Having spent the day trying to find a venue for a group of 80 with wheelchair access we have been wondering why it is not easier.
If you have a large budget then it is easier, for example if your minimum spend is £5,000 or more. Most of the large purpose built event spaces, arts venues and hotels have wheelchair access because they need ot have it for their regular events. However, we have been looking for a venue to end a Treasure Hunt at with a budget of £25 per person for canapes and a couple of drinks. Normally this would be a perfectly good budget and we would be able to find several venues to choose from, but it becomes difficult when wheelchair access is essential.
This is because London is an old city and most of the pubs and bars are in modified old buildings. This means that the typical location offers wheelchair access to the ground floor but this tends to be where their main public area is. Private hire areas are either upstairs or in the former cellar. It is very unusual for such venues to have a lift.
There are websites which claim to specialise in this sort of venue, but they are very inaccurate. Often venues listed on these sites do not have the right facilities and a good 25% of the venues listed have closed.
We do seem to have found a solution and that is Topolski on the Southbank. They are in old railway arches and you go straight through the doors into a nice large space. These old arches house many bars and clubs and so it makes sense that a space like that, accessed directly from the streets, would be suitable.
Companies are, quite rightly, focusing on diversity and employing people with disabilities. Obviously we cannot tear down London's old buildings and start again, but the search engines and online directories, many of which claim to be solving this problem, need to up their game significantly to meet what must be a growing demand.