Queen Elizabeth II Lying In State Public Access Criticized By Disability Charities

Tomorrow is the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. As dawn breaks in the UK, the nation will focus solely on bidding a loving farewell to the monarch who reigned for seven decades, during which time he oversaw the transformation of the British state and people take.

When the dust settles, however, lessons may need to be learned from the experiences of thousands of elderly and disabled people who were willing to wait in line for hours to see their beloved Queen lying in her coffin at London’s Westminster Hall but were found the lack of experience with basic accessibility regulations.

Originally, to see the Queen at the Palace of Westminster, which opened on September 14, the main queuing system was supplemented with an accessible queuing, intended to offer a faster queuing experience for those who may have trouble staying on their feet for many hours without end.

The accessible queuing system sought to reduce the distance and time spent queuing by offering visitors timed entry for lying down and a more convenient arrival point for joining the last queue at Victoria Tower Gardens.

The barrier-free queue was then permanently closed at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, as there were no more time slots available.

The main queue will also close well earlier than the original 6am deadline on Monday and throughout Sunday those intending to head out and join the queue have been advised not to travel to avoid disappointment avoid.

Poor accessibility

Although the provision of an alternative ‘accessible’ queue seems well intentioned, local disability organizations have received feedback from many of their clients that their experience was not particularly inclusive or accommodating.

Some of the main criticisms of accessibility seem to revolve around a lack of information about what bereaved people with disabilities can expect and a lack of adequate accommodation.

Many complained that official government information sources were “spotty and misleading” at best – visitors with disabilities instead had to rely on unofficial social media channels for accurate and up-to-date information.

Specific information gaps were identified in relation to wheelchair access and accessible toilets, making it difficult for mourners to plan their journey in advance.

In terms of making reasonable accommodations, which were rightly expected by elderly and disabled guests, representative charities such as Disability Rights UK expressed concern that food, drink and protective equipment had been confiscated from disabled visitors when they arrived at Westminster Hall.

Of course, the former can be particularly important for those with underlying health conditions, as they may be required to take medication, particularly in the context of a novel and unpredictable experience and London’s unseasonably cold nighttime temperatures over the weekend.

Frustratingly, authorities did not require proof of disability to use the accessible queue and there was some speculation that the organizers were simply watering this down to prevent able-bodied scammers from expediting their visit by joining the accessible queue Accessibility to lessen that temptation.

This is totally unacceptable according to Kamran Mallick, CEO of Disability Rights UK who said:

“We understand that the Government is concerned that people feigning disability will face the queue, but to focus on that, rather than equal access for disabled people, means creating an inexcusable barrier to the Queen for the fifth of the population who are disabled to show respect.”

Mallick commented on the overall accessibility of the experience, adding:

“How ironic that our monarch signed the Equality Act over a decade ago, ending her life herself with a disability, and yet the government cannot enact the equal accessibility laws she has created.”

plan ahead

Another irony, of course, is that many of those who might have felt closest to the monarch, ie older people insofar as they have aged with her and perhaps also remember Queen Elizabeth as a young woman, among those most affected were the access issues .

It’s a point well summarized by an Age UK spokesman who said: “It has been a difficult week for many of those we support here at Age UK Plymouth, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s commitment to her role and our country has made her someone who many older people feel bound to with great respect and admiration.”

Those defending the government on the matter will say that just as during the pandemic, getting everything right in relation to people with complex needs can be difficult at a time of tremendous national turmoil, but that the underlying intentions noble were.

One might also add that, fortunately, the death of a monarch is usually a once-in-a-lifetime experience with few dress rehearsals.

Still, it’s hard to believe, particularly given the Queen’s age, that the details of the national mourning period would not have been known many years in advance.

For both a global event seven decades in the making and the most routine of everyday inclusion practices, the principles of accessibility remain exactly the same.

Prioritize accessibility from the start and bake it into the process early on. That way, the endeavor doesn’t become a rushed and reactive afterthought, but rather something fit for a queen.

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