Why do you need evidence?
If you have to report an access failing or make a complaint at any level, it is helpful to have evidence of the problems you faced. This helps organisations to see the issue and makes it harder for them to deny your experiences (which does often happen).
If your complaint goes as far as court, the better quality and quantity of evidence you have, the more your case/claims are supported. Also, judges are often not disabled themselves and can struggle to understand the problems we face with access. So, the more evidence you can show the court, in simple ways they can understand, the better.
Safety issues in evidence gathering.
However, we should also be clear that if your evidence-collecting is very obvious, that people can get defensive and sometimes even aggressive or dangerous if they realise what you are doing. Sometimes officials will claim that you are not allowed to film, record or take photos in a particular place which may or may not be true (often is not true) you will have to decide if you challenge that or not. We strongly recommend keeping your personal safety as a priority at all times, even if that means not getting or having poorer evidence. Sometimes poorer covert evidence recording is better than you being at risk or being stopped from collecting evidence.
Collect as much evidence as early as possible
At Reasonable Access, our advice is, collect as much evidence as possible if it is safe to do so. If you experience a type of access barrier on a regular basis, plan how you can quickly and easily gather evidence about it as part of your everyday life.
Types of evidence
Almost anything can be evidence. Your aim is to “back up” your story as much as possible. Types of evidence can include:
- Photographs or videos of a barrier, such as steps or signage. Measurements can be handy.
- Date and time information from your phone’s camera or EXIF data can show when images or video were taken.
- Video or audio recordings of any interactions with the organisation or about the incident.
- Contact details of any people who witnessed any incidents.
- Recordings of telephone calls with organisations (there’s many smartphone apps to do this now). (If you use Text-Relay, save or make screenshots of transcripts)
- If recording a call is not possible, make dated and signed notes about the call and consider following up with the organisation by email with ‘your understanding of what was discussed and agreed’ during the call.
- Google maps can show images of streets and shop fronts. Sometimes several different years’ images are available which can be useful for comparison.
- Copies (photographs, screenshots or scans) of event or travel tickets can show you attended or were in the area.
- Screenshots or saved copies of webpages (should show website address and if possible something showing date/time).
- Screenshots of completed webforms (always keep a copy of the text you sent in case you’re not sent a copy).
- Relevant policies and procedures from the organisation via their website or a specific request.
- Copies of emails or letters you send and receive about the issue.
- Anything else that truthfully shows what impact the access failing had on you during and after the event (this can be both practical and emotional).
If you cannot get video or photographic evidence, the next best thing is descriptive notes of the relevant people and their apparent roles. Employees of an organisation should give you at least their forename and their role upon request.
where you cannot get names or if you are unsure the name information is sufficient, it can also be useful for you to make a note (at the time, or very soon afterwards) of information about staff members (both those actively involved and those who witnessed events) such as:
- Physical characteristics (apparent gender, ethnicity, accent, hairstyle, height, body-build).
- Details of any uniform or other clothing worn.
- Where someone was e.g. behind a desk, in an office.
Sometimes it is not possible to collect evidence at the time of the incident, but if you can collect and record evidence (perhaps with someone to support you) as soon as possible after the incident the evidence can still be very useful.
If you have a witness to the incident, if possible ask them to record their honest memory of what happened as possible afterwards with a date and signature on the document. Witnesses should be very honest about what events they did not see, hear or remember, as they may be challenged on this. Witnesses can also document their opinion about how an event affected you afterwards.
If you have to go to court, you should find out whether your witness will agree to give a formal legal written witness statement and come to court to give evidence in person.