Guest blogger Rebecca Thomas attended the Accessible London event to find out how disability-smart organizations are improving business performance by increasing confidence, accessibility, productivity and profitability.  

Since going to last week’s Accessible London1 event, I’m aware how improvements that meet the needs of disabled people would benefit all of us. Steps at underground railway stations make them inaccessible for wheelchair users, and they’re also a struggle for people with pushchairs, suitcases and heavy shopping. Clearer announcements and signage on public transport and visitor attractions would make a huge difference for people with vision and hearing impairment, and improvements would help anyone using the services.
As someone who loves living, working and going out in London, I was proud to hear that this great city has better accessibility than many other cities around the world, and the tourist industry in particular is a leading example of accessible tourism. Richard Knowles, Head of Visitor Services at The Royal Collection2 pointed out that extra funding for the 2012 London Olympics had helped the city’s attractions become more accessible, and the Buckingham Palace website even has a fly through exhibition for people on the autistic spectrum to navigate before they arrive. It’s really helpful to anyone planning a visit!
In the UK, equality legislation has led to significant improvement in accessibility of corporate buildings, and disabled peoples’ organizations outside London increasingly look towards the capital for best practice examples in terms of accessible new build housing. And, working for Capgemini, I’m aware of specialist IT, like screen readers and voice activation software, that provides access to technology used as part of many interesting and rewarding careers. So while there is a long way to go, it’s moving in the right direction.
Today marks the end of the UK’s Disability History Month, which examines society’s past response to disablement, to improve the position of disabled people in the future. This year, the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One, the focus was on people disabled through war around the world, and I learnt about injustices disabled war veterans faced after 1914-18. I hope that in the near future I’ll be equally shocked to remember under 25% of underground railway stations in London, New York and Paris have step-free access for for disabled people to travel to work easily. 

1. Accessible London is an event organized by the UK’s Business Disability Forum to discuss the realities, challenges and opportunities offered by an accessible London. 
2. The Royal Collection is the works of art held by the British monarch in the right of the Crown and held in trust for royal successors and the British nation.

Rebecca Thomas held senior
marketing positions in
Capgemini’s Outsourcing and
Consulting business units,
and Public and Private sectors.