Search for courses or information

General news

One-stop shop around accessibility for all set up by UEL lecturer

Civic engagement

New website brings together people with disabilities, their parents, carers and support staff

A unique one-stop shop with a focus on accessibility for all has been set up by a University of East London lecturer, to bring together people with disabilities, their parents, carers and support staff in finding vital information and support easily.

The new website, called WeCanAccess.com is the brainchild of senior lecturer in special education David Bara and is thought to be the only all-in-one platform that addresses accessibility globally. “We are building a community for people with access issues and their families, carers and professionals,” David explained. “In a world where people are surviving serious health conditions and living longer, its primary purpose is to allow its users to find support, share ideas and discover ways to navigate a world that isn't always designed for them. There is a chat area, a blog site, a review area and a marketplace. It’s a safe place where people can share their questions, advice and experiences around accessing life when you have special access needs.”

To make sure as many people as possible can use the WeCanAccess.com website, it is designed to be as fully accessible as possible with extensive use of symbols, colour coding and simplistic design. It also has special reader/translator software embedded. This software can read out loud for the user or show it in almost 40 different languages, allowing users with literacy, language or visual difficulties to access the site and find support.

It has taken David (48), from Redbridge, and his wife, Emma (47), a year and a half to set up the service which he is running in addition to his full-time job as a lecturer at the University, where he has worked for the past five years.

David came up with the unique idea after his two-year-old daughter, Adi, was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Now aged nine, Adi is still overcoming the many side-effects of the treatment for the cancer, following several bouts of surgery and chemotherapy, which has left her with multiple disabilities. David’s son, Asher (11), also has problems accessing education and as result David entered a whole new world.
“We needed to find out about access to support in school, organisations, therapies and other forms of assistance that could make life for her and the family easier,” he said. “It made me realise just how hard it was to access these things and how little co-ordination there was for the ordinary person to learn what’s out there.”

Throughout Adi’s journey David met hundreds of families in a similar position to himself, all looking for the same guidance and help, irrespective of their children’s conditions. He realised that people with differing situations often need the same adjustments made. For example, a wheelchair user, a child with a broken leg, a mum with a buggy and a pensioner with arthritic knees will all look for a ramp when accessing a building. “Likewise, a quiet space will benefit someone with hearing or sight impairments, or an autistic child who risks being overstimulated, so the aim of the site is to bring people together to find joint solutions that make places, services and life generally more accessible for everyone,” he said. 

“Globally one person in seven has access issues to information and locally it’s as high as one in three people,” explained David. “By talking to people facing similar issues, our site can point people in the right direction to get help for their specific problem or issue. We have also seen that where there are cultural, social and linguistic differences, in areas with high migration or ex-pat. communities, for example, families often struggle to access education and healthcare services, our site offers a safe place where those groups can discuss issues they might not be able to at home.

“We are already recognised as having a United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3, promoting healthy lives and wellbeing. We aim to create a social shift in attitudes by demonstrating that accessibility and inclusivity are vital for a more economically and socially sustainable future as well as improving the life chances, health and wellbeing of people with access needs and their families,” he continued.
David, who is a co-founder of the website service with wife Emma, started his professional life as a database designer and systems analyst, subsequently working at all levels in the education system. 
In designing the website, they have sought the input and advice of groups and individuals ranging from charities to local authorities to health/educational professionals and people living with moderate and complex access needs. The WeCanAccess team comprises parents of children with special needs and disabilities (SEND), educational and health professionals and disabled adults.

WeCanAccess is just starting out. Anyone interested in getting involved can contact WeCanAccess at info@wecanaccess.com or tweet @wecanaccess, or visit www.wecanaccess.com.