopter work? Or just “helicopter with a lift”?
- MemberAugust 7, 2021 at 10:50 am
I don’t think that I would publicised the helicopter tour as adapted or accessible, because it’s not (in my opinion). Probably a little icon of a wheelchair on the webpage and when clicking on it, it would describes in detail the accomodation, with a photo.
- MemberAugust 7, 2021 at 11:01 am
I think that would be the best – enough to acknowledge there has been some measure implemented (not every helicopter ride has a lift to the seats and no indication at all would lead most people to think the only way in is by climbing), but ample description (with images/video) so visitors to the website would be fully aware and make the decision based on their needs.
- MemberAugust 7, 2021 at 8:54 am
I think that, as you mentioned, accessible is a relative term. In the world of accessible technology that I’m most familiar with, when you say that something is accessible, you need to specify the accessibility features, otherwise, as the term is relative, you don’t know for whom is accessible and for whom it’s not. I think that the problem comes when people not familiar with accessibility use the term (or people into marketing), as they use accessible thinking that it will be universally accessible. For instance, in hotels or accommodations sites before accessibility was only mentioned as a single feature, but, as awareness was risen, they realized or were made to realized that it was insufficient and that to avoid problems and misunderstandings now many sites have started to include different accessibility features (width of entrance and doors, elevator, availability of information in Braille, in easy-to-Read format, etc.). Thus I think that, although it may be complicated, this is the way to go. To talk about accessibility features and, for the ease of use, use the word accessible to describe things, places, etc., that have some form of accessibility, although always, along the description, specify which accessibility features are included. We’re a really diverse community, so even though we may say accessible, I think that it’s for each person to decide if something is accessible for them, therefore the importance of stating the accessibility features, as only saying wheelchair accessible or stating the group that accessibility is aimed at, may have the same issue as it won’t be accessible for all wheelchair users, for all people with visual impairments, etc.
- MemberAugust 7, 2021 at 10:17 am
So, “a helicopter accessible to people who can transfer to a different seat” etc?
Yes, I must admit, using Twitter etc with hashtags (#accessible) makes it easy to fall into the trap of shortening things down to one adjective…
- MemberAugust 7, 2021 at 6:01 pm
If you wanted to use the word “accessible” or you needed the short version for space constraints I’d put it like that “*accessible helicopter” with an * and then if there was still space or somewhere nearby “see accessibility features/description below” or something like that.
- MemberAugust 7, 2021 at 6:53 pm
It’s quite a discussion, but there are accessibility definitions out there, and this helicopter doesn’t meet them for sure. Doing an adaptation that might work for a few people it’s not accessibility, so I totally agree with @lemadelinot68 .
I think that accessibility contains also the notion of assistance. If you cannot do something unassisted then I would not list it as accessible. Having said that, this helicopter is not accessible as I cannot just ride in it.
Of course, accessibility should be kinda seen from an individual perspective and unless something has universal design it won’t be accessible to all.
- MemberAugust 7, 2021 at 7:04 pm
Yes, I’m really enjoying this conversation. I like your point about not requiring assistance.
You mention there are accessibility definitions out there. Do you have one you feel really gets it right?
- MemberAugust 7, 2021 at 7:28 pm
Hmm not really. Usually I am googling and combining stuff from different sources.
- MemberAugust 11, 2021 at 9:16 pm
Well Josh, I think you have touched on a really crucial issue here.
As has been observed by others here, accessibility and our understanding of it is subjective and totally personal, it is just like quality, what you might think is great quality I might think, ‘well it’s okay, but they could do better”.
My initial response to this question is that when people write about their personal experiences then the accessibility has to be framed in the aim of the service provider to be accessible and offer an inclusive service and to reflect if it worked personally for you the writer, bearing in mind that people with the same impairments often have very different lived experiences. What is accessible for one wheelchair user does not automatically make it accessible for another.
This is perhaps why the term inclusive might work better, but put in a context of the aim of the business to be inclusive and accessible. To understand the full accessibility is only achieved through detailed information e.g an Access Statement together with photos or videos, but the description is best described I think as an aim to be accessible, which has a very wide context. For example with the helicopter, how accessible might it be for a deaf person who also uses a wheelchair? They might be able to board, but if they are unable to communicate with the crew easily isn’t the accessibility for them reduced and it has become less accessible a service or experience. We need to consider that many people have more than one impairment, so the fitting of a ramp and handrails does not necessarily always equate with full accessibility, but is accessible for some people.
This is a really difficult topic I think, which is great that you have raised it. While I have given a view I know that I certainly don’t have all the answers and some might challenge this, quite understandable, but I think we might all agree that how you convey accessibility easily and in a brief description for it to be accurate and meaningful, is a real challenge as the experience is so very personal.
- MemberAugust 11, 2021 at 10:42 pm
Yes, I totally agree with the idea of the access statement and fully describing (via words, images, video, audio etc) what something is – and isn’t – and then leaving it to the user to decide whether it is sufficient for their needs.
But I’m also interested in the use of a word. There will always be someone’s needs who are not met by an adaptation. Does that mean the word “accessible” can never be used? Is there a threshold (ie fits the needs of 65% of the disabled community)? Though, I guess that is the same as your point on quality… perhaps there are no answers…?
The biggest temptation (for me personally) is social media etc – not for sensationalism, but practicality. Twitter only has 240 characters, and there is a hashtag for #accessible but not #HelicopterWithALiftOnTheSideForPeopleWithLimitedMobilityButCanBalanceByThemselvesAndTransferFromTheirWheelchair-SeeImagesAndVideo hashtag ? And I’m lazy.
But I never want to leave others out, because I know it sucks to not fit a “standard”.
Sorry, rambling now…
- MemberAugust 11, 2021 at 11:02 pm
Josh, as I tried to reflect you raise a really interesting point. I would never say you cannot use the word accessible, but if it is used I think it has to be also the context needs to be given, e.g. for whom is the accessibility intended or aimed at, I think the use of the term is often seen as shorthand for accessible for wheelchair users, but even then it can be subjective. That is why I think that perhaps that in addition to context the use of words such as aim, intended, intention, which give a qualification, and reflects the motivation of the business but it not a universal guarantee.
This is why I say raise a really interesting point as this is valid question that goes to the heart of so much information and marketing, but if people are not to be disappointed between marketing promise and experience there does need to be some clarity of a person being able to say, is this accessible for me, which is why I think the word could be used, with a qualification as stated above and where the is detailed information provided in an access statement or photos etc signpost to that information. The answer is very difficult I think and there may be no definitive answer that pleases everyone, but that is not to say the question should no be asked as we do need to have answers if people are to be helped be inspired and make decisions based on the stated accessibility of any goods and services.
Of course a lot of what I have said also becomes academic, I also recognise that what I am suggesting could be seen as cumbersome and complicating things, when we look at things in the context of Universal / Inclusive Design and service as we should have the confidence then to understand that the aim there is to make accessibility a reality for everyone, in that context it is possibly much simpler. It’s a really interesting topic for discussion and a very important one in my view.
- MemberAugust 14, 2021 at 2:18 pm
Yes, hope this conversation continues 🙂
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