Council backing equality scheme

Council backing equality scheme

9 May 2018

NEWRY, Mourne and Down Council has weighed in with its support for the Equality Commission’s ‘Every Customer Counts’ initiative.

The scheme, which supports Northern Ireland traders seeking to promote accessible services for all customers, was launched during a special event in Newcastle by council chairwoman Roisin Mulgrew.

Over 20 local businesses have already signed up to the initiative which encourages them to ensure people with a range of mobilities can access their premises.

Mrs Mulgrew — whose term of office ends next month — said that during her time as the district’s first citizen, she had spoken with many people and is confident the new initiative has the potential to make a “direct and positive contribution to the lives of those living with a disability. “

She continued: “This initiative builds upon the fantastic work that Autism Initiatives in Newcastle has already carried out and the commitment of the local business community.”

The Equality Commission’s head of policy, advice and research, Eileen Lavery, said the organisation is very pleased to see the initiative gaining momentum in Newcastle. 

“The scheme is a win for customers and businesses,” she continued. “When customers are welcomed, access is easy and the whole family can be accommodated, they’ll be back and businesses will benefit from good recommendations.

“A measure of the need for the initiative is the number of calls reporting disability discrimination to our advisory team.”

She revealed that four out out of every 10 calls highlighted being offered a lesser service or not being able to access services at all.

Eamonn Slevin, acting national director with Autism Initiatives, said it has been a great experience to collaborate with the Newry, Mourne and Down Council on the Every Customer Counts campaign. 

“The campaign has given us the opportunity to discuss with local businesses the small adjustments that can make a huge difference in the daily lives of people with autism,” he explained. “We currently employ 90 staff supporting over 50 people with autism in Newcastle, so we know how important this initiative is.

“The growing number of businesses signing up to pledge their support for the campaign is hugely positive and we hope others will be encouraged to join us in making fully inclusive businesses the norm rather than the exception.”

Alison Lyttle, Autism Initiatives area and community manager, described working with the local authority as a “rewarding experience” which showed the generosity and willingness of people to make adjustments that will really benefit the whole community. 

She added: “The ‘Every Customer Counts’ campaign has really gathered some momentum and we hope that other businesses large and small will sign up to help support it.”