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Disability-friendly virtual pub opens its doors during lockdown

A new disability-friendly virtual pub has opened its doors to hundreds of customers during lockdown.

The Staying Inn is an online virtual pub for people with disabilities and those classed as high risk under the lockdown restrictions. The online-only pub was launched by Dr Amy Kavanagh, 30, a visually impaired activist and campaigner.

Initially the Inn was just a bit of a joke after Amy created a sign for her house that read The Staying Inn, which was often spotted by friends during video chats. Soon, word of the new “pub” got around. Dr Kavanagh told iPaper:

"I got more requests to 'visit the pub'. So I opened it up publicly. The first event was honestly chaos. I started using google hangouts but quickly hit the 25 people limit. Then using Zoom we got trolls turning up from Russia. However, we've got over the technical snaffoo and now have a lovely new website and a mailing list to share details of our events.”

Six weeks into lockdown, around 100 guests now visit The Staying Inn each week. The Inn also hosts a pub quiz every Saturday night, as well as two or three other weekly events.

Dr Kavanagh said she has seen how crucial The Staying Inn is for people while the restrictions are in place. She said:

"Many disabled people, myself included won't be able to go out safely after the lockdown ends. As a community we are often already isolated by social barriers, like pubs being inaccessible with no ramps or accessible loos, so we are used to finding innovative ways to connect online."

A recent report from Scope revealed that disabled people are facing additional barriers during the tense lockdown period.

Over 36% of disabled shoppers surveyed by Scope said long queues were aggravating their conditions or impairments, with 26% adding that they have faced negative attitudes from other shoppers, which increases those feelings of isolation and frustration.

Dr Kavanagh added:

"It's a friendly fun inclusive space which is proving a life line to many disabled people who are isolated at home during the current crisis. We host video calls and webinars for people to join in so it's often an interactive space for people to connect. Mainly it's a chance for people to have a drink, a laugh and see some new faces.

"I get lovely messages every week from people who have felt lonely, including one person who said the pub was the first time they'd heard other voices in a week. There are also new friendships developing with people taking their chats out of the pub and via videocall to each other," she said.

"The pub is open to everyone, but as we are accessible including live captions and British Sign Language interpreters at lots of our events, we really encourage disabled people and anyone feeling isolated to get involved.”