On 15 March 7BR hosted disability advocates, representatives from the Inns of Court, the Bar Council, the Bar Standards Board, the Judiciary, HMCTS, solicitors, neighbouring sets of Chambers and the press in order to discuss disabled access (including building access) and practical solutions to improve equality of participation in the law. The event highlighted the barriers to participation that clients, their lawyers, and court users with disabilities face. We were particularly pleased to welcome Catherine Baksi, Joshua Rozenberg, Octavia Woodward and Eduardo Reyes who through their journalism are able to give a voice to those who are not always heard.
We were also delighted to welcome Ross Hovey and Charlie Randell. Ross and Charlie are two of the five AccessAble ambassadors who shared their experiences with us as part of an infographic campaign discussing language. Language plays a significant role within inclusivity, and for a disabled person, ‘popping to the shop’ can be a dramatically different experience. The infographics are designed to highlight the realities and accessibility issues facing a disabled person when they’re asked to simply ‘swing by’ or ‘nip to the loo’ and you can see them here.
Rachel Langdale QC opened the event by emphasising that Disability is a Human Rights issue. In 2006 the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities stressed that ‘disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others’. In short, inaccessible environments create disability by introducing barriers to participation and inclusion.
Konstantina Nouka, Founder and Chair of ‘Bringing [Dis]Ability to the Bar’, described her organisation’s work as it raises awareness around disabilities, aims to destigmatise disability, and ultimately improve accessibility at the Bar. Konstantina is currently studying for an LLM in Human Rights Law at UCL, intends to do the BPC later this year and subsequently practise as a barrister.
Chief Executive of AccessAble Consultancy, Anna Nelson, spoke next. AccessAble provides an on-line database of accessibility information around public and private venues, to help guide those looking to find, utilise, and visit disabled access-equipped facilities and destinations. A company founded by Dr Gregory Burke, a barrister at 7BR, Anna explained AccessAble’s methodologies and rationale and shone a light on some of the accessibility issues which can be overlooked. Throughout the event there were three workshop spaces hosting AccessAble solutions to some of the practical challenges raised in the discussions, including examples of Virtual Access Guides and e-learning demonstrations via the AccessAble website and app.
Our final speaker was outstanding advocate Dr Gregory Burke , who highlighted the current inadequacies of accessibility in 21st Century Britain and how these shortcomings impact on the rights of millions of people every day. Gregory spoke of the need to normalise disability and of the need to implement practical solutions to enable equality for all. This year, Gregory has been listed for the third year running in “The Shaw Trust Disability Power 100.” A list of the most influential disabled people in the UK. Gregory continues to be recognised for both his work in founding and establishing AccessAble and as employment law barrister at 7BR.
The event was brought to a close by Chief Executive, Harry Charlton. Harry emphasised how the installation of the Sesame Steps ‘helps communicate the message to any would-be barristers that we’re accessible and on a journey to becoming truly inclusive.’ 7BR have undertaken a number of Reasonable Adjustments in recent years and they can be viewed here.
Sincere thanks to all those who made it part of their working day to listen, learn and participate. We look forward to continuing to work together to improve accessibility and equality of opportunity within the law.
Finally, read more about our Sesame Steps project here.
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