Recieving advice about disability topics from people that experience them in their day to day life is the best way for change to happen. There are many advocates out in the world representing the disability community, and for our blog post this week we are catching up with Emily Yates.
What do you for a profession?
I’m an accessibility consultant and journalist, and also do bits of speaking and presenting, which I love!
What have your favourite projects to work?
I was the accessibility consultant for MetroRio (Rio de Janeiro’s equivalent of the London Underground) in the run up to the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. I worked there for two years, totally fell in love with the city, and was proud of the progress we made – when I started, 5 out of 36 stations were fully accessible. When I left, 34 out of 36 were.
I also authored the Lonely Planet Guide to Accessible Rio de Janeiro, which was endorsed by the International Paralympic Committee, given to 2000 athletes, and made available to download for free to all visiting the Games.
I also work for Enhance the UK, a disability awareness charity focused on removing the ‘fear factor’ that surrounds disability by providing disability awareness and communication training to organisations all over the UK and abroad. The work of the charity is so so important as it focuses on improving ‘social access’ for disabled people by changing mentalities and perceptions. We always say that physical access is vital, but the way people treat you can be just as worthy of celebration, or cause just as much damage.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I work all over, so enjoy nothing more than coming home to Glasgow and spending time with my fiancé, CJ, and our two cats, Buzz and Woody. I’m studying part-time for a PhD, so that takes up a fair bit of spare time, but when we can, we love to travel and explore different cultures and cuisines (we are big foodies!) CJ also gets a free cinema pass with his job, so we make good use of that!
Where is your favourite place to visit and why?
Tough question! I love so many different places for different reasons. Rio will always hold a special place in my heart as it was my home for so long, but CJ and I went to Iceland last year, which was simply spectacular. Seeing the Northern Lights and swimming in the Blue Lagoon will both be pretty hard to beat!
If you’re wanting a trip full of history and culture that will stay with you forever, go to Poland. For entertainment, Singapore and Vegas are both brilliant. And there’s nothing quite like a stroll around a snowy New York.
And then, for great accessibility, I’d have to recommend Disney World! Never before have I woken up every morning for two weeks straight and not had to even consider the fact that I’m a wheelchair user. Truly liberating.
Where is your least favourite place visit and why?
There’s something I love about everywhere I go, but I found it very difficult to be a disabled tourist in Dubai, mostly due to that mentality and perception I mentioned earlier.
What top three things do you think could be done to improve accessibility and create a more inclusive society?
- An education around the fact that accessibility isn’t just physical and about ramps and hearing loops, or even solely about disabled people; an accessible experience is also about how we treat each other.
- I’d like to see more disabled people being consulting and considered experts of their own lived experience. Conversations around access and inclusion should be happening with us in the room.
- We must also move away from the categorisation of disabled and non-disabled people; what really exists are disabled people and ‘not yet’ disabled people, as we say at Enhance the UK. Whether we like it or not, we will all experience disability at some point in our lives, be it through injury or age. No one is invincible, so let’s design and create in a way that will benefit us all.
How do you feel a virtual experience could help improve accessibility?
Anything that can reassure before arrival is great in my book, be that a virtual tour of an accessible hotel room you’re about to book, or a virtual tracker app on a train guard that you know is there to put the ramp down for you at your destination station. Virtual experiences can also ensure that accessibility is being advertised with honesty and integrity, and give a little control back to the disabled customer, where needed.
Thank you Emily for taking the time to answer our questions, make sure you follow her on Twitter (@EmilyRYates) to keep up to date on everything that she does.