Yesterday I started to write a post about Florence and my niece Hannah, but then I received a phone call that made me so angry that I’ll burst if I don’t get this off my chest!
I have been a member of the British Horse Society for a very long time, since i was 18 in fact. . I am, or at least I was, proud to be a BHS member. I honour their welfare work, am grateful for their campaigning, especially around access and rights of way and road safety, I am reassured by the insurance that my horses and I gain from my membership, have sought their advice on more than one occasion… you get the picture. On the whole if you are at all horsey, then the BHS is the organisation for you. They do appear to have one massive problem though. . They have an appalling attitude toward the disabled, and in particular blind and visually impaired people.
“Hang on, that’s not fair! What about the Accessibility Mark? ” I hear you all shout. Well, yes, anything that empowers disabled people to ride get’s my vote. Here’s the thing though, and it’s a biggy. They should be doing it anyway, it’s been the law since 1995, when the disability Discrimination Act hit the Statute Book. That’s right! Under the terms of the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act, and subsequently the Equalities Act 2010, those providing goods and services required to make reasonable adjustment to cater for the needs of people living with disabilities. Therefore the accessibility mark is an accreditation that shows riding schools are finally doing the things that they should have been doing by law for the last 28 years. It’s a bit like giving a restaurant an extra Michelin star because the kitchens meet the minimum health and hygiene standards required buy law.
Regardless of what you actually think about the accessibility mark though, it would be expected that the organisation to whom this award was accredited, would insure that they themselves met their legal obligations when it comes to disability access and reasonable adjustment. Frustratingly, when it comes to the BHS, this is not the case.
It has been a very long time since I have had enough useful vision to be able to read print. In very many cases this problem is overcome by the reasonable adjustments that variety of organisations put in place. I am fortunate enough to be able to read Braille, albeit extremely slowly, I am reasonably computer literate and use a variety of screen reader programs, One of which I am currently using to enable me to write this blog, I am of course also able to listen to audio tapes and CDs. Therefore I am reasonably open-minded as to ways in which organisations communicate with me or send me literature. Print however is an absolute no-no. You might as well not bother.
As a member of the BHS, I am in receipt of the quarterly members journal ‘British Horse’. However, whilst when I was younger, and able to read the printed word, it was eagerly anticipated, it has been a very long time since I have been able to read it. Over the years I have regularly asked BHS if they could provide me with a version in an alternative format. Sadly though my requests always seem to be ignored, overlooked, passed on. Somebody would look into it for me, somebody would get back to me. Nobody ever did. Until last year that is, when I really thought I struck gold. A lovely man called Dave prints, Who at the time was the incumbent editor of British horse, started to send me copies of the magazine by email as Word documents. Result!
This happy and proud member of the British for society has enjoyed a whole year of the British horse journal. Sadly Mr Prince retired earlier this year. I wish you a long and happy retirement, and I’m truly grateful for your help with getting an accessible format of the journal to me. However, it would appear that since Mr Prince retired, my accessible British Horse is mo more.
Yesterday I received a phone call which told me that I would no longer be receiving my accessibleversion of British horse. Not only that, but I was told that Mr prints should not have been sending me the magazine in Word document format because, and I quote, “It breaks security protocols”. Security! Really! How?
Now here’s the thing. The professional organisation to which I belong, Federation Of Holistic Therapists, also have a members quarterly journal, which, at their own instigation, they send to me as Word documents attached to an email. They’ve never mentioned security protocols, they just do it. My bank sends me my bank statements in braille, my credit card company sent me my statements as an audio disk, my pension company sends me an email with a link to an accessible website. My mobile phone company email me my monthly bill., The hospital emailed me about appointments, my vet both emails and texts me about appointments and emails me my bill, The wildlife trust to which I am a member Sensley the journal recorded on CD, even the Inland Revenue write to me in braille, but the British horse society cannot send me their journal in an accessible format because it breaches security protocols. What utter rubbish!
The truth is that the British horse society have an arrogant patronising attitude towards disability. They view those of us living with disability A’s ‘Less than’. . We are to be indulged and pitied. We are not to be treated as equals. Why would somebody who is disabled, especially somebody who is blind, be genuinely interested in, or have any knowledge of, horses for equestrianism? We are expected to shut up, put up, and be grateful for any crumbs that are thrown our wayi. t’s not good enough!
It’s time British Horse Society clambered down from it’s ivory tower, dragged itself into the 21st century, and met it’s legal obligations.