Encouraging venues to be accessible is what Sarah O'Mara is passionate about
When you're planning your next lunch, dinner or coffee catch up how do you go about deciding on a venue? Is it the quality cocktail list, the menu flavours or is it the venues vibe? Do you ever need to consider the accessibility of a venue, and once inside will the venue meet all your needs?
Accessibility means something different to every person and no one understands this better then Sarah O'Mara, founder of the Access Consulting business Flare Access.
Beginning in Occupational Therapy, Sarah moved into Access and Inclusion Consulting after seeing the many barriers experienced by both her family with disability and clients when trying to participate in everyday activities, especially travel planning "It can be an absolute nightmare", and is what drove her to make a change in this space.
Interested to understand more about Flare Access and what Sarah is working towards we caught up with her for a chat.
Thank you for meeting with us Sarah. Firstly can you tell us a little bit about Flare Access?
Flare Access partners with organisations within the Visitor Economy, including those in tourism, hospitality, retail and recreation, to increase customer numbers, grow revenue and become industry leaders.
We achieve this by assisting businesses to create inclusive and accessible customer experiences for all by analysing every stage of their customer journey and supporting them to implement Access Solutions for an immediate and long-term impact.
We support businesses to create lasting change and a truly inclusive culture by building capacity through Access and Inclusion training and Disability Awareness training.
Where does your passion for the disabilities industry comes from?
People with disability make up almost 20% of the population yet this sector is significantly underserved, and face barriers in everything they do. Often the barriers that exist can be easily removed or reduced allowing people with access needs to participate equally and with greater ease.
There are so many unnecessary and avoidable limitations to equal participation for people with disability yet accessibility is often an afterthought or considered as a tick box exercise for compliance rather than business as usual.
The message that I always share is that everyone benefits from greater accessibility and inclusion and everyone can contribute to change.
Is Flare Access run solely by yourself or do you have a team?
I lead all projects and bring on support as needed. I frequently consult with people with disability about barriers faced and access solutions and am looking forward to expanding in the future.
In addition to the consulting aspect of Flare Access, you are currently developing an App, can you tell us a bit about what the App will offer?
The Flare Access App is a platform that offers specific and objective information on the accessibility of services. Access means more than an accessible toilet and it is unique for every person, so this platform helps people with disability understand what venues, destinations, events and lifestyle activities are accessible for them.
Businesses who feature on the platform are supported to increase the accessibility of their service through online training, resources and consultation, assisting them to reduce barriers to their service, increase inclusion and grow market share of this sector.
What made you want to develop an App such as this?
When speaking with my family with access needs, I was shocked by the length of time taken and the effort needed to plan holidays. Where I was easily able to book a last-minute trip, this was just not possible for them, in fact, it can take months.
The issue is, that the difficulties faced when planning trip are also experienced on a daily basis. When people with access requirements want to plan outings or book events, most often the only way to learn about accessibility is to call up multiple businesses or search online. This research takes a lot of time and often results in inaccurate information being provided leading to poor experiences for all involved.
It’s important that people have the opportunity to know before they go, to allow them to plan and enjoy their experience hassle-free and with confidence.
In addition to this, most businesses don’t consider inclusive practices that go beyond basic access requirements, yet offering an accessible service is proven to reward businesses with short and long term growth.
A lack of information provided on the accessibility of services and existing barriers means that businesses are missing this market segment and losing out on the huge social and economic value of this sector.
I developed this App after seeing the difficulties and inequality that people with disability have when trying to plan and enjoy their everyday experiences, as well as seeing the customers that businesses miss out on because of a lack of accessibility information and the barriers to their service (that can often be removed with low cost, high impact solutions).
When do you envisage the FA App being live for people to use?
We expect to have the Flare Access App live within six months and I encourage any businesses or people with access requirements to connect with me to stay updated with the launch.
Will it be free to access?
Yes, it will be free to access.
Are there costs associated to being listed on the App as a business?
It is free for all founding businesses to feature on the App.
How does a business become listed on the App?
Collecting the information about your venue and service is simple, fast, and can be done at a time that suits your business.
It will take no longer than 1-2 hours in total (depending on the size of your venue of course) and involves answering a few questions, taking photos, video, and a few measurements. All you need is a smartphone and a tape measure.
We know your time is valuable, and you’ll receive all the information you need, so you won’t waste any time in figuring it out yourself.
What are the benefits for businesses being listed on the Access App?
Offering information on the accessibility of your service, and reducing barriers will help you to grow profits by doing good and become an industry leader with a clear point of difference.
You will attract new customers and increase retention of existing customers by creating positive word of mouth and positioning your business directly in front of a sector whose custom you may normally miss out on and that are significantly underserved.
You will receive expert support from your resident Access and Inclusion Consultant to reduce barriers to your service and increase accessibility using low-cost, high-impact solutions, so you can grow your customer base, increase customer retention and boost revenue.
The App will initially launch in the Newcastle, Hunter and Central Coast regions, is that correct?
Yes, it is.
Do you plan to expand to other areas?
Absolutely, the issues with accessibility that this App addresses are felt far and wide.
Why were these regions chosen to launch in?
The Australian Accessible Tourism Market was valued higher than the inbound Chinese Tourism Market pre covid. The Hunter Region alone is one of the most visited destinations in NSW and there is a fantastic opportunity to grow this further by establishing the location as an accessible destination for people with disability. Tourism and the local wine and food industry are such important contributors to the regional economy and this is an opportunity for businesses to open their services to a market already on their doorstep.
What is the ultimate goal for Flare Access and the Flare Access App?
Our ultimate goal is to reduce the barriers experienced by people with disability when traveling and participating in their everyday activities and to support businesses to remove barriers that prevent potential customers from enjoying their services.
We aim to see equal opportunity for people with disability and when this happens everyone benefits from the social and economic participation of this sector.
Access means so much more than an accessible toilet or level access. You are probably already offering accessible features that need to be shared with your visitors. No matter what level of accessibility you currently have in place, you can promote your accessibility features to different segments of this market.
- No requirement for existing accessible features such as accessible parking or accessible toilets to participate.
- No cost to participate in the directory. As founding participants, there is no cost to feature on the platform.
- No commitment is required to make changes to the accessibility of your service (although increasing the accessibility will help you attract more customers).
To kick things off, Sarah is offering to collect your access information for you. For a limited number of businesses, Sarah and the team will personally attend your business to get all the information needed so that you can get on board and get in front of more customers.
For more information and to get involved visit flareaccess.com.au.