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Making the world a more accessible place

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Making the world a more accessible place

There are people who talk about making a difference – and then there are those that just go out and do it.  David Bara, senior lecturer for special educational needs in The School of Education & Communities, has had first-hand experience of dealing with children with disabilities and access needs – and this propelled him on a journey to make the world more inclusive.

In 2018, David Bara, and his wife Emma, created WeCanAccess, a certified social enterprise aimed creating a shift in social attitudes and practice by demonstrating that accessibility and inclusivity is vital for a more economically and socially sustainable future.  

After their daughter was left with a range of disabilities following treatment for a brain tumour, at the age of two, and with their son battling with dyslexia, both David and Emma spent years trying to find appropriate support to meet the needs of their family.
They said, “as a family with a SEND child, we struggled to find suitable places to go, products our child needed and then there was the constant struggle to get the appropriate support.”  It was their experience, and those of the hundreds of families they met along the way, that sparked the idea for WeCanAccess.

The WeCanAccess platform highlights examples of best practice by inviting the community to review and recommend local places that do accessibility well, and through personal accounts in the blog space. Moderated discussion boards allow people to discuss important issues safely, and embedded translation and reader software enables people to read comments in 100 different languages and hear them read out loud in around 40.

The blog area welcomes guest blogs from people who have experiences, both personal and professional, in what good accessibility and inclusion looks like. David said, “I am extremely proud to be giving individuals a voice and raising awareness of the issues people face and what can be done about it. We have given voices to a teenager wanting to tell his friends what it is like to be tube fed, SEN teachers who want to share their advice about inclusive classrooms and an autistic zookeeper whose biggest asset is her autism.”

Not only does this platform unite people with disabilities, parents/carers, businesses and SEND professionals but changing practice is key to WeCanAccess’s aims. There are also online toolkits on how to improve accessibility and inclusion and they are currently developing pilot projects within a number of countries including Cameroon, Nigeria, Mexico, and Portugal. The next goal is to attempt to gain accreditation for these toolkits so that they can contribute towards SEN degree.

Since its conception in 2018, WeCanAccess has become a UN SDG Champion,  partnered with a UNESCO backed project, #LearningPlanet, providing exemplar toolkits on inclusion and accessibility for their 2021 LearningFestival, and their work in providing support, information, and advocacy has recently been endorsed by the University of East London.

Anyone interested in getting involved can contact WeCanAccess at info@wecanaccess.com or tweet @wecanaccess or visit www.wecanaccess.com. WeCanAccess is currently looking for volunteers to help undertake online accessibility reviews of places and spaces, you will find more information on the UEL volunteering site or contact david@wecanaccess.com for more information.

The WeCanAccess Student Challenge
Because of the success of the blog site, WeCanAccess has teamed up with Disability Review Magazine to challenge students to identify how they would make their subject areas or future professions more accessible and inclusive for people with physical or hidden disabilities. The winning article will be featured in 2021 winter edition of Disability Review Magazine. Shortlisted pieces will be featured on the WeCanAccess blog site. Final submissions will be accepted until 30th September 2021.