This week should have been dementia awareness week and although it will now be postponed until later in the year due to COVID-19, we wanted to take a second to tell you why it is so important to us at Tipsy Bean.

Dan Smith, one of our co-owners, has spent the last decade designing for brands (restaurants, bars, retail) and in 2015 began to specialise in accessible and inclusive design after completing a masters degree in Dementia Care & Enabling Environments at Salford University. More recently he was the head of design at Motionspot, an accessible design specialist in Twickenham where he led a team designing inclusive environments for hotels, bars and office buildings throughout the UK.

There are more than 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, thats 1 in 14 people over the age of 65. It can affect younger people too, there are more than 42,000 people under 65 living with dementia. Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain and not a natural part of ageing as commonly believed.

Living with dementia can be debilitating and isolating, but lots of people live well with dementia and still live at home in their community and that’s why we wanted to make Tipsy Bean as dementia-friendly as possible – to be inclusive to as many people as possible.

We bought some paint back in February with the hope that we’d get time to decorate this spring… little did we know that lockdown was lurking around the corner! While we have been closed we’ve used the opportunity to redecorate the bar and make some improvements. We’ve modernised the interior and updated our signage to match our new branding. Some of these improvements have been carefully planned to make the bar more inclusive. They include:

  • We’ve updated our branding, signage and menus to be easier to read for anyone with visual impairment (such as poor eyesight), cognitive impairment (such as dementia) or Neurodiversity (such as dyslexia).

  • We’ve sanded and varnished the floors, tables and bar and repainted all of the walls and doors in a matt finish. This reduces the risk of glare by overhead lighting or sunlight which could be perceived as water on the floor for someone with dementia, or glare from reflective surfaces can make navigating and reading signage difficult for someone with poor eyesight.

  • Through careful choices of paint finishes we have made sure that the decor complies with BS8300 (building regulations for accessible design) enabling anyone with visual impairment to easily navigate the bar with colour-contrasting walls, floors, doors and handles.

  • We’ve bought some new furniture for the bar, meaning there is now a good mixture of low, medium and high seating areas which allow people of all stature to sit or perch comfortably in the venue. Seats with arms allow for anyone with weaker upper body strength to lift themselves from the chair, whereas chairs without arms are helpful for wheelchair users to transfer into the seating easily.

  • We offer table service throughout the bar anyway, but upon request can talk you through our menu options and will be launching a large print and visual menu for anyone that requires extra assistance.

  • We’ve replaced the taps in the bathrooms with lever taps and push-button waste – which are much easier to use for visitors with arthritis or limited dexterity with small, fiddly fastenings. We’ve also added easy-to-use paper towel dispensers (there is evidence that hand driers can cause a painful sound for anyone with Autism).

This is just the start, we are always looking to improve Tipsy Bean to make it more inclusive and welcoming to our friendly community in Caversham!

We can’t wait to reopen when it is safe to do so, and we hope to welcome as many people as possible into our bar. Dan is also a Dementia Friends Champion, which is an initiative by the Alzheimer’s Society. Their mission is to train as many people as possible to become a Dementia Friend, teaching them about dementia so that they can help their community. The Dementia Friends initiative is free and takes about 45 minutes (you get to play bingo!). We plan to host a session at Tipsy Bean later in the year, when social distancing guidelines allow us to do so.

If you’d like to talk more about making your business or venue inclusive, you can get in touch with Dan here.

For more information about Dementia, or when dementia awareness week will be rescheduled for, you can visit the Alzheimer’s Society website here.

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