Euan MacDonald became a wheelchair user six years ago having been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in 2003. After experiencing a host of accessibility challenges they founded Euan’s Guide, a website written by disabled people, for disabled people, packed with access information on a huge variety of venues.
How did you come to set up Euan’s Guide?
Kiki: It was when my brother, Euan, became a wheelchair user about seven years ago. Euan was diagnosed
with Motor Neurone Disease in 2003 and a few years later, needed to start using a wheelchair full time. It was really then that we were exposed to the world of accessibility and the challenges that brings. We found it incredibly hard to find places with suitable access for him. That meant somewhere where he could get in the door with his then manual chair, an accessible loo and crucially, where the staff would make you feel welcome.
We found it very, very hard to find places that did and found it very, very hard to do all the things that we had previously done. Simple things such as meeting someone for a coffee became a research project. For Euan it was things like: ‘could he go to an away football fixture?’ We knew that other disabled people were experiencing very similar issues to us. We also knew that they had a lot of the answers and they were the people that we wanted to hear from. We set up Euan’s Guide as a place for that to happen.
Euan: We had no way to share experiences or advice. So that was one issue we were trying to resolve. There was also a lack of reliable information available – but we really valued and appreciated information we could find. Realising the value, we wanted to add to both the quality and prevalence of good access information. What better way than to ask users themselves?
Was it important to give disabled people their voice?
Kiki: Absolutely, yes. Disabled people, their carers, PAs, friends, family members – the people who were experiencing accessibility first hand. It was also so that people don’t have to reinvent the wheel. If people fi nd places that are good and do have the right approach – it’s nice to fi nd out where they are without having to try them out yourself. We didn’t want to read a 200 page access audit!
The amazing thing that has happened with Euan’s Guide is that people are going to new places on the back of reviews – the content is so trusted. People are using it because they know that it’s written by someone who is in a similar position to themselves.
Euan: I have found I’ve learned a lot from reading other people’s reviews. I’ve learned from people with different impairments and a wider range of access requirements and I hope venues can too. It’s particularly rewarding when you see venues make improvements on the back of a review posted on the site.
What did day one look like?
Kiki: We thought, ‘how hard can it be to set up a website?!’ It has been a much, much bigger undertaking than we ever thought it would be.
Euan: Day one was six of us sitting round the kitchen table. We didn’t have a website, an office or a name at that point – just an idea!
What has the response been like?
Kiki: We get incredible feedback and there’s also been a huge amount of goodwill around the project. That’s really helped as has the support that we’ve had from users and reviewers of the site and from venues and organisations helping us in many other respects. It’s been incredible.
It keeps us going when people email us to tell us that they use the website and find it useful. We’ve been really positively surprised by the venues’ reaction. A lot more venues than we expected want to be accessible – but we’ve found that so many organisations aren’t sure where to start. People needing guidance is a significant barrier, perhaps more so than the cost barriers.
What are your hopes for Euan’s Guide?
Kiki: We are hoping for thousands of reviews across all venues. All of the reviews get sent to the venues and many have been changing their facilities on the back of our reviews.
Euan: We want to keep making improvements and keep finding the best ways to provide information. We hope to make our content more widespread. There are no geographical limits to the reviews we publish so please write reviews wherever you are and wherever you visit.
What inspires you?
Kiki: The people that write into us at Euan’s Guide. It’s people that we’ve met in this whole process and peoples’ everyday stories.
Euan: Everyday stories of people overcoming the odds and the challenges in their lives.