Blue Badge Style founder, Fiona Jarvis, talk at Digital Shoreditch where she spoke about the problems faced by the less-physically-able in London is now available online. She pointed to difficulties with public transport, building access and the general perception of less able people. Overall her message was that, although accessibility has come a long way, there is still a long way further to go.
Jarvis argued that we are seriously exaggerating the disadvantages of being physically less able and that the current attitude needs to be altered just as much as the physical obstacles in London do too. “The only thing about me that doesn’t work is my legs," she said, "my brain is perfectly intact thank you very much.”
A key issue for Jarvis is trying to break down barriers which are preventing the less able both from working and from enjoying themselves. Currently, the problem is that there is a negative perception of the less able, pervasive among both able bodied and less able people. She gave the example of a young guy from Stoke Mandeville who refused to go outside in his mobility scooter because of the impression it would give - as Jarvis poetically put it: "an old age terrorist in a mobility scooter”. He wanted to find a youthful and stylish scooter but didn't believe that such a thing existed. Until disability is seen in a more positive way it will be difficult for the less able to fulfill their massive potential. Fiona found the scooter and is determined to find more answers.
She went on to speak of the more tangible, physical issues regarding accessibility in London. She talked about the problems with public transport (“what qualifications you need to put a piece of metal next to a tube step, I have no idea”) and accessing restaurant buildings (“There are at least five Michelin starred restaurants in London which have no disabled toilet, no ramps or no anything – surely they can afford to put in less abled equipment”). Hackney Council and other councils across London offer legal support to less able people with grievances but Jarvis asks “why have I got to go to court to make them adhere to regulations?”
The solution, or at least part of it, is Blue Badge Style - the first app and website guide to a stylish lifestyle for the less-physically-able. Jarvis founded the company after years of taking clients, from her job in the city, to trendy venues without suitable access. She found herself having to ask clients for assistance getting up stairs. "It made me close to my clients but it did make me quite embarrassed” she said. So she decided to compile all the information she knew, about the best places to go and the less able facilities that they offer, in one place and with that Blue Badge Style was born.
The core ethos of Blue Badge Style is 'freedom shared' - the aim being to inform and help less able people live their lives in style. It is the only company that looks at disability from the point of view of style & design, taking a stylish, pragmatic and cost-efficient approach to inclusive access, working with venue management teams, designers and architects to improve the awareness of disabled facilities. “Style is the overriding premise of Blue Badge Style, along with a positive outlook” says Fiona Jarvis, “disability need not stop you from enjoying the good things in life!”
The Blue Badge Style free app is the first and only app to give you information on where to go near you based on not only how stylish the place is but how accessible it is for disabled customers.The app works as a” Michelin-like” star system for the less able. It identifies cool venues near your location and uses a bespoke three tick rating system to grade it out of 5 for each category: 1.Access, 2.Facilities and 3.Style, so that users know exactly what to expect from each venue. You can then easily see the best places near you, read a review, check the Blue Badge Style rating and get directions on how to get there.
As Jarvis said of London's disabled access at Digital Shoreditch: "Yes, it's getting better, but there are still a lot of things that need to change." Londoners need to look to improve accessibility and to inform one another about the current lay of the land.
Fiona Jarvis established the Blue Badge Style website in 2007 in an attempt to create a community of like-minded people for whom style and disability are not mutually exclusive. She first realised she might have multiple sclerosis after falling off her high heels in a bar once too often. She has become progressively disabled over a period of 20 years whilst she worked in the City selling multi million pound software systems for the like of SAP. However, Fiona has always refused to compromise on her own style, whether that’s eating in smart restaurants, wearing elegant clothes or going on glamorous holidays. Through all the challenges, Fiona has carried on and not compromised on style. She embodies the BBS Spirit! Just as Coco Chanel said: “Fashion fades; only style remains the same”.
About Blue Badge Style
The Blue Badge Style website and mobile app are currently building a community whose core ethos is 'freedom shared'. However, Blue Badge Style also offers a number of additional services:
Blue Badge Style Tick Rating
The unique BBS Tick Rating System is designed to encourage venues to provide Equality of Access to Goods & Services. We rate out of 5 for each category: 1.Access, 2.Facilities and 3.Style. The scores are then aggregated to a number of BBS Ticks from 0.5 to a maximum of 3. Our aim is for ‘as recommended by Blue Badge Style’ to become an aspirational goal for any item, organisation or establishment.
Whatever you wish to do, be it go to Paris, visit the Tate, stay at a boutique hotel, or check out the latest nightclub, BBS will arrange and advise on the best way to do this.
BBS campaigns highlight where the ‘equal provisions of goods and services are unreasonably deficient’. The intention is to act as an agent for change, altering venues’ mind-set toward accessibility. It needs to be treated as the ‘norm’, rather than something a venue is compelled to do by legislation.
We also campaign for the better design of disability products, which currently look like they are from the Marquis de Sade’s basement!
Pictorial Access Descriptions (PADs)
BBS offers PADs for all hospitality venues. They are social media ready descriptions of the facilities &/or obstacles within a venue. They look at comfort rather than compliance and are as cool as the venue’s website, allowing potential customers to make an informed choices about whether to visit.