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Virtual pub showcases disabled people’s skills

Dr Amy Kavanagh
Dr Amy Kavanagh Image credit: expressandstar.com

There is still at least one pub open despite the COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown and the good news is you are only a few clicks away.

The Staying Inn was launched by Dr Amy Kavanagh to show the abilities disabled people have running a virtual pub.

The 30-year-old from West London took time away from the bar to speak to PA News about her amazing initiative.

“I knew a lot of my disabled friends would be stuck indoors for a long time,” Kavanagh said.

To start with the virtual watering-hole was just for Amy and her mates to get-together on a video call, have a few drinks and play some board games, but now the pub is open to the public who are asked to make a small donation, the same amount as a pint, so they can make the inn accessible for all,

Dr Kavanagh, who has ocular albinism, said: “We are hosting all sorts of different events and making them as accessible as possible.

“We’ve had bingo, a choose-your-own-adventure story session, an increasingly popular craft club led by disabled crafters, talks on interesting subjects, and of course our weekly pub quiz.

“Disabled people are sharing their skills. Last night we had an inclusive crafting session with a blind crafter and a disabled crafter who showed us how they use different tools, tricks and tips.

“We’ve had a talk from a disabled forensic psychologist all about true crime. It’s a space to share knowledge, skills and talents in whatever form they take.

“It’s also an opportunity to pay disabled people who are on the sharp end of the current economic crisis.”

Taking inspiration from virtual events which have been set up by disabled people over the years Amy was inspired to launch probably one of the few pubs in the UK still open for business.

“So often social spaces are inaccessible to disabled people, either through physical barriers like no ramps or accessible loos, or by negative attitudes towards disabled people,” she said.

“We are also fundraising to make the pub as accessible as possible including live captions and British Sign Language interpreters.

“Disability often makes people feel very awkward and I know from personal experience that non-disabled people will actively avoid conversations with me or only want to ask intrusive personal questions about my blindness,” she said.

“The pub is showing that disabled people are just like everyone else. We like a gin and tonic, we enjoy knitting, we have a passion for the music of the early 2000s, we have pets and families and jobs too.

“My hope is that this crisis will teach us the value of connecting even when we are far apart, and that by sharing a video call and a laugh, we might help break down some of the barriers between disabled people and a society which often excludes us.”

Dr Kavanagh is already thinking about opening a second club for people with hearing loss and an accessible technology class, so there’s plenty of work to be done after she calls last orders.

The Staying Inn is open on Saturdays for a pub quiz as well as a Wednesday or Friday for an additional activity. For more information follow @TheStayingInn