Extreme Auditing (working through the Pandemic)

Access Audits. Extreme auditing, working through the pandemic. Chris is out and about even through the difficult times…

Well, I certainly can’t remember a year anything like this one – it seemed to come to a grinding halt in March, and it’s certainly not back on the rails yet.

For the team at Visits Unlimited you might think that would be the end of things for the foreseeable future, no one going anywhere, no one meeting up with anyone, not a bit of it.

We’re far more resourceful and resilient to accept that!

True – work did drop off a cliff for a few weeks, audit dates in the diary were cancelled, people didn’t know what could or should happen, but that didn’t last for long at our Accessible Calderdale Project.  After a few weeks of hiding away, people started peeping over the parapet and gingerly climbing over.

So, where have I been going for the last few months?

Well, the first post–Covid visit was to Sunnyvale Outdoor Centre. https://www.facebook.com/pg/sunnyvalefishery/posts/

Sunnyvale Outdoor Centre Image of all age groups of volunteers outside a wooden cabin
Sunnyvale Outdoor Centre Image of all age groups of volunteers outside a wooden cabin

Best thing? Working on such a great scheme. Worst thing? Finding it!

Access Audits. I got close really quickly but I’d not done enough research and I couldn’t find the final turn – up and down the single track roads, often followed by a white van (also lost, assuming I knew where I was going)! And then, a miraculous meeting – a hiker appeared. I asked her if she had ever heard of the place and she had! Oh joy! Found the sharp turn on to an old cobbled road, took the correct fork, and there I was.

Brilliant place, offering disadvantaged children a chance to let off steam outside boating, trying archery, having a go on the climbing wall, bird watching, superb.

Just need better toilets and away we go!

Next stop was Elim Church https://www.halifaxelimchurch.org.uk/

Easy to distance here – cup of tea put on the table then left to my own devices, inside and out, church to meeting rooms, very impressive.

Later, I finally reached the Next Step Trust http://www.nextsteptrust.org.uk/

Next Step Trust a young woman points to a page in a book which sits on the lap of a young person in a wheelchair
Next Step Trust a young woman points to a page in a book which sits on the lap of a young person in a wheelchair

which had got caught up in the original cancellations. We had actually changed dates so many times that they had moved buildings by the time I got there! Very switched on organisation. Masks, sprays, distancing, routes, all thought through before I got there.

Had a great time later auditing Crow Wood Park  – or rather the Pavilion in the Park. Lovely place and people. The problem here was getting in. I circled the area a few times, located the only gate and realised it was locked. I really wanted to drive in, not park on the very steep-sloping road outside. But, keep faith, at exactly the time arranged the gate was opened and in I drove.

A later audit found me on a light-industrial estate visiting Empowered people. https://empoweredpeople.co.uk/

a group of people in fluorescent jackets on various types of bikes
A group of people in fluorescent jackets on various types of bikes

Simple engineering shop creating bespoke wheelchair/bikes – to be towed by a cyclist or self-powered, off road – could have moved in here. Never seen so many quality tools all in one place before! Here, it was all about getting into the establishment in the first place. I had plenty of ideas, but it was one of those tricky situations where there wasn’t an obvious answer, and all the answers would cost money. Still, they certainly deserve some help.

They even gave me a bag of sweets for my trouble!

Access Audits. I think the most impressive visit recently was to the Calderdale Industrial Museum. https://calderdaleindustrial.co.uk/

a floor early beam engine
A floor early beam engine

I suppose, as a scientist, I’m biased, but it was fantastic! So much good stuff. But seriously, they have really thought hard about how to display everything as accessibly as possible. Even the Mining experience in the Basement shows evidence of serious thought.

Loved every minute, loved the people, and I’ll be back with the family when restrictions are over!

On the other hand, my next trip was to one of the most inaccessible places I’ve visited so far on the project. Not the people, not their clientele, not their procedures, just the building. Beautiful old stone terrace, but huge steps at the front, no space for ramping, no space for a lift without blocking everybody  – lets look at the back. Better, but lots of slopes and vicious cobbles and finally having to cross someone else’s drive to get in.

Absolutely beautiful inside with gorgeous tiles and glass but lots of floors and no lift.

Not written the report yet, and I’m really not sure what to suggest. Sometimes deep thought and extensive experience are still not enough.

Last but not least was a return visit to St Augustine’s. https://www.staugustinescentrehalifax.org.uk/

Chris in a room at St. Augustine's
Chris in a room at St. Augustine’s

Access Audits. This time concentrating on the Support Building. Again, masks, sprays, distancing,  but still very comfortable.

Keen readers will remember my first visit last year, with the home-made curry lunch as the highlight. Sadly, not in evidence this time, but a great day nonetheless.

So, we’re up to date. Life is very different right now, but we are resourceful, we have a sense of humour and we’re resilient. We’ll beat this.

See you next time!