Exploring London’s smorgasbord of attractions, pubs, clubs, and museums can be a minefield for disabled people. And it’s often tough to come by reliable info on whether they’ll encounter essential facilities such as wheelchair-friendly lifts and accessible toilets. Enter Euan’s Guide. It’s a website founded by Euan MacDonald, who explains that as a powerchair user, he found that ‘the only thing stopping me from getting on with my normal routine was a lack of disabled access information for the places I wanted to go. The idea for the site was sparked by phone calls, internet searches and countless disappointments upon arriving somewhere and being unable to get in the door.’
Euan’s Guide is a bit like TripAdvisor, but the crucial thing about it is that it’s written by disabled people, for disabled people. As MacDonald says, ‘I have more confidence in what real disabled people say about places they’ve visited than in a generic sentence about disabled access on a website.’ Readers can filter reviews on the site so that they can read about the experiences of visitors with similar disabilities to them: visually impaired people might have totally different experiences compared to powerchair users. Crucially, it’s also been designed so that it’s easy for disabled people to use it. Colours and fonts are optimised for people with low vision, and it’s also compatible with voice-based smartphone accessibility tools.
MacDonald explains that Euan’s Guide lets users ‘share amazing pieces of hidden information, like at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, we’ve been told that wheelchair users who book seats in the accessible booth follow a secret route backstage which nobody else gets to access.’ Tina Hodgkinson, a London Ambassador for Euan’s Guide, is full of intel on some of the city’s hidden accessible gems. She explains that the app ‘gave me the confidence to start going out again’, and has plenty of top tips for places with step-free access and accessible toilets: science-focused museum The Wellcome Collection, cake-mongers The Delaunay Counter, and decadent historic house Two Temple Place.
Hodgkinson is full of enthusiasm for going out in London but she admits that ‘There is still a long way to go. New buildings tend to have good access, but there is still a reluctance to adapt many historic and old buildings to make them accessible, which means many disabled people miss out.’ But beyond that, she adds that ‘often what makes a venue special is their staff’s approachability and friendliness. The venue doesn’t have to be perfect, but having staff who are proactive in anticipating my access needs is really important.’