Nantwich Disability firm Direct Access were recipients of the Sustainability prize at the Expo 2020 supplier awards; an Expo-curated event that celebrates and rewards the creative minds and businesses who contributed to the 2022 edition of the international world’s fair. Emphasising the theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”, and a mindful approach to sustainability, the ceremony confirmed the appointment of Direct Access as a standout among 3200 other firms, who also delivered services to the site, which attracted over 24 million visitors across its duration.
The award came as a surprise to the firm, particularly as Direct Access’ initial work for Expo 2020 was modest, starting with their appointment in 2018 as Universal Design Consultants for what was to be the first world expo in the Middle East. After a successful contract win, their initial work involved advising on the design of the architecture, finish specifications as well as ancillary aids across the 438-hectare facility, of which 80% will now be preserved and be transformed into an “Expo city” with residential and commercial areas.
The following year, Direct Access was rewarded a second contract to assist guest services and develop accessible programming and curation for the event, which saw the team audit and review all the “touch points” for local and international visitors, and work to create a seamless event that overcame potential barriers for all disabled people (“People of Determination”, in the UAE).
As Expo was postponed due to the pandemic, Direct Access’ relationship with Expo expanded further, resulting in a third and fourth contract win in 2021 in the lead-up to the event, where the firm supplied evacuation chairs for the whole site, and Induction loops to all counters, with the only exception to this being the international pavilions themselves.
Marketing executive Michael Miller speculates that the win “may have been the result of Direct Access curating multiple accessibility firsts in the UAE”. Most notably, introducing the first changing places facility to the Middle East region on the Expo site, as well as heavily promoting the Hidden Disabilities Sunflower Lanyard, resulting in an endorsement from Her Excellency, Reem Al Hashemy (Minister of State for International Co-Operation).
Direct Access founder and director Steven Mifsud MBE commented on the victory “After a difficult personal year, this has really put a massive smile on my face. Out of excess of 3200 suppliers, our firm somehow managed to stand out above all others in the area of sustainability, which is at the heart of what we do. Thank you to the whole Expo team, and everyone who has supported our goals to bring accessibility and inclusion to the world in any capacity”.