The ArgusBrighton Sea Life centre apologies to wheelchair user (From The Argus)

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Brighton Sea Life centre apologies to wheelchair user

The Argus: The Brighton Sea Life centre The Brighton Sea Life centre

The Brighton Sea Life centre has apologised after a disabled woman complained she was unable to view “inaccessible” aquarium tanks.

The aquarium said it would change the information on its website after wheelchair-bound Ollie Barber complained about the step in front of the tanks in the Victorian Arcade.

The 19th century Grade II listed building has a 60cm step in front of some displays which cannot be removed.


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The centre's general manager said the complaint is the first of its kind after thousands of visits by disabled people each year.

After visiting with her husband and two children Ollie Barber wrote: “I use a wheelchair, and read your website very thoroughly - and checked fully what access would be like and was aware the auditorium wouldn't be accessible.

“However, I really can't understand why you didn't think to note the whole of the main hall has massive steps in front of every tank - and that many, many attractions are up steps.”

She said she was refunded her fee - but not for the rest of her family.

The aquarium is the oldest in the world and there are restrictions on altering the listed building.

General manager Max Leviston has offered the whole family a VIP visit.

He said: “It has never been our intention to mislead wheelchair customers, but now it has been bought to my attention I agree that we should have been clearer about the step in front of some of the displays.

“Whilst I don't want to diminish the importance of Ollie Barber's comments I would also like to make clear that this is the first time this specific complaint has been made, and now we are aware of the distress that it has caused we have immediately put plans in place to ensure that other wheelchair users are made aware of the 60cm to 70cm step in front of all of the displays in the Victorian Arcade.”

The website advises visitors disabled access is available, with access entrance located through the tunnel off the beach and via the ramp down to the beach next to the Brighton Wheel.

The tunnel leads out into the courtyard and avoids the steps down to the centre.

There is also a disabled toilet.

Comments (7)

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9:29am Tue 25 Feb 14

mimseycal says...

I object to the habitual 'after x number of visitors, you are the first to complain' ...

What is the matter with these people? Do they really not take any time to consider the accessibility of their venues? How difficult is it to approach the nearest disability centre, the fed or something like it and ask for an actual disabled person to trail their venue so that they can get a real view of how accessible their venue is?

Most disabled individuals are rather pragmatic you know. We are aware of the obstacles we face. We also realise that not all obstacles can be removed. On the other hand, we may have some ideas of how they can be overcome ... In the case of a step that cannot be removed, there are temporary rampswhich may be installed for instance.
I object to the habitual 'after x number of visitors, you are the first to complain' ... What is the matter with these people? Do they really not take any time to consider the accessibility of their venues? How difficult is it to approach the nearest disability centre, the fed or something like it and ask for an actual disabled person to trail their venue so that they can get a real view of how accessible their venue is? Most disabled individuals are rather pragmatic you know. We are aware of the obstacles we face. We also realise that not all obstacles can be removed. On the other hand, we may have some ideas of how they can be overcome ... In the case of a step that cannot be removed, there are temporary rampswhich may be installed for instance. mimseycal
  • Score: 0

11:44am Tue 25 Feb 14

Quiterie says...

The 'step' that is being talked about here and which you can see in the photo is used by young children to give them a 'boost' and enable them to see into the tanks. They're not used by adults, so an adult wheelchair user can still get pretty much as close to the tanks as an able-bodied adult does.

The "many other attractions up steps" are a different matter and yes, these should be mentioned on the website.
The 'step' that is being talked about here and which you can see in the photo is used by young children to give them a 'boost' and enable them to see into the tanks. They're not used by adults, so an adult wheelchair user can still get pretty much as close to the tanks as an able-bodied adult does. The "many other attractions up steps" are a different matter and yes, these should be mentioned on the website. Quiterie
  • Score: 3

12:12pm Tue 25 Feb 14

tykemison says...

Excellent ,sensible post, mimseycal, God only knows why it has been voted down, world full of fools perhaps? :-) the part about getting someone from the fed to see how disabled friendly venues are is an excellent idea but would need abit of forward thinking on behalf of site owners which sadly seems to be lacking,perhaps contacting difficult venues and suggesting this maybe the way forward?
Excellent ,sensible post, mimseycal, God only knows why it has been voted down, world full of fools perhaps? :-) the part about getting someone from the fed to see how disabled friendly venues are is an excellent idea but would need abit of forward thinking on behalf of site owners which sadly seems to be lacking,perhaps contacting difficult venues and suggesting this maybe the way forward? tykemison
  • Score: 1

2:43pm Tue 25 Feb 14

Goldenwight says...

The problem is that people have various levels of disability. I remember some years ago a civil service office being recorded as disabled friendly because one of the staff was in a wheelchair, and when asked said that he experienced no problems. He was however a wheelchair athlete- when someone else in a wheelchair came to work there they couldn't get up a flight of 3 steps at the front door- which Andy being a big strong bloke was able to vault effortlessly. But it does seem strange that such an attraction would not be designed to be disabled friendly from the outset.

And while the tone of the "after so many visitors...you are the first to complain" comment is not ideal (and should have been phrased a lot better) the fact remains that if you have thousands of people visiting without complaint, it is not unreasonable to assume that there is no problem
The problem is that people have various levels of disability. I remember some years ago a civil service office being recorded as disabled friendly because one of the staff was in a wheelchair, and when asked said that he experienced no problems. He was however a wheelchair athlete- when someone else in a wheelchair came to work there they couldn't get up a flight of 3 steps at the front door- which Andy being a big strong bloke was able to vault effortlessly. But it does seem strange that such an attraction would not be designed to be disabled friendly from the outset. And while the tone of the "after so many visitors...you are the first to complain" comment is not ideal (and should have been phrased a lot better) the fact remains that if you have thousands of people visiting without complaint, it is not unreasonable to assume that there is no problem Goldenwight
  • Score: 0

3:46pm Tue 25 Feb 14

mimseycal says...

Firstly Goldenwright, the 'you are the first to complain ... and so on, is standard response to many complaints raised by individuals. And who are we to challenge that assertion. Funnily enough, if you persist and start talking about it to others, you soon find out that others have complained as well.

The fact remains that any complaint should be taken seriously and responses such as you are the only one to complain or the first to complain after thousands of visitors are counter productive. It should not be phrased better. In fact it should not be phrased at all!

Secondly, though the spectrum of specific challenges faced by disabled individuals is wide ranging, there is no reason why the most commonly faced obstacles cannot be addressed. Regardless of the level of my mobility, I, in common with all wheelchair users, face the obstacle of steps and stairs that can be addressed by the provision of ramps.

Now I am not saying that is the solution here. I have never visited the Sealife Centre and am unlikely to ever do so. What I do say is that if you want to see whether a given centre is indeed as accessible as possible, ask the experts ... in other words, ask disabled people themselves.

Don't assume that an able bodied person can determine what is possible in a wheelchair. Though wheelchairs do confer mobility, they also require a whole lot of other issues to be taken into consideration. The camber of a pavement, the angle of a hill, the surface itself to name but the three most common. Then you have to bear in mind that people may suddenly stop, or suddenly change direction.

Don't get me wrong, I love my wheelchair and am eternally grateful for the degree of independence it grants me. I realise that going out and about with a wheelchair means that I have to engage in a degree of forward planning (checking access and in some cases pre-arranging access in destinations) and build in time for waiting (room on the bus, people blocking the pavement, bikes irresponsibly chained to lampposts etcetera). I am fully aware of the fact that it does not confer on me the full range of access that most able bodied individuals take for granted and that I have lost a degree of spontaneity but I, like many other disabled individuals accept all that without rancour and as the price we pay for our continued independence.
Firstly Goldenwright, the 'you are the first to complain ... and so on, is standard response to many complaints raised by individuals. And who are we to challenge that assertion. Funnily enough, if you persist and start talking about it to others, you soon find out that others have complained as well. The fact remains that any complaint should be taken seriously and responses such as you are the only one to complain or the first to complain after thousands of visitors are counter productive. It should not be phrased better. In fact it should not be phrased at all! Secondly, though the spectrum of specific challenges faced by disabled individuals is wide ranging, there is no reason why the most commonly faced obstacles cannot be addressed. Regardless of the level of my mobility, I, in common with all wheelchair users, face the obstacle of steps and stairs that can be addressed by the provision of ramps. Now I am not saying that is the solution here. I have never visited the Sealife Centre and am unlikely to ever do so. What I do say is that if you want to see whether a given centre is indeed as accessible as possible, ask the experts ... in other words, ask disabled people themselves. Don't assume that an able bodied person can determine what is possible in a wheelchair. Though wheelchairs do confer mobility, they also require a whole lot of other issues to be taken into consideration. The camber of a pavement, the angle of a hill, the surface itself to name but the three most common. Then you have to bear in mind that people may suddenly stop, or suddenly change direction. Don't get me wrong, I love my wheelchair and am eternally grateful for the degree of independence it grants me. I realise that going out and about with a wheelchair means that I have to engage in a degree of forward planning (checking access and in some cases pre-arranging access in destinations) and build in time for waiting (room on the bus, people blocking the pavement, bikes irresponsibly chained to lampposts etcetera). I am fully aware of the fact that it does not confer on me the full range of access that most able bodied individuals take for granted and that I have lost a degree of spontaneity but I, like many other disabled individuals accept all that without rancour and as the price we pay for our continued independence. mimseycal
  • Score: 5

11:00am Thu 27 Feb 14

bluemonday says...

and it's way to expenxive for whats on offer
and it's way to expenxive for whats on offer bluemonday
  • Score: 1

11:01am Thu 27 Feb 14

bluemonday says...

bluemonday wrote:
and it's way to expenxive for whats on offer
"expensive"
[quote][p][bold]bluemonday[/bold] wrote: and it's way to expenxive for whats on offer[/p][/quote]"expensive" bluemonday
  • Score: 1

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