Planning a visit to a shop, cultural attraction or any public place can be a challenge if you have special requirements such as a disability, young children or elderly relatives. A new disabled-run charity, See Around Britain, aims to take away the uncertainty with its vastly detailed, GPS-equipped website and free app, both of which offer essential accessibility information and photographs for hundreds of thousands of sites in the UK and Europe, from popular locations to lesser-known destinations. It also includes all types of travel: railway and Eurostar, buses and taxis, stations and airports: in short it is a 21st-Century Domesday survey of transport and places.
Now the charity is seeking volunteer contributors to add to its database, along with sponsorship from organisations, businesses and individuals that see the value of its mission.
See Around Britain began with over 500,000 photos taken by its founder trustee, Marg McNiel, an Irish citizen with a Norse name who was born with a mobility impairment and since 1992 has had the physically debilitating disability ME without remission. He has spent a lifetime in community and heritage education and has travelled extensively in Europe over many years. He joined forces with fellow trustees Vin West MBE and Trevor Palmer BEM to take his surveying efforts to the next level by launching See Around Britain.
Like Marg, Vin and Trevor are aware of the value of the project. Vin is a full-time carer for his daughter, who was born with multiple impairments, while Trevor was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1994 and is now a full time wheelchair user with limited mobility.
Their aim with the site, however, is to reach beyond the disabled community to anyone who wants to check out a venue in advance of a visit.
“A guiding principle of See Around Britain is that its website is fully inclusive and is not ‘a disabled-only’ website, so that it can reach as many citizens as possible and by its extensive use of photographs help them evaluate if a venue is suitable for their interests or specific requirements, and how to find it,” says Marg.
The charity is also encouraging schools to get involved: carrying out surveys for the website has already proven a valuable activity for Baccalaureate students in Wales, where the charity is based, and Marg is hoping schools all over the UK will join the project.
“In doing this work, the pupils and the venue owners that they visit will get an awareness of the varied needs of disabled people, and how to best meet them,” says Marg.
The team’s ultimate vision is to build its coverage throughout the UK, Ireland and Europe and eventually to have worldwide coverage and reach.
Anyone of any age and ability, disabled or non-disabled, can contribute to the See Around Britain website by writing venue descriptions, undertaking photo and video surveys of new venues, giving admin or editorial support, or contributing social media.
The app can be downloaded from Play Store and App Store, and the website can be found at https://seearoundbritain.com.