Stuart Byrne, Project Head for the Downtown Business Improvement District (BID) project in town, last week met with the Ministry of Equality and the Ministry for Business. One of the Downtown Gibraltar BID’s Business Plan key priority areas is ‘Clean, Green and Welcoming’.
To find out how Downtown can be more welcoming for those with disabilities and the general public the BID team has been meeting with different organisations to get their feedback. Points and suggestions linked with disability raised from this feedback have now been relayed to the Ministry of Equality and other matters related to the running of businesses in the area were in turn relayed to the Ministry for Business.
The Ministry of Equality, explained the previous work that the Ministry of Equality had taken with businesses as part of its disability strategy over the years and is once again picking up where it left off before the pandemic. Additionally, it was further noted that the Government of Gibraltar, through the Ministry of Equality, is already in the process of extending the UN Convention on Disabilities to Gibraltar and that there would be a forthcoming programme of cooperation with local businesses that would help them understand their future responsibilities under the Disability Act as well as offering information on how businesses can make themselves more accessible to their clients.
Some of the issues mentioned in the meeting were:
- The extension of the Disabled Access to Property (Deduction) Rules until June 2024, which allows business to claim tax benefits when making their premises more accessible
- More public/disability/accessible toilets and extended opening times
- Closed-loop facilities in more establishments
- Entrance steps/Ramps
- Clear signage
- Contrast on steps. Make steps clear for those who are visually impaired.
- More recharging points for electric wheelchair and scooter users
- General training relevant to businesses and their staff on disabilities including, learning disabilities and invisible disabilities.
The Ministry of Equality has already been working on a number of projects in relation to disability education and awareness and will be working with the BID project to expand this in the same way that it has worked with the GFSB and the Chamber of Commerce in the past.
Minister for responsibility for Disability, the Minister for Equality, the Hon. Samantha Sacramento, MP, said: “Making Gibraltar a more accessible and welcoming place is the responsibility of all its citizens and it is something that our Government has improved since we took office. It is exciting and encouraging to see that the BID project has included accessibility as part of their ethos. The Ministry of Equality will do everything in its power to ensure that this project serves people with disabilities well and they can count on our full support.
Different businesses may need to find different solutions when offering accessibility according to their circumstances. HM Government of Gibraltar has already set up a tax incentive that will help businesses become more accessible, but the most important change is to have a more positive attitude towards accessibility.”
Minister for Business, Tourism and The Port, the Hon. Vijay Daryanani, MP, said: “The BID project is about making our town centre a better place to visit for our whole community and visitors alike. Our disabled people are extremely important to the Government and we want to create a better environment for them. Other cities are giving accessibility the great emphasis it deserves and we should certainly follow suit”.
Downtown BID Project Head, Stuart Byrne, said: “Downtown would like to thank the Ministry of Equality for their time and useful feedback, and hope to continue to work together to make things better and more welcoming.”