Lessons from around the globe

It’s important for all of us in our business lives to take a step back regularly and look at how others do what we do, to see what we can learn from them.

I’ve been fortunate to have had two opportunities to do this recently.

Last month we were involved in the International Short Break Association’s annual conference and hosted a study visit at Leuchie House for a group of delegates. This gave us a chance to compare notes with people from around the world who provide short respite breaks like we do at Leuchie, giving us a valuable insight into practice in places as diverse as Australia, Iceland and Poland.

A recent holiday in California also gave me the opportunity to compare how services and facilities for people with disabilities differs in the USA.

As a much younger country, they are unencumbered by the restrictions and limitations we face with many of our historic buildings. It’s clearly so much easier to plan for disabled access when you don’t have 12th century buildings with steps up to the entrance and no lifts, or cobbled streets to negotiate. More spacious buildings and wider sidewalks help give one of the most important elements of accessibility – space. Something we often struggle to provide in our country, especially North Berwick High Street!

Many of the facilities they have today in the States were put in place as a necessity after the Vietnam War. Innovative transport services like the Philly Flyer demand responsive buses came as a result, providing accessible public transport around Philadelphia for the first time. This has developed into their para-transit system and is now an integrated part of the city’s transport network. Quite different from anything I can think of in the UK.

That’s not to say however that the US is better than we are overall at providing for disabled people. The UK has many services and facilities to be proud of. The most striking difference of course is the NHS and the availability of free health care for all.

As with everything in life, it’s all about what we can learn from one another and being open to new ideas.