Can we be more inclusive?

This is something I’ve been thinking about for some time; how would you make RAFAC more inclusive to those with physical or mental differences?

My small piece to start: every Spooner Hut to be replaced with an accessible building. Many squadrons near me still have Spooner Huts and RFCA have shown very little interest in replacing them - but these can be prohibitive for those with physical differences, particularly wheelchair users, and may open us up to some fun lawsuits if anyone requiring use of a wheelchair wished to join.

The fire risk assessments for wheelchair users in Spooner Huts could cause a headache or two.

Understatement of the centaury there WN.
Don’t think that this will make much of a difference. RFCA still insist in building buildings with steps to the main entrance, Sqn on first floor and no lift in the building. This was a building opened in 2016.

How about sanitary waste bins available and collected with a contractor.

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AFAIK someone in our policy (I’ve read it before) it states that we have a cadet who want to join who has limited mobility in someway there is a process to fast-track having the squadron modified to make it accessible to them. ie, having ramps in stalled so they can more easily access the building. This is a realistic step to take. As we don’t have the funds to go around and make every spooner hut in the country accessible overnight. Frankly we barely have the funds to make the spooner huts meet the basic H&S rules as is…

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IIRC the legislation is that any changes have to be within the terms of ‘reasonableness’, replacing a building I contend would not be reasonable.

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Then you have who opens the building on a 9 to 5 basis?

The term your looking for is ‘Reasonable Adjustments’. The law says we must make reasonable adjustments to permit those with disabilities and/medical conditions to be able to access the same opportunities. Reasonable means that sometimes it’s just not possible without doing silly amounts of work. For example some squadrons would literally need to be fully demolished and re-built to make them wheelchair accessible.

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Just to add the threshold on an adjustment being unreasonable is a lot lower when dealing with volunteers & volunteer organisations as there is no mandatory requirement with volunteers.

Even internal changes may mean widening doors, ramps would need a larger area due to the turning circle of a wheelchair, specific toilet adaptions etc. The cost and disruption could be endless.

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Then would question the reasonable element of it. The get out card.

There needs to be a proactive program of building refurb and adjustment however where would the money come from.

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This is (sadly) true. As CFAVs we’re not protected by law in the same way employees are from such laws because we’re not ‘loosing out’ per-se. But cadets are 100% protected by law.

And yes, the threshold is pretty low. Especially when we would likely be talking about massive building refurbs for 1 or 2 people. It sounds harsh but that just isn’t economically viable, saldy.

As we move on though, there needs to be a focus on making building suitable from day 1. Any new squadrons being built need to be fully accessible from the design stage.

I’ve just had a look to see if I can find the policy I referenced above. The wording isn’t quite how I remember, but similar enough.

ACP 15:

Reasonable Adjustments

  1. Irrespective of ability, performance and aptitude, reasonable adjustments are to be implemented where reasonably and financially practicable (including when writing Admin Orders and Joining Instructions) to permit cadets and CFAVs with disabilities, medical conditions, or any additional needs access RAFAC opportunities. If structural adaptations to buildings are being considered, the Chain of Command (CoC) should liaise with Head of Infrastructure at HQ RAFAC in the first instance.

  2. In order to promote inclusivity when planning the activity/environment, collaboration with the cadet (if appropriate) and parents/carers should be sought to assess need and develop strategies. If safety issues require consideration, the CoC are to consult with Comdt 2 FTS or Regional Commandants as appropriate to ascertain functional risk and subsequent actions.

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And may only be applicable for 2 to 3 years and never used again in some cases. Such adjustments are financially unviable considering the cost involved, and it may seriously impact works required by other Squadrons to maintain their buildings.

Adjustments to old buildings just isn’t always reasonably possible. But new builds really should be done with accessibility in mind.

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This thread very quickly became about just Spooner Huts…

What about our aircraft - are these as accessible as they should be?

Our online learning environments - do these meet the needs of the thousands of cadets with learning differences?

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The above is very true …buildings are just the start …
Sadly, it is the way of the modern world that some people will see potential pound signs when little Johnny joins his local ATC Squadron and cant go flying / shooting etc etc … and before you know it there will be legal claims flying all over the place.
…and you know what will happen then to certain activities …it won’t be good, but it will be cheaper to bin them rather than risk a claim!
Don’t get me wrong everybody should have the right to Join …but expectations need to be realistic and managed, and people made aware from the start - something I think is lacking in these days in this “everyone must be able to do everything” society !

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Thankfully there’s a charity that acquired some aircraft and got a lovely grant from the DfT to make them accessible. I would be signposting someone in that direction.

Again, reasonable adjustment. Are our aircraft accessible? No. Are our aircraft as accessible as they should be? Arguably, yes. It would be a pretty incredible amount of work to create an accessible fleet for AEF/gliding. The ‘reasonable adjustment’ here is, frankly, to use a specialist charity/company. And given ACTO 35 doesn’t exist that’s not something we can supply!

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I disagree here, particularly with regards to gliding.

There are civilian gliding clubs out there using wheelchair accessible gliders. Imagine if, as part of our next procurement process, we were able to secure even just 1 per VGS. They can still be used by cadets without wheelchairs, but open up gliding to others as well.

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Assuming there will be another procurement process…

But the problem here is the MODs oversight. We still have to fly/glide with parachutes for example, and need to be able to self-evacuate. AFAIK that’s an MOD requirement that might be difficult to budge on. The MOD are far too risk adverse (sic) to make big changes like allowing cadets to fly without a chute! It would make a lot more sense if we could work with someone like Aerobility to provide these sort of opportunities on our behalf.

With unlimited resources we could to some fantastic things. But our resources are being stretched extremely thin across the board. For us to become more accessible (be that spooner huts, flying, or classroom training) I think we need to start working closer with other charities to help us.

Manage expectations on joining. You’re focusing on wheelchair and severe physical disabilities, but there are many across the organisation who already can’t do some of those things, but still enjoy their experience.

Do you think this stuff hasn’t already come up?

No, that won’t be the case.

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Due to restrictions with the parachutes, a large proportion or our cadets cannot fly. I we cannot get our core demographic in the air, how will se succeed with those with less usual requirements?

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