Changing Places at The Deep

Changing Places at The Deep

We love The Deep in Hull because as a team the managers and staff who work there have literally pulled out every stop they have come across to make their venue accessible for everyone.

Now they’ve gone and done it again…

The Deep have created a Changing Places room and it looks amazing.

The Deep is once again leading by example.

Clumber Park, a National Trust Accessible Day Out

Clumber Park a last minute idea

National Trust days out provide us with calmness, interest, space, nature and entertainment. We like to roam the UK and discover new places to explore and having a National Trust membership allows us to do this within the safety of good expectations as in we know generally what we will experience when we arrive.

Clumber Park was last weeks destination to try out for the first time. We wanted to go somewhere to escape the rain up in the West so we drove down and found this lovely spot.

3800 acres of park and garden waited for us and even in our eager walking boots we knew we couldn’t remotely explore that so we settled for some woodland walks with the squirrels (a lot of squirrels), around the lake with the swans which were beautiful and elegantly dressing the lake in their whiteness. Being bird watching fans and proud members of the RSPB it was a nice suprise to know that so many different types of birds frequent the area.

Accessibility

The pathways are well maintained but it would be difficult through the woodland area as the pathways here are not that wide and winter debris are scattered well. However there are plenty of paths to take and there’s a lovely lake to walk around hosted by the wonderful swans comfortably minding there own business with the occasional showing off of their grandness.

We made it into the cafe before it closed and there wasn’t one disappointed member of our clan as they tucked into the many cakes and scones ordered.

 

A warm welcome, nice walks with open skies and it was a dry day. Perfect.

 

 

Bendrigg Trust Experience

Bendrigg Trust gave my son adventure.

All packed and ready to go.

I waved my 16 year old off for a week of adventure sport at Bendrigg Trust Outdoor pursuits centre in Kendal, Lake District.

A big deal in our world as he’s not usually away from us for too long let alone a whole week where adventure waits but this is a huge opportunity and we wouldn’t have him miss it.

Along with 6 others of his class mates and 5 teachers the bus left loaded with suitcases, wheelchairs and very excited teenagers ready for what lay ahead.

5 days later I picked him up; a bag full of washing, red eyes and sloping shoulders but the smile on his face said it all.

Experiences allow us to evolve and there was a wonderful energy of this happening in our kids from this week; night time walks with head torches. Caving indoors and outdoors, canoeing where the ice needed to be broken on the water as they paddled. Rock climbing, abseiling and zip wiring. Sharing a room with a pal and cooked breakfasts every single day, what wasn’t to love!

The Bendrigg Trust is designed to deliver high quality adventure opportunities to individuals who are disabled or disadvantaged in some way. For 40 years they have encouraged the development of confidence and supporting the continued learning of independence from learning to trust themselves, working as a team and making their own bed and taking care of their belongings.

It’s hard letting go, the anxiety of will he be understood when he voices his needs? Will they know when he’s anxious and he needs them to be present with him whilst he calms down? Will they know to be patient when he’s unsure but wants to try and know when to help him slow down when he’s going too fast and could hurt himself?

Of course a small group of his teachers were there but I had nothing to worry about, he was heard, he was encouraged, he was given every opportunity and he loved it.

Thank you

Thank you Bendrigg Trust for creating a lifetime of memories for him that’ll he can hold on to, be proud of and always look back on.

Banish that cabin fever with some accessible trails.

Accessible trails and walks are priceless to families like mine.

As I write this post the sun is shining, the sky is blue and I can hear birds tweeting in the distance. No i’m not in a Mary Poppins scene I am actually in Hebden Bridge staring longingly out of my office window noticing how rare that blue sky and sunshine is this time of year.

It’s surely time to break free and get those boots, wheels and paws muddy? I don’t need asking twice.

I am fortunate that my boys have adapted well to having parents who like to walk and now that my eldest has come through his multitude of spinal operations and rehabilitation he is able to put at least 5 miles under those feet (we’re just missing a dog but i’m working on that).

Why do we walk? Why are accessible trails important to us?

Walking for us has always allowed our family to have space and calmness where we can be present with each other and quiet if that’s what’s needed, or we can chat and explore topics that have the permission to span a good chunk of time whilst we inter weave it with…oh look at that flower or have you seen those hills in the distance…

Walks have been great for relieving tension when my eldest son becomes activated or angry and he’s usually worked it through by the end of a nice easy walk where distractions have diluted the emotions he feels stuck with.

Walks have also been great for us as parents because as I mentioned we feel space around us, fresh air and wind, sunshine or just that clouded coolness that helps break state and encourages a sense of feeling exercised without exhaustion.

Where are these accessible trails?

Although we have less obstacles these days than previous years where styles to climb over, parking, undulating trails and toilets all had to be part of our planning I still take some of these into consideration. We all different needs when getting out and about into the wilderness so i’ve given a few ideas from the places that we’ve been.

  • I’m a true lover of the Lake District and stand in awe every time I go. Click on the link to find some great route without styles and ideas for great days out. The Lakes can get busy with traffic at certain times of the day and the year so plan your times and journey well before hand.
  • The National Trust membership is a gift that keeps on giving. A whole year of ‘stuff’ to do and places to go and so much of it is accessible.  Our favourite for going and meeting friends for the day is Nostell Priory. We can loose the kids here for hours and the day is relaxing and easy. We fly kites, take packed lunches (cafe there as well which is accessible), we love it so much we have visited repeatedly. It has paths used all year round and is accessible for wheelchairs and buggies. There’s a lovely sized courtyard for eating with well kept toilets and a great area for the kids to go a little wild.
  • The North York Moors is a place near to where I grew up and spent a few childhood holidays in areas like Whitby (do any of you remember the 3 great big ‘golf balls’ our parents told us was Nasa HQ but we’re actually weather reading centres…gutted! Our alien stories used to get wilder and wilder the more we went). There are some good accessible routes that aren’t too long and when it comes to the North York Moors it doesn’t matter where you look, it’s simply stunning.

The one my son enjoyed was the Rosedale Mineral Railway route, it took us about an hour and a half ambling at an easy pace and stopping with our flask and sandwiches. 

  • Bolton Abby is a definite and ticks all of our boxes from beautiful fully accessible walks, to the stepping stone over the water challenge (the kids managed it but I nearly went head first), little sandy areas by the water where you can wade in, views, the abby and a lovely place to be. This is our idea of a bliss and I could be there all day. It’s not quite on our doorstep but it’s not a trial blazing distance so we go there maybe once twice a year. There is a page on accessibility on their website but if you need anymore information I can recommend their visitor support team.
  • It took me a little while to find this but it’s worth it; In the Hull area there are a couple of great routes. I hadn’t thought about looking into this area until my parents brought me over to explore. Hull is known as the city of culture and does have a lot to offer. Here are some great routes and if you are in that area it’s worth checking out. Not big routes and the Cliff trail was the favourite for the boys.

Being a family of muddy boot walkers we love to test some trails and route; and we’ve used the outdoors as part of our son’s rehabilitation and therapy to learning skills like basic map reading, looking for signs and trying to read the clouds. The outdoors isn’t everyone’s cup of tea as we brits say but if it is and you have some great routes to share which are accessible for all then please do share.

Enjoy your spring time and getting outdoors.

Spring! We’re getting ready for it now.

Spring. Oh the joy of Spring and it’s just around the corner…

well sort of however we need to get planning some great things because everything wakes up in spring including our own enthusiasm.  It’s that time when we can dress in several less layers and start to see a tint of yellow in the colours around us.

I love Spring; well truth be told i’m an all rounder with any season but definately by this time of year i’m feeling the need to hurry the drab through and get to the waking up bit.  My boys are already chomping at the bit for some days out that don’t involve wellies and strict instructions to undress most layers on the doorstep before entering the house.

Stepping into Spring activities.

There are tonnes of activities we want to do and places we want to go and yes most of them take some effort, organisation and management (from our point of view), which is why in the early Spring I like to do a couple of things which are familiar to us.

What I mean is we go to somewhere we have been before (or highly recommended by a friend) so that we know what we are expecting. It kind of warms us up to the new routines of days out and making those big pushes to get the family organised and out the door on a regular basis.

We’ve started the ball rolling but would love you’re ideas as well; here’s our 5 ‘Spring Starters;’

  1. There’s never a dull moment at The Deep in Hull. No matter how many times we step foot through those doors we are never disappointed. The wow factor it has is still very exciting and I think I still say the word; ‘wow’ in just about every sentence when I walk around.  Everything from amazing species of fish and information to spectacular customer care. The Deep is a must and if you haven’t yet been – get it booked in your diary you won’t be disappointed!
  2. Halifax is a town steeped in History of Industries and a great place to visit in Dean Clough Mills. Culture and Art (6 free gallery spaces), performance programmes, food and cafes, there’s a Jack Wills outlet and it’s home to our very own Halifax local radio station the Phoenix. There is a car park and charges do apply but it’s worth visiting and from there you can go on to the Piece Hall With a multitude of shops, outdoor concerts and plays and space to roam and then from there…
  3. Eureka! Most of your day will be spent here and it isn’t just for the kids. Autism and learning disability friendly, the staff and facilities are awesome. I can not recommend this little gem of Calderdale enough AND it’s right on the other side of the train station for easy access. There is parking and charges apply BUT Eureka! does accept the MAX card which allows the Max card holder and one carer in for free so the whole day is yours there. With inside and outside activities you’ll definately need to come back again and again.
  4. If you’re in the midlands then it’s a must to go via the National Space Centre. I remember watching it being built all those years ago and it was utterly exciting to see the space rocket get taken in. Anyway back to the point; there are designated disability parking places but if I remember there are parking charges. Disabled toilets and wheelchair access, large print and induction loops are all available and I found the staff there extremely approachable on both booking and once there.         The centre truly is out of this world and we loved it!
  5. The Jorvik centre in York. My hometown and our educational school days out was in places like the Jorvik centre so it holds a special place in my heart and also up my nose. You’ll understand if you go because there are real smells (imagine those aroma’s from the very olden days, well they have done a great job recreating them) and other sensory rich experiences as you travel back in time in this awesome place.  The website is accessibility friendly and there is information around bookings. It does state that if you are a wheelchair user you must prebook first due to their safety regulations but a very warm welcome awaits you and a great (sometimes stinky) experience.

I can already hear more birds singing in the morning when I wake up, the days are just beginning to feel a little longer and now at the end of this post I really can’t wait. Some sun shining down, family walks and chats and the start of picnics. Bring on Spring!

We will come back with more, but please share with us your great days out that will ease us back into Spring and maybe some Easter egg hunts along the way.

 

Where There’s Art There’s a Way.

‘Art can be a powerful form of expression…’

I read that once on a postcard and it made me think, I remember saying to my friends that when I had children I would bring them up connected with art. Stories, poetry, paintings, drawings, sculptures, the theatre and so on.

My journey in the beginning of that wasn’t always easy due to some venues being inaccessible or some exhibitions that are great for kids; not being autism or learning disabled friendly.

How Art helps my son

There’s a calming yet sensory richness about the theatre; the costumes, the creativity and inspiration that goes on behind the scenes that gives us so much to talk about. The imagination of the story and the conversations we can have about the themes, the learning and lessons in there. The fact that he can get lost in another time, space or realm even and the interaction with the audience. He loves it.

Then there are the gallery’s where we can stroll around and use our imagination to describe what we see. We all see something different in art which makes it interesting and I learn a lot about how he is feeling when he describes his perception. It helps his speech and the formation of descriptive words and we can talk about how art encourages us to feel.

There are many times that I have found it to be therapeutic for him, and we have found some great venues to go to and re visit which I have listed below…

Our favourite art seeped places such as The Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the Bradford Media Museum or the Bradford Industrial Museum, the Football Museum in Manchester or the People’s History Museum also in Manchester. There is art and inspiration in everything around us, if it was designed and made then it was inspired and created. From the environment itself to the structures we build there is so much that other people’s imagination and forms of expression have to offer and we enjoy finding more and more accessible places to enjoy and share with others.

Art in London

We recently explored difficulties and barriers with trips to London to I am aware of this as I share this particular website that I have used before but it maybe helpful for some of you nonetheless.

Artsline is a website which hosts information around accessibility and the world of art in London. You can go through a quick checklist to home in on your specifications which filters out so much of the work for you (well that’s my personal experience).

Artsline claim to host over 1000 art focused venues across London on their site with accessibility information at your finger tips. I even now use it for myself as i’m hearing impaired, I often forget about my own accessibility needs as i’m caring for my son and making sure that his needs are met and that he too can enjoy his experiences.

So if you do fancy a wintery trip out to share in some new year art related culture in London then I recommend a quick scan on Artsline to see if it can help guide you in any way.

Please do keep in touch, share your stories, challenges and experiences.

 

Accessibility changes in 2018. Keep Updated

Are you aware of the accessibility changes?

Whatever your business and whatever sector you are in you will be required to ensure you have good practices around accessibility.

Accessibility for your staff and customers, clients or visitors. Accessibility of the building, facilities and your website if you have one.

But are you aware of the changes that will be happening in 2018 around web accessibility? It’s worth updating yourself frequently so that you can stay ahead.

Below is a great source of information about what’s coming up in 2018. Click on the link below and have a read…

Essential Accessibility 

Adapting Christmas.

Festive senses and adapting Christmas

Lights, twinkling hanging decorations, tinsel, toys, sounds and smells are everywhere. the hustling bustling energy of shoppers, chatters, those catching up and diaries squeezing as many friends in as traditionally possible to celebrate the coming of Old man Christmas in a weeks time.

Schools break up late for us, it’s Friday and already my oldest son is beginning to get nervous so it’s time to engage in adapting Christmas.

Holidays (especially this one), aren’t always easy. Routine changes on top of the sensory richness can create anxiety for some people because of that dreaded change. Changes to routine, changes to the visitors and days out, the home environment and the vibe on our home street. Many people approach my son with much more enthusiasm than normal and ask how excited he is about Christmas and he can be a bit like a rabbit in the headlights.

Some little tips on adapting Christmas

  • A few years ago we familiarised ourself with the story behind Old man Christmas and the essence of the holiday and we made a gentle but interactive story up explaining it to our son that way he could find a connection with this person who would in theory pop down our chimney and wonder through our house eating our mince pies and drinking our brandy whilst leaving us presents. It could be seen as random behaviour to a child who is very logical, but we could introduce the magic in a structured way that he would understand.
  • We’d plan the menu and write it out so he could decorate it and we’d have that on the table, of course the food changes at Christmas so we made this into an activity where he could be part of the hosting and get the recognition for that (unfortunately he was never part of the washing up crew afterwards).
  • We spoke to our friends about how to interact with him in a way that was exciting but also present and spacious and also to give him time to process the question and find his own response without feeling rushed to be as happy as everyone else.
  • We always made sure (and still do) that in the holidays we create a time table for him with empty boxes on some days where he knows that those maybe filled with something new at the time like meeting someone for a mulled wine. Because he was prepared for that space to potentially be filled, when it was he could really manage it well.  We try to keep anchor points the same like meal times and evening routines, this allows him the safety space to release or relax.
  • Calming fun activities where there’s just a couple of us such as baking, colouring and making decorations. This is nice quiet time with presence but easy presence.

 

  • Christmas morning is about stockings (a small amount of none stimulating toys) and then breakfast. Easy music, PJ’s on and the boys help if they want to or chill with their stockings if not.  Then we start on presents; one at a time and we look at them and acknowledge what they are so that he has time to open them, feel the excitement, process what it is and who it’s from and then start with the next. We once did that…dive in kids! Never again.
  • We keep the sugar down. Fast food, naughty sweets as well as pastry and cake galore; we have our fair share but we keep the sugar intake to a minimum which the kids benefit from.
  • Most importantly we always allowed him to talk about any concerns he had, we would respond to his stresses and we would always (and again still do) build in plenty of resourcing time in where he can be on his own and switch off from the energy and emerge when he’s ready.

 

Winter where we can all play out.

Winter is here and we’d like you to share your top activity tips.

From the layers of woolly jumpers and thick socks to finally switching on the central heating and lighting the fire i’ve succumbed to winter.  Although i’m not quite sure what happened with that recent snow blip, however we did get to build a small snow dog and some snow rabbits with the white flakes that came a little early.

Now though, the snow has gone as quick as it came and the boys are left wondering if that’s it on the entertainment front.

It certainly doesn’t have to be and I wonder what great ideas you all have? Please share them.

Let us know your:

  • Top days out for winter walks, fun, activities
  • Maybe shorter activities in house or out in the wilderness and anywhere in between
  • Maybe great websites and resources you’ve found and think other could benefit from

There’s one I was looking at this weekend which is Accessible Guide, they have a great little book you can get which lists some brilliant activities and days out that span the UK so i’m sending off for mine.

Winter adventures

…can sometimes feel just like that, a mammoth adventure but these can be fun. Cold, crisp forrest walks with a hot chocolate or ginger tea afterwards to warm up. Gathering sticks and making christmas decorations, pine cones and silver paint, trimming some wild holly bushes for hanging around for the centre peace on christmas day.

Or a little wilder?

Our christmas last year to us to Stockeld Park and the boys had an amazing time. The whole day catered for my 15 year old and my 6 year old as well as us oldies trying the nordic ski thing, the enchanted forest, the ice skating and that huge awesome maze (where we did actually manage to lose each other).  It was all brilliant and worth the money.

Then there are times we walk locally, we are fortunate to have the south pennines as our back garden as well as the National Trust area called Hard Castle Craggs where you can walk flat, hike up, trail run, mountain bike, sip hot drinks and drink warm soup at the cafe in between getting as muddy as you want to.

Over to you

Share your tips with us and our followers so we can keep winter a great adventure like we have in the warmer months, only with a few more layers on and a flask of tea…

A Concert that revived the 80’s in us all.

The concert that brought the 80’s back home.

Robert DeNiro’s waiting and he’s talking Italian. Well that’s what Bananarama opened with on stage at the Barbican in York on Saturday night.

Then there was Nathan Jones of course

I love a concert but since becoming a parent of a child with disabilities I’ve noticed so much more about them and those who go.  This time as the 3 awesome women pelted out it’s a cruel summer to a happy crowd I watched those who danced and sang along. The happy vibe shared by the woman in front of me with bilateral hearing aids, the gentleman at the front who had some great moves in his wheelchair.

Music has a way of connecting, bonding, opening the mind and allows hundreds of strangers in a room to share something in common for a period of time. How refreshing.

Concerts for all

The Barbican in York welcomed us all, the large opened doors prevented bottle neck squeezing through, the relaxed staff offering clear directions and information making it all seem easy from the beginning.

I asked about their accessibility policy and buying tickets; they were more than happy to explain how their policy is to ensure you have the best seats for your needs. With their accessible guides and maps they seem to have most if not all bases covered.

The large foyer with the bar and plenty of staff to help, signs large and obvious, clear and not fussy. I didn’t get to check the disability toilets but from the outside they looked accessible but that’s as far as I could see with those.

Ushers were there with torches and safety instructions and were more than willing to support anyone who needed extra help and there were wheelchair size spaces at the front making the venue welcoming for all.

And if you missed Bananarama don’t worry because Kim Wilde is on soon so I may see you there…

To see events click on Barbican York

Accessible Winter Family Fun 2017

Accessible winter family fun

Having two children with varying needs takes some planning when it comes to family activities and we are a family who enjoys cold winter family fun time.  I have one son who is a young fell runner and an older son who due to a spinal condition can walk, however is unable to participate in the races that my youngest and I do.

Now baring in mind that we have appointed him our running manager who helps organise us, he misses out on the medals and the celebrations that others share with us when we drag our muddy selves over the finish line.

That is all about to change.

Winter family fun 2017 has just upped a gear because i’ve discovered virtual running. Now bare with me whilst I explain.

I happened across this website where you can sign up for a run – your choice on charity and distance – and within that month you fulfil that run (mostly in one go although there are some challenges which are done over the month).

The run can actually be a walk or pushing the pram or however you can do it but the point is, you do the distance and send in the evidence (something like a screen shot of your app measuring the distance) and in the post they pop your medal and certificate.

You choose your own time to do it, you do it in your own time so there’s no stress about being the last one over the line and the best bit is you get to do it locally or wherever you want to do it.

Okay so there isn’t the grand finish but what it does do is encourage a friend of mine who is visually impaired to jog / walk a 5 miler for the first time. Then there’s my gorgeous son who wants to do the races but knows he can’t run them or navigate them by himself, so i’ve signed us up as a family to raise money for charity and walk some 5 – 10k’s to build his confidence.

So this Winter family fun time for us will be getting some well earned medals to hang proudly off James’s wall of achievements and having introduced this virtual running to some of my other friends and family who live with a disability, it looks like we are going out in a crowd.

Virtual Runner

Race The Distance

But there’s a lot more so check them out…

What top tips have you got for some winter family fun that’s accessible, please do share them.

Keeping Winter Accessible

Keeping Winter Accessible

‘Tis the season to be jolly…” Or so they sing because for some, Winter provides many more challenges than their normally challenged day.  A winter accessible is very possible but does require extra management, resources and attention. I wasn’t aware of the scale of it until a friend of mine who is a wheelchair user came out with me for the day to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

We had a brilliant day and accessibility was great but as my friend pointed out all the places where it could have been a different story, I was quite shocked.

How we can you support a winter accessible for all?

Consider the risks experienced; from the cold and risk of frost bite and hypothermia to icy paths and snowy damaged areas. The  obstructive wet leaves littered and piles that if left can also freeze and cause issues.  Sometimes those who are at risk don’t venture out as much and experience more isolation.

From decreasing daylight to winter blues or SAD; there are many ways you can support your visitors to have as greater day in the winter as they would in the spring.

  • Are your parking signs clear?
  • Plan ahead with snow, ice and leaf management.
  • Is your lighting good so that moving around the grounds outside is easy and clear?
  • If you provide wheelchairs or scooters, have you had them winter serviced? Did you know you can get snow tyres for your wheelchair?
  • Ask for feedback from your visitors, they are the best ones to provide it.
  • Keep an eye on the weather forecast to get the heads up on action required to continue pathways, car parks, entrances stay clear.

Help make winter accessible and safe, help it stay magical and open for as many people to enjoy it as possible.

 

We need your help.

Calling all parent carers of children and young people with complex physical health needs and disabled adults with complex needs.

We are gathering the views of families and disabled people on their experiences of tourism and travel in London that will feed into the Mayor of London’s new London Plan (for 2019) which aims to increase the number of Changing Places in new developments.

We know on a personal level how travelling around the City has its issues for those of us who have a family member with complex needs.   We don’t fit into the category of manual wheelchair users or those who are paraplegic and our challenges can be quite different.

We want to hear your experiences of what works, what is challenging and what could be done to improve tourism for children, young adults and people with complex needs within the Greater London Authority.

This is a great opportunity for parent carers and disabled people to influence and make a difference to tourism in London for those with complex needs!

Please let us know your comments and views below and let’s make sure that London is inclusive to everyone.

We need your help right now.

We want to be heard and now’s a time to speak up.

We’ve been asked to reach out to our members, followers and friends to contribute to a great opportunity and we quite rightly jumped in it.

 

Would you share your experiences and suggestions around accessibility and London?

We have a chance now to take your experiences to a representative group for disabled individuals to the Greater London Authority to take accessibility into their strategic planning of London in 2019, this already includes the subject of more Changing Places but we want to take much more as this is a great chance to get heard.

But we have to ACT NOW

We are looking to include the voices of young people and adults with complex needs and disabilities, families and carers. Every opportunity we can get or we can create is a great opportunity to continue voicing our presence together as a whole community. We want to contribute and we’d like to take your voices with us to so if you have any experiences or suggestions to share with us then please do and we will pass them on.

Thank you in advance

The Visits Unlimited Team 

 

Accessibility Training. Synesthesia through my eyes.

Synesthesia through my eyes.

Put simply, Synesthesia is a condition where your senses “leak” into each other.

I first noticed it at primary school. When we learnt the days of the weeks and the names of the months every name had a clear colour in my mind which has stuck for life. The colours never change and I can find no reason why a particular name has a particular colour!

Association is colour rich

So Monday is dirty grey, Tuesday bright green, Wednesday smooth, light brown, Thursday bright yellow, Friday thick chocolate brown, Saturday pure white, Sunday navy blue.

Months? January pale blue, February brown, March almost black, April yellow, June pale blue, September red, November dark blue……..

Everyone’s name is coloured – for ever.

Sometimes you even get a texture, so Brenda is orange and very fluffy.

 

Information translates in a way that’s hard to explain.

I’m a very good mathematician but it’s hard to explain how I work out answers as it’s all colours and patterns. As I’m calculating the numbers are coloured and in my minds eye they are forming perfect patterns, filling the gaps, keeping their colours and so on, so I will often know I’m close to the answer because the pattern is almost complete but I can’t begin to explain how I know!

Best is music which has always been my passion and release (although I can’t play a note!)

As I’m listening colours form in my head, swirling and changing. I put on headphones and I’m away! I can still see normally but my heads full of the colours.

Probably saved my life at Uni. Several friends were experimenting with hallucinogenics like LSD. When they described what they experienced listening to music I realised I was there already! I didn’t need any drugs – I’ve been high all my life!

Tourist Industry and the Unseen Pound.

The Tourist Industry Today

The Tourist Industry is a booming and ever growing sector in the U.K. It is more than just the revenue that comes in, it is also the jobs that tourism provides and in 2013 it was recorded by Deloitte Tourism Jobs And Growth report; as accounting for 9.6% of jobs within the U.K.

The revenue recorded in 2013 that the tourism industry brings is around £126.9bn and estimated to rise to around £257.4bn a year by 2025 highlighting to us the huge potential that this market has for us in the UK.

The often forgotten tourists.

In 2016 there were more that 65.5 million people living in the UK and within that there are around 12 million people living with a disability. Total spend of the purple pound in 2014 was £12.1bn.

Does your business model create accessibility for you to tap into this section of the tourist industry?

Disabled people, their relatives and carers are important customers and visitors to share your value with. There are so many amazing attractions in the UK that are still not accessible for individuals who live with an impairment or type of disability.

Changes can be small but effective.

Making changes to create more accessible venues and buildings for your employees and your customers doesn’t have to be high in cost. Simple adjustments can be made to start with and although simple and cost efficient, they will make a big difference.

What small changes create more accessibility in the tourist industry?

  • Ramps
  • Hearing loops
  • Simple adjustments to the floor layout and allow space for wheel chair users to move around (and prams too)
  • Are your signs clear? Use of images?
  • Are your disability toilets disabled friendly? Are they accessible and clean?

There are many easy changes to make that don’t effect the structure of a building but as I mentioned, can make a big difference.

 

The tourism industry is big and getting bigger. It makes absolute business sense to tap into as many sections of the tourism market. I’m going to speak from experience here but when we find a venue that really works for us and our disabled son we firstly spread the word but secondly we go back. Not only is it his entry fee but it’s a whole family paying and as I said, we usually go back and we will travel most places for experiences.

Create a venue that is proactive rather than reactive, open up and make accessible the experiences that you provide for all.

Delivering Training at the Victoria Theatre, Halifax

For the last 19 years I have been coming as a visitor to the Victoria Theatre together with my 6 children including my disabled daughter.  Sometimes to watch my own children performing!

They have had fun appearing in dance school shows, the annual pantomime, the Fashion Show of the Year, musical theatre productions, the Dream Girls as well as the National Youth Ballet.   I have been at the Theatre for awards evenings and was extremely proud when my disabled daughter won an award for her volunteering during her college years.

Sometimes I have chaperoned and been behind the scenes with Whiteley’s Academy, running up and down the steps to the changing rooms!

In between getting to know many of the staff over the years I have seen the Theatre grow and develop.  It’s more than just a Theatre – it is a local community and extremely well resourced asset to Calderdale.  We are a small local authority with a big heart and a place like Victoria Theatre is at the centre.

Since setting up Visits Unlimited I have travelled all over the country training venues, attractions, other theatres, historic houses and hotels.  We were Visits England’s leading training provider a couple of years ago and trained 9 Accessible Destinations.  More recently we have been working closer to home and have been delighted to have been part of the Flood redevelopment in Hebden Bridge and worked in partnership with the Community Foundation and local businesses to raise awareness of access issues and make improvements for disabled local people and visitors.

We have delivered training to Victoria Theatre twice before and it felt like coming home when we returned there on Wednesday 23rd August to deliver another session together with Chris our access auditor.   The session was in the evening and although the staff were not working over the summer holidays there was a full house!

Twenty seven staff attended and we sat in the stalls together whilst Chris delivered a session about the social model of disability v the medical model; attitudes; behaviour and what to do and what not to do when meeting people with a wide range of impairments.   Chris’s sessions are not dull by any means!  He tells stories of his own experiences that always send a chuckle around the room.  His honesty, his view of his own disability and his knowledge make all his sessions fun, enjoyable, educational and build confidence with everyone who attends.

By the end of the session we had got together a long list of what’s good about Victoria Theatre.  So much so that Chris and I agreed that the Theatre goes the extra mile to make sure that everyone is included.   The staff not only have a “can-do” attitude but a “we will do” attitude.

Some of the things on their list of what’s good included:

  • Open to changing and improving; if we are aware of an issue we will do something about it.
  • We meet and greet, we are helpful and available.  We make ourselves known.
  • We offer excellent customer care to all our visitors
  • We offer assistance, explain the route and offer alternative routes if anyone needs
  • We are warm and welcoming
  • In the intermission we will offer help to anyone that needs it and who may not be able to get to the bar.  We can bring drinks into the auditorium without anyone who needs assistance leaving their seats
  • There is a ramp onto the stage that is inclusive and used at events
  • We try and make sure that friends and family all sit together – we have 8 chairs for wheelchair users and people have a choice of where they sit
  • We have an induction loop for hearing impaired visitors, signed and integrated performances, surtitles, relaxed performances, touch performances
  • The group agreed there is always room for improvement and the suggestions were audio description for performances, a mirror in the easy access toilet, and a seating plan to include the toilets.  All seemed to be very do-able to us!
  • The feedback from the training included:

“The quality of the trainer – he was explicit, and very good at explaining the best approaches to looking after all issues that may occur”

“New ideas and a greater understanding of the issues involved”

“Thank you very much for an enlightening and informative session”

“Well paced and found it interesting as well as informative”

“This kind of continuous learning is very beneficial”

“I now have more confidence when dealing with people with disabilities”

 

We really enjoyed working with Victoria Theatre staff – it was a pleasure to be with you all!  Looking forward to returning as a spectator and have my tickets booked for this year’s pantomime – even though my daughters won’t be part of it!

Katie Clarke

For more information on Victoria Theatre click on this link.

Attitudes make the difference. Let’s keep changing them.

Attitudes make the difference.

I sat with a client the other day, a lady who I have worked with for many years now and listened to yet another recent experience of her’s where she was faced with experiencing a negative attitude towards her and her disability. Sometimes I am lost for words when it comes to the subject of attitudes and how some people choose to behave towards others and in this instance I am speaking about professional people.

Attitudes though can be changed.

Attitudes are transient because they are made up of beliefs, values, feelings and emotions. Our attitudes towards things or people can be affected by experiences so we always have the potential to evolve.

We have certain influences such as education and experiences that may shape our attitudes and we can choose to  the more people coming together to push for change and the more people who stand in support of each other then the more change will happen.  Change though is tough, especially when it’s on a global scale and is through evolution not revolution.

Whilst attitudes are slowly changing, challenges still need to be surmounted and our push for accessibility around services, tourism, transport, leisure, pathways and local community shared areas is as important now as it was 20 – 50 years ago.

Attitudes are as non verbal as verbal.

I remember at school I was singled out by a group of girls for a while and it made me feel pretty miserable. This was at school and thankfully isolated there, yet I watch my son who tries his absolute hardest to win in his life; face such behaviour in many places. People who stare at him because of his spinal deformity. The shocked look that then turns into the even less subtle giggle or pointing or the sympathy look.

I watch how some people really struggle to talk to him because he has a speech impediment yet he can talk the hind legs of a donkey that one and get him on Man City subjects or either of his two volunteer job placements and he’ll bend your ear for hours. He’s sociable that’s all.

Recently I was trying to understand a receptionist over the noise around us, I am partially deaf and it just so happens that on that day I didn’t have my hearing aid in because it was being serviced. I explained this to her and asked her a couple of times to repeat certain words, when I was met with an eye roll I never asked her to repeat herself again. I switched off from hearing her words as all I could hear and feel was my own internal dialogue which was frustration.

Attitudes are everywhere. In marketing, in education, in behaviour, in tones of voice and in the words themselves. We have a lot of work to do and we are doing it with an ever growing supportive network. Please pick up the baton wherever you are and continue to be the voices of educating people you meet along the way.

Scope

Short listed and we’re pretty chuffed with that.

We’re taking advantage of a good night out, a little fizz and plenty of networking but most of all we’ll be enjoying a night that celebrates so many people who make a difference to communities.

Changing behaviours, attitudes and beliefs takes patience, hard work and grit. This evening recognises so many people and teams who apply those exact strategies to support making changes and contribute to a value creating society.

Okay so we’ve dusted off the glad rags, got some glittery things and we’re wishfully hoping a little glass of fizz is popped in our hands as we arrive proudly representing Visits Unlimited.

We have been short listed for the Community Spirit Award but whatever happens, we are in great company and we’re going to have a night off and a night out and we can’t wait.

We’ll keep you posted…

 

Accessible Hebden Bridge by Nadia Clarke

Recently my mother asked me to join her on a day out and to blog about access in Hebden Bridge for the organization she runs called Visits Unlimited. I was very keen because I know it is important to show families with disabled children and disabled people were is good for access and to provide that information.

Accessible Hebden Bridge

 

I believe it is important to show families with disabled children and disable people where they can go on a day out that can offer them good asscee. Information really make decisions on where to go.

The day started with a breakfast at the lovely, modern and accessible cafe called Squeeze. I met such friendly staff and they were so nice in making sure I enjoyed my food. I ordered a Veggie brunch. Definitely one of the most delicious vegetarian breakfasts I have had and the Latte reminded me of drinking coffee a few years ago in Sydney, Australia when I was on my world trip. I will be back for sure.

Accessible Hebden Bridge

Accessible Hebden Bridge

Accessible Hebden Bridge

Can’t beat that for a breakfast!

Accessible Hebden Bridge

Accessible Hebden Bridge

 

The toilet was large and although it was not a Changing Places toilet a lot of thought had gone into making sure it was accessible.

acessible hebden bridge

 

Well, I know that Hebden Bridge is not the easiest place to get around with a wheelchair because of the old fashionable buildings and I am hoping that the Accessible Project will make a difference and changes will happen to improve the town for disabled people. Having the right attitude and going the extra mile will make a difference even if some of the shops are unable to make big adjustments.

accessible hebden bridge

accessible hebden bridge

After brunch I drove down in my electric wheelchair to Calder Holmes Park. Wow, I loved it huge and amazing accessible park I know. The children who were there were loving it! I went on roundabout and I felt dizzy but good job I was not sick ha ha ha! It brought back many memories of being with my brothers and sisters at Manor Heath Park when we were part of the 1Park for All project making parks inclusive in Calderdale.

After brunch I drove down in my electric wheelchair to Calder Holmes Park. Wow, I loved it huge and amazing accessible park I know. The children who were there were loving it! I went on roundabout and I felt dizzy but good job I was not sick ha ha ha! It brought back many memories of being with my brothers and sisters at Manor Heath Park when we were part of the 1Park for All project making parks inclusive in Calderdale.

accessible hebden bridge

I did a bit of a walk along Canal. It was really beautiful and good access for a short while but I am nervous next to water and felt a bit scared if I would fall in!

accessible hebden bridge

 

Visits Unlimited were busy filming that day and I went to meet them at the accessible Town Hall. There have a lift, disabled toilet, cafe and a lovely huge space outside with my wheelchair.

I will be back to Hebden Bridge this summer!

For more information on:

Squeeze Café https://www.squeezehebden.co.uk

Calder Holmes Park http://www.visitcalderdale.com/attra-calder-holmes-park

The Town Hall http://www.hebdenbridgetownhall.org.uk/

https://visitsunlimited.org.uk/

To see more pictures of my day in Hebden Bridge or to read other blogs that I have written please visit my page by clicking here