INTERVIEW: Celebrating Christmas with Accessible Advent campaign creator, Ginny Butcher

Tucking into your advent calendar, one disability campaigner is changing the way we celebrate the Christmas countdown with #AccessibleAdvent changing perceptions of accessibility across the land.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, the Christmas decorations are up and the festive tunes are blaring. 

Christmas 2020 is set to look different this year for a host of reasons, but Ginny Butcher, who has muscular dystrophy, is ensuring Christmas looks different for all the right accessible reasons.

FESTIVE SPIRIT

Founder of the trending hashtag, Accessible Advent, Ginny has encouraged a wave of accessibility information to be shared far and wide on this, the first day of advent.

“I wanted to use December and the idea of Advent to do something fun, but also something related to disability. I had a couple of ideas, but I thought what I needed was a positive campaign or a hashtag that could allow myself and other people to speak about what we need, voice our wants, and just imagine a world that is better for us and works for us,” says Ginny, a disability activist and law graduate.

“I came up with Accessible Advent – we like a bit of alliteration – and I thought it would be fun. Immediately I thought ‘I could do that’, I can think of 25 things that could make my life better.”

IMPROVE

Big or small, Ginny is calling on people to share their experiences of what changes can be made to make their world more accessible.

Ginny continues: “There is so much that is inaccessible about the world, it just comes to you without having to try very hard so I thought people would get on board. 

“It is quite hard, really, for disabled people to get heard; through the power if this campaign people like myself can voice their needs and be heard by non-disabled people and businesses.”

And it is clear that people are coming together to have their voices heard, as #AccessibleAdvent was trending on Twitter across the UK.

“It’s so exciting! I started tweeting about it and thought I would just be doing it alone, then more and more people started getting involved and said this was great, fun, interesting and positive. It was really uplifting for people to get behind it.

“This is all about being heard and when people talk together in unison and shout, it is hard for businesses, politicians, and non-disabled people to ignore.”

SEE CHRISTMAS DIFFERENTLY 

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) have launched their own advent calendar, complete with festive ideas and stories to brighten up your day.

The accessible advent calendar is an innovative way to not only open presents (yay!), but to discover how the RNIB are tirelessly working to support people with sight loss to help build a more inclusive place.

EDUCATION

Alongside raising awareness of the simple daily changes that can be made to promote accessibility, #AccessibleAdvent is a wonderful, free, educational tool.

“A few people have already mentioned how this is a fantastic learning experience for non-disabled people – it is free education,” says Ginny.

“Follow the hashtag, have a read, and suddenly there is a host of different access issues being raised. For businesses, in the month of December there is this a free learning experience.”

INVOLVED

For the first day of #AccessibleAdvent, former Enable interviewee, Dr Amy Kavanagh has asked for more public spaces to be accessible, ensuring people don’t touch a person with a disability – including sight loss – without consent.

Disability campaigner, Jon Attenborough has asked for the addition of alternative text on photos, GIFs and fleets. A simple, yet effective, method to ensure people with a visual impairment or sight loss can be included on posts on social media.

Ginny adds: “I want people to recognise how common it is for disabled people to come across inaccessible things that makes their life difficult, more isolating and restricted. Most of the time it’s small things, it’s not always big issues.

“Sometimes it’s not having an accessible lift, or my tweet today was about getting to use my debit or credit card in a shop and not having someone to type my PIN in for me. 

“That is a small thing, but if all disabled people could do that it would make life better. 

“Non-disabled people are likely not to notice those things and we can share that to help people understand; unless you’re disabled, it is hard to imagine all these small, daily, niggling things that will really get you down and make life harder.”

There certainly have been great accessible advents to celebrate the start of the festivities.

“Use the hashtag in whatever manner you want, adapt it to your needs, disability or chronic illness and have fun with it,” enthuses Ginny. 

“Post some small things that make your life better, funny things, or something meaningful – let the hashtag belong to you because it belongs to the whole disabled community and chronic illness community, it doesn’t just belong to me.

“Use it to get your voice heard however is best for you.”

So, on the first day of Christmas, what will your #AccessibleAdvent give to you?

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