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

Are you local? Can you come and see us?

Supporting Hebden Bridge to become more accessible to all.

The Hebden Bridge Disability Access Forum aims to improve access for people with a wide range of disabilities in the Hebden Bridge area.

There is a meeting held on the 3rd Monday of each month at the Hebden Bridge Town Hall at 2.30pm.

For further information please do contact June:

Tel: 01422 844914

Email: juneleaton@gmail.com

Thank you to everyone who has supported this access forum so far and welcome to those who would like to join us. 

The holiday thing.

The holiday thing is different for all families and I wanted to share our experience as a family

As we prepare for our summer holidays next week we are feeling busy. We are busy eating the food up to leave an empty fridge, we are busy spring cleaning the house like our parents did before a holiday when we were kids and we could never understand why.

We’re busy packing as we go around and making lists of things to remember to pack and little jobs to remember to do like cancel the milk delivery, inform the bank and sort the cat out.

Our youngest is busy trying to work out which toys to take and which book he’d like us to read to him before bed and then there’s the dilemma over whether he takes his swimming trunks or swimming shorts? This is a tricky decision for him and will take him until the morning we leave when the need to finally zip his case up; pushes for his decision to be finally made.

Then there’s our oldest son, he’s busy too. James is busy trying to work through his anxiety and there are many layers to it this year. James is 16 years old and has learning disabilities, he’s amazing and capable of many things however holidays can be a stressful time for him. Being away from his safe base which is his home and his chill out zone which is bedroom, there’s a lot for him to process and settle with. This year there’s an added change for him to process and work with which is that he his schooling life has come to an end which is a milestone for us all.

So why do we do the holiday thing?

We’ve travelled far and wide with James, from Thailand to Italy, from Spain to Portugal, from France to Germany and Wales to Scotland. He can navigate his way around the whole airport environment and process now and he’s even beginning to help us with the directions, information and airport lounge life when where there.  He’s now able to go through security on his own and deal with the security pat down without getting anxious, intact the last time he laughed because it tickled him (not quite my experience when I had my pat down).

He’s a dab hand at trying a few words in different languages and he grows so much in confidence with every new experience because it takes focus and presence from him to do this and over the years he’s developed some great skills through travelling.

How do we support James?

The above paragraph all sounds very good but we’ve had years of challenging behaviour where James has struggled to deal with certain situations or sudden stressful changes, we’ve worked tight as a team but it hasn’t been easy, now through trial and error we’ve developed a strong plan that works f0r James just like many other parents and carers do in order to ensure the best foundation of support is in place. Here is what we do to support James but we are always – always open for other suggestions so please do add your own and share your great tips.

  • When it comes to holidays; last minutes ones don’t work for James because he hasn’t had time to work through so we make sure we discuss the concept in advance.
  • We research accessibility, the culture the environment and as much as we can. We try to make sure we are going to a more quieter place if it’s more than a couple of days. A city break is okay for a little while but it’s sensory overload and stressful for more than that.
  • We know the best times to travel now regarding airport crowds and we try to avoid busy travelling times, airport customer service is usually good at giving this information.
  • When the holiday is booked he knows when we will be leaving and when he will next be back in his bedroom, two very important pieces of information because a schedule helps James feel safer.
  • James loves a map and we have a huge atlas and we show the boys where we are going and put it into context with surrounding islands or countries.
  • Google maps and google earth; they help James actually go there and look around. Once James did that before we went on a holiday to Spain and he actually recognised some of the streets and shops and way around from his Google Earth research. So it was all familiar before he even got there.
  • We let him know the plan such as: We’re flying from Liverpool, landing at Bordeaux and we’ll pick a car up that we’ve hired then we’ll drive on to… James now knows that whatever we do as long as we do it together he’s safe and as long as he knows as much of the plan as we do then he go with that.
  • There’s always a comfort toy on him and we make sure he has that to hand – usually an Eddie Stobbart toy cab. This will either be in his hand or in his pocket, we are mindful around security taking it to check it and with James able to watch them like a hawk; he’s usually very good at letting it go to them for a few seconds.
  • When we land we immediate sort out his room (his new safe space). We let him take his bed up and we put in anchoring sentences such as letting him know that if he feels he needs some chill out space then he has his room. From then on he’s much more settled and his toys will get put about the place and he’ll begin his homestead.
  • We listen. We listen to what he needs and make sure he feels heard.
  • Then we tick off the list a few things that we need to do to ensure he is and feels safe.
  • Above all we resource. We resource ourselves as much as possible so we can maintain our resilience and we do our best to keep James resourced so that he has the space to process how he is feeling before it affects his behaviour in a way that exhausts and drains him.

The holiday thing with James is much easier these days because we’ve been doing this for years so we can provide a smooth operation, also James has come to learn that holidays are short trips and that he will be back in his bedroom surrounded by his multitude of Eddie Stobbart trucks and other little gems that he loves.

I used to sling a few things in a bag, grab my passport and run like the wind over a border to catch the rays, life isn’t that slick and simple anymore but the joy, the absolute joy that we see when we share worldly experiences with the boys is perfect. Once James has got used to somewhere – he will still do his up and down and never quite managing to sit still – but he really engages, has a great time and helps out.

We find our own ways to get things done and now I can completely appreciate the project management style approach to making these experiences happen and my full respect to all who face the challenge of going that extra few miles if they have the opportunity.

Summer holidays for people who have children and young adults with physical or learning disabilities can be a really really stressful time, schedules, care, activities, appointments, work and all else that goes with it can be one tough slog so to all you amazing parents, siblings, family members and carers who go that extra bit to make these experiences happen; you are truly amazing.

Let’s kick start the summer off knowing that.

Working together to make attractions accessible.

Working together to create amazing experiences for all.

Our latest feedback on our training from The Deep…

The Deep is delighted to welcome half a million visitors a year and the training delivered by VisitsUnlimited helps its Crew to see these customers as individuals.  VisitsUnlimited has taken considerable time and effort to understand The Deep’s business which, in turn, has meant that Crew report that they feel better equipped to deal with the individual needs of visitors.

Training feedback has included: how good body language can a key aid to positive communication, a greater appreciation of The Deep’s accessibility and how some preconceptions about other people have been washed away.

One recurring theme from Crew feedback has been how the course improves their empathy towards others, and how they subsequently recognise what great impact they can have on someone’s visit through relatively subtle changes in attitude and behaviour.  The spotlight of the country is on Hull in 2017 during its year as City of Culture and Crew continue to appreciate VisitsUnlimited’s work in helping to respond to the challenges of increased expectation of excellence.

The Deep feels that everyone at VisitsUnlimited is an integrated part of its team, not a mere ‘off-the-shelf’ training provider.

Our response…

We are proud to have our efforts recognised because we care deeply about the impact that our training has. The Visits Unlimited team is a collaborative of personal experience and professional experience. This isn’t just about loving what we do, we have a purpose. We were thrilled to receive news that The Deep were a finalist in this exclusive award; well done to The Deep team!

Every client of ours is important and we give our full attention to delivering the right programme for them, their business and their staff so that their visitors are welcomed and cared for on their day out.

We put the work in because our clients put the work and the most important people in this receive the benefit.

Summer splash! The place to go right here…

Ready for a summer splash?

Okay so as much as we’d like to we can’t actually get in there with them but a summer holiday is not complete without swinging by The Deep in Hull for some spectacular penguin action and they even have sawfish enjoying the 2.5 million litres of water provided for them to swim in. This is no ordinary fish display, it’s a spectacular eco system of its own independence and nurtured so well that when you’re there, you’re really there.

They have salt water, fresh water and mini beasts – oh and not forgetting those utterly cute penguins that my oldest son particularly loves. This exhibition is one of very few where I never heard either of my boys say once; ‘can we go now?’ We loved everything.

The lights, the colours, the information, the care and respect for ocean life and education of that is just life expanding.

You get to explore how the seas have evolved and changed over the course of the earth developing – that’s me sorted for an hour, you could leave me right there absorbing that time line with engrossed interest that’s difficult to break.

It’s so exciting! The kingdom of Ice, the viewing tunnel, the lagoon, the research they are part of in the oceans with the coral – you’re fit to burst by the end of the day!

Best thing…

It’s totally accessible and so easy to plan your day on their website or speak to one of their well trained and very helpful members of their customer service and experience team.

Enjoy your day and tell us how you found it we’d love to hear from you.

Don’t just take it from us…

We are proud of our training team and how our training is collectively delivered.

We always ask for feedback to that we can continue to deliver effective training that’s relevant, up to date and fully informative across the board so when our client’s feedback we take everything on board and work on our models of delivery.

How effective are we? Well, we’d like to share some feedback recently received:

The best thing about the Visits Unlimited training session

It was interesting to learn from Chris Cammiss about the difficulties facing a person with a disability within our society today regarding being socially accepted and the way that ‘fully abled’ people behave in general towards a person with a disability, ie a wheelchair user, with regard to appropriate behaviour and appropriate language.

Also, it was interesting to learn that a vast amount of people / organisations still fail to provide acceptable modifications to their premises in order to become ‘fully inclusive’, so that a person with a disability does not feel isolated within our society and does not feel as if they are treated any differently to a ‘fully abled’ person.

What I will take away with me from the training session

It is sad to learn that so many people with disabilities are still very much discriminated against within the job market and that there is still prejudice against them. However, as a pregnant woman at 48 year’s old, I lost my job when I was 8 month’s pregnant due to my employer not wishing to pay me maternity pay, so there is a lot of discrimination still within our society and this does not just apply to people with disabilities but can be regarding race or whether you are male or female or age related.

 

Yes there is still a lot of discrimination out there so we have a full time job of educating as many people as we can reach to stamp out this discrimination and create safe environments that can be accessed and shared by all.

Thank you to everyone who feedback to us and allows us to grow our content and keep it sharp and easily accessible so that we can all be part of this movement.

Making Summer Accessible for All

Summer is here (I think)

It’s summer time (apparently) but let’s not get into the weather chat because there’s more important things to focus on such as the summer holidays.

Having two boys with very different needs, the summer holidays for us takes; project management skills, negotiation skills, computer skills for thorough researching of activities and areas as well as a lot of humor, patience, persistence and of course communication skills.

Is that a holiday or a job description?

 

But we enjoy the challenge of summer and this year is no different.

We like to get the boys out, run them wild to tire them out as well as venture further afield for experiences and new adventures and watch them connect with that big wide world out there (well in our way).

However, the summer holidays can be a stressful and exhausting time for some parents and carers where there are few breaks from responsibilities and also in our case and for many others; our eldest son who has a disability, get’s little break from us too and let’s face it as a teenager that’s pretty dull!

Sitting on our bench last night I asked my son what he enjoys as activities in the summer holidays and so that we could make some suggestions to help kick start the summer’s inspirations, here’s what we came up with:

James’s list:

  • A home made assault course. We did this one summer and it was hilarious, the ramps were great for the bikes and the wheelchairs, it takes a little imagination but gather some odds and ends and some planks of wood and it’s a hilarious afternoon whilst the BBQ gets cracking.
  • Boccia. We have never played this but some of his friends at school have, it was first popular with people with cerebral palsy but it is now played by people with other impairments affecting their motor skills, such as muscular dystrophy. Along those lines there are some great sports days designed specifically to support children and young adults with disabilities. Check out your local area for some info. DSNI link
  • Check out Bendrigg activity holidays for disabled people and also the Calvert Trust activity holidays. Both have a great reputation and they offer amazing experiences. I have personally spoken to the Bendrigg owner and he is amazing, really inspiring and fully passionate about the service they provide.
  • Are you a member of the National Trust? We love our days out at NT locations, we often find them relaxing, spacious and we can spend a whole day just hanging out and have a picnic.
  • Check out this page; Pitch Up for campsites and pitch ups that are accessible. Although I’m rapidly growing out of camping, my boys unfortunately are loving it so here’s a great site to bare in mind…
  • But hey lets not forget these great days out: Art galleries, museums, festivals, Cinema trips, the theatre, local sports matches, big city days out, coastal trips and drives.

What’s going on locally? Or what’s going on in neighboring areas? We’re currently in the middle of Hebden Bridge Arts Festival AND Hebden Bridge is currently underway to becoming a more accessible town thanks to the local residents working closely with Visits Unlimited so even if you can’t make it to see us over the next couple of weeks, book us in for next year!

 

These are just a few ideas but I know that many of you will have some great tips to share so why not join the Visits Unlimited family community on face book and  and share your great trips and ideas to help inspire others.

 

Summer can be at home too

Now, knowing that not all adventures have to be beyond our own community, I will be adding a home based summer time ideas blog next time. We will also be blogging our adventures and trips as they happen so watch this space for more creative ideas.

 

Wishing all of you a great summer time, share your happy summer pics with us when you get home.

The Visits Unlimited team.

Happy Summer! It’s time for days out, family time and splashing about to cool down.

Summer; where the sun shines, families hit the beach, splash parks and beautiful walks.

I took all that for granted once upon a time. Why wouldn’t I? Growing up able bodied and main stream education I had the summer months lounging around, climbing trees and playing in our local nature reserve that took me years to master the routes around with my friends.

My summers were lost in hours of adventures whilst my mum spent the days working away, I’d throw a few slices of bread on the counter, slap a tonne of that sandwich spread on (which I believe you can still buy), a bag of crisps where i’d whinge if they were anything but salt and vinegar and a bottle of water (it was a metal drinking bottle so the water would be warm and horrid by lunch but I didn’t care). I never seemed to learn that taking a chocolate bar out would result in it melting and being a blobby mess by lunch time but I didn’t care because life wasn’t about the content of my thrown together lunch, it was about hanging out with my friends and getting back in time for dinner at 7pm.

Years of summers we did this…

Then I grew up went to uni which stopped summer holidays up trees and more with head in the books, I then got a job which meant summer holidays were about distressing on a beach being purposely unproductive and snoozing away until the happy hour bell…

Then my first son arrived who was born with physical and learning disabilities.

I never thought about the summers like I did then.

How life changes.

I remember when he was four and sitting in his wheelchair / boogie and feeling the grief in my stomach, I wondered if i’d ever see him ride a bike, climb a tree, get lost in the grub lands watching the tadpoles sprout legs and finding that so fascinating that like me he would go every day to see what they looked like. Sticklebacks swam in schools in the bucks and the butterflies that flapped their wings against the back drop of the summer haze – would he find that majestic? Would he even see them?

As he got older and more mobile I was determined that we would enjoy as much of our summers as possible, the work we put in as parents and his grandparents was near exhausting sometimes but we would do everything we could to enrich his senses. We were not always met with a positive attitude, we would be turned away at venues or find venues that were unaccessible for him to be in and a lack of support and assistance when we needed it, but times are changing. As families we will not stop finding great places for our children to enjoy, for them to be in the splash pools, for them to enjoy the sand, the sea and the beach. We will keep evolving awareness and we ask those of you who manage or work within a venue to look around it and ask yourself:

“Can we support all of our families to make happy memories here?”

You can make a difference to us and I now watch both of my sons looking at butterflies when we see them, they both climb trees and enjoy their time outside.

Our children want to feel that joy, that happiness and that freedom but within a safe, supported and nurtured way. You can help us achieve that and it’s a very beautiful thing to see.

Thank you.

Dean Clough Mill, Halifax

Dean Clough in Halifax supporting accessibility

Dean Clough Mill is easy to admire.

It’s beautiful; the architecture, the space and how they use it, the atmosphere and the sensory treats you get when you walk around it is joyfully vibrant and now it’s getting even better.

The awesome Visits Unlimited Team have been there sharing our passion, our wisdom and our expertise to help Dean Clough become much more accessible.

Dean Clough is known for it’s many diverse businesses that work within it’s community, the regular events, exhibitions and conferences that are hosted there and the social side where visitors can pop in to the cafe for a coffee or a bite to eat has allowed it to become a great hub of activity and their focus is to ensure that all are welcome by improving their accessibility policy and training.

A little of Dean Clough’s big story.

Dean Clough was built as a set of factories around the mid 1800’s and became a home to the carpet industry and records show that it was hugely successful, the factory itself closed in 1983 and was then turned into a grade II listed building, however the beauty and potential remained strong because it under went a successful urban regeneration building and became what it is today.

Dean Clough is a stunning building and we are proud to have been able to support them to create a difference with them, the link is attached and it’s worth checking out their events coming up and and going to visit the venue to see for yourself and experience its traditional history, it’s modern and contemporary living and it’s future plans for evolution.

A truly wonderful building that holds it all.

Dean Clough

If you’d like to know more about our work and how we can help you create a more open and accessible venue for visitors then email Katie Clarke now and let us work with you, your team and your venue to help create a great day out that’s accessible by all.

A Short Film For Awareness

A short film about Autism gets red carper treatment.

This short film is amazing to watch and describes with such heart the challenges of growing up with autism, this short film is based on twin brothers Shaun and Kevin and their experiences growing up in the 1980’s.

I was touched at how powerful it was and although I could sit there and recognise the huge leaps we have made in education, accessibility and attitudes around people who live with learning disabilities, Aspergers and or autism it is still easy to see that we still have such a long way to go.

Autism is still largely misunderstood and the consequence of this is that the information that is available doesn’t yet universally reach out to create an understanding and therefore allow for progressive public awareness and care of individuals with autism as well as their family, friends and carers.

Twin Brothers Worlds Apart is also in book form and written by Kevin as it such a fantastic and real read, it really allowed me as the reader to journey through how Kevin saw the world and sees the world now. That small amount of understanding was so moving and changed how I listen to, observe and respond to my friend’s son who has autism.

Kevin Healey

Has been campaigning for autism rights for the last 10 years and researching through his work he has clearly made a huge difference with  his passion for creating awareness. I will be researching further into his work for my own personal interest and watching the movement that he is creating expand and evolve. Kevin founded NSAAA (North Staffs Aspergers Autism Association in 2001 and it is definitely worth visiting his blog and reading through the information he shares.

A recommended read and definitely a guy to follow.

 

Our purpose our message is powerful.

Our purpose our message is very clear.

We love what we do, we have a passion for what we do and we have a purpose.

Our message is clear, we all can have a day out filled with wonderful, fun and happy memories.  In fact our message is so clear, our passion and our purpose easy to see that The Deep in Hull invited us back in for a 3rd time to train more of their staff teams.

The welcome we received.

We love going to The Deep, their training room is always set up and ready for us and when the staff team arrive for their training their is always immediate chatter, humour and a relaxed atmosphere. Then we start.

As I mentioned a moment ago, Katie and I have delivered 3 training sessions now and every time we do this we feel our message gets stronger. We deliver legislation, we deliver common sense, we deliver heart to heart stories that help people connect with our loved ones who have a disability. We deliver humour, we deliver passion, we deliver a purpose for people to change their behaviours, adapt their practices and create accessibility.

We help staff who work in visitor centres, attractions and venues to connect with their purpose to support those amazing memories that a day out can bring to every individual who comes.

Who makes a difference?

Every person within the team makes a difference to every person who comes into their venue or attraction; you make a difference.

Never stop making a difference to everyone, never stop helping great memories to be made.

Once again a huge thank you to the management team and the staff at The Deep in Hull, we had an awesome day as always.

Want to know more about The Deep? 

A visit to Dunham Massey

Dunham Massey, our experience.

We were given the opportunity to visit Dunham Massey on 14/5/17 and we wanted to share our experience with you.

On arrival the site was very busy. A NT member of staff greeted us and  showed us where to park. A car park of £6.00 for the day was payable.  We were approached by another NT member of staff to discuss NT membership, benefits  and told we could pay via direct debit.  We preferred to wait and discuss this further with other family members.

Meeting the reception staff

Dunham MasseyWe continued on to the visitor centre and noted wheelchair and electric chair users were in the queue waiting to purchase entry tickets. Seating was available  and noted the visitor centre was accessible and plenty of room. Staff were friendly and welcoming. The staff acknowledged that it was difficult for every disabled person who visits Dunham Massey independently to access all the areas open to the public. We were told that they distribute very little printed material but, on request, are happy to provide large print versions to visitors. They do not currently distribute any literature in languages other than English.

As yet the site do not have an accessible changing space, however have started preparatory work on such a facility in the Visitor Centre and hope to have this available in the summer. It will comprise an adjustable height changing bed (with shower), a track hoist, wash/dry toilet and hand washing sink. The facility will be accessed with a RADAR key to ensure that it is available for those who require it.

We found that  a shuttle buggy operated between the Visitor Centre (disabled car park) and the House, Garden and Park. Although the majority of the Garden and Park paths are wide, level and smooth, these have not yet been mapped out and was informed this is another part of a current project that there are currently working on, and would hope to have something in place by the end of the current year.  We did note some of the paths around the Visitor Centre are steeper and one wheelchair user was struggling, we mentioned this a NT member who stated  the trust is considering improvements to address this issue.

We continued through  double iron gates which are in place to act as  an effective barrier to deer escaping from the Park. The Dunham Masseygates can be pushed in the direction of travel and this can be done from a wheelchair or powered mobility vehicle, but we noted this was difficult for a powered mobility vehicle. The NT staff acknowledge that this was not always easy and it is another issue that they are seeking to address. It appears it does not stop the deer escaping as some managed to push the gates open with their noses.

We continued to the house and found  access to and within the House is severely limited. The house had narrow staircases and stone steps into the house.  An NT member said a computer is available in the main hall which offers a virtual tour of the house for those who cannot access the house. We were informed that this is an area of work which NT are addressing within their Access Project.  We were informed that Assistance dogs are allowed full access to all parts of the property.

We found the garden, lake and deer park beautiful and a delight  to walk round. The water mill was closed due to repair so unable to assess accessibility.
I hope this review has been helpful.

For more information click here

Is there a disabled toilet please?

Disabled toilet? Is there one here please?

Inside you scream “…this is a modern building – it HAS to have a proper disabled changing toilet with hoist….surely?”

And we know what happens next…

Disabled toilet? Not always…

The “disabled” toilet is actually a baby changing cubicle that stinks of dirty nappies. You have a job getting son /daughter/ wheelchair/changing bag/feed/medical emergency stuff/clean clothes/snack etc through the chuffing door!

Now, I’m determined not to do a whiney whiney post – really I’m not – but REALLY? Its 2017! Disabled people aren’t locked away anymore – they really do go out of the house now and guess what? They need a loo or somewhere to freshen up with space for a wheelchair and access.

Disabled toiletWe have all supported the very excellent Changing Places campaign. The pride and joy (and a little bitterness – or is that just me?) we feel when the penny drops with another trader that they are really missing a trick by not being #Accessible.

Our family has discovered the MIGLOO recently and we thought we would share our joyous news with you. MiglooFreedom is a personal, pop up HOISTED changing suite and has been accredited with Changing Places status. www.migloo.co.uk

Disabled toiletYou can rent for an occasion or to take to an event or Festival or buy one for personal use out and about – there’s no panic about finding a hoisting changing facility as it comes with you on a roof rack. It takes a couple of minutes to pop-up We have had a trip to the beach, sand through our daughters toes and sandcastle building – something she hasn’t been able to do since she was a little and portable tot.

Whilst on the subject of beach adventures, we have also just discovered Simon Mulholland and his pony www.ponyaxes.com You may have seen them on BBC Countryfile TV Programme.

Pony Axes takes people who use wheelchairs to all the places where wheelchairs can’t take them. No need to transfer to all terrain or beach wheelchairs, no need to leave your wheelchair behind. They take you, in your wheelchair, anywhere.

Simon will take you where you want to go for the day – so combined with the Migloo hoisted changing suite life becomes just a little bit sweeter!

Vicky, Mum to Clementine, Lucy and Pippi, Herefordshire

Hearing Loop – What is is about?

Hearing Loop why have one in your reception?

Because about 11 million of us use them, translate that into your business and the language here is great customer service which increases profit.

But do you and your understand understand what this system is? Recently I was talking to a bank cashier about them because there’s was broken making things slightly more difficult. There wasn’t much empathy or understanding when she informed me (the bank was really busy and noise level around me energetic) so she couldn’t connect with my moment of nervousness as I was holding the queue up.

Instead of feeling anxious about this I decided to use this moment and have some positive dialogue which resulted in a much deeper understanding of this little box and blue sticker.

Hearing Support Systems

Induction loop systems and other hearing support systems allow us to pick up sounds more clearly, magnificent when there’s a wall of glass between us or the environment is busy and distracting with movement. The induction loop reduces the sound around us – the back ground noise – therefore making you and your words clearer to us.

Our hearing aids will (normally) increase all noise, they don’t filter like a healthy working ear will do.

Hearing Loops; do you have the right one?

A Counter Loop.

Great for reception areas where there is front line customer contact. They are usually stored out of sight and the microphone is the only visible part of the mechanism. The bank I was in had the Counter Loop due to the glass security screen as well as the environment being a busy one.

A Room Loop.

Great for conferences and lectures. Ever sat in a cinema or conference room where the acoustics have been really bad? I was at a conference recently on communication and even my hearing friends were struggling and missing parts of the lecture – not such great communication there. If you have a venue that offers conference facilities we would recommend getting a room loop in place.

A Portable Loop.

Both of my son’s schools use these are they are brilliant. Portable, easy to clip on and use and no installation. There are limitations to these though so do consider the others ones first.

An Infrared System.

A little like a room loop but much more high tech. The receiver wheres a neck loop which receives the sounds. The transmitter converts the sound from the speaker into infrared light that is then sent to the receiver.

 

Hearing Loops or Induction Loops allow us to feel much more confident and focused when we can use them, if you need more information or guidance on which ones to buy then contact company such as Action Hearing Loss 

…and if yours does break, please make it a priority to have fixed but if you have your induction loop serviced regularly then you will get a lot of milage out of it.

Thank you

When Adventure Calls…

…we find out how to access that adventure.

It’s my son’s 16th birthday this weekend, my young man growing up and talking about all of the things he want’s to do in his new year.  He mentioned the word adventure and it got me thinking about how we supported him to access adventures growing up.

Adventure is different for us all. When my son was 4, adventure was getting out of his wheelchair and taking a walk around the garden, when he was 9 his sights were on learning to ride a bike when he was 13 he made that happen and now his adventures are on a mountain bike.

Finding adventure

I grew up with adventure and still enjoy a little when I get the chance. As I watched my son growing up we brought adventure to him, we watched him indoor climbing and caving in the Boiler House Halifax  (5 house with one flask of tea in -1 oC, now thats dedicated parenting).

I watched how the CI Adventures team at the Boiler house worked together to successful support a young wheelchair user to be winced up the entire wall, chair and all whilst we all watched cheering and getting emotional. That one act created so much joy.

Ever checked out the Bendrigg Trust? Adventure and equality go hand in hand. I have met a few people who have had wild adventures here, each person I spoke to recommended them as a centre to visit. Their website expresses that the Trust has supported around 79,000 individuals with disabilities or are disadvantaged. This is an established Trust and one to definately consider if this is what you are looking for.

Lake District is a sensory rich place that is filled with awesomeness, walks, hills, caves, gorges, villages, towns, sailing, zip wires, climbing and the Calvert Trust. Like the Bendrigg Trust it make adventure so much more accessible.

Rambling; walking outdoor where the smells, sounds and textures are far from the city can be healing, expansive for the mind and fulfilling inside. Ramblers.org can help you access great routes for people who live with blindness or visual impairment.

Who doesn’t like a bit of mountain biking? Okay so it’s not for everyone but if a good old mud trail with big bumps, and rocky terrain is something you’d like to have a go at… Adaptive mountain biking by Disability Horizons could be something you want to check out.

I rode for many years in my youth, my horse was called Tall Story and he was a beautiful horse I rode twice a week every week. I remember the feeling when I would first get into the saddle and we’d spend a moment reconnecting as horse and rider then we’d warm up with a gentle trot and eventually we’d be cantering. Even in the school I would feel a sense of flying freedom that even now as an adult if I ride, I still feel that sense of freedom.  Horse riding is a great experience if not hobby, why not check out the Riding for the Disabled Association.

When we took my son sailing I thought i’d have to literally hold my breath throughout the whole experience. From roping to sails, diving from one side to the other whilst sorting sails when we changed direction, I wondered when the capsize would happen (the anxious parent thing), James rocked that experience like he was born for it. It’s definately worth an experience day and you can find out much more at rya.org.

 

These are just a few sites to check out, sites with easy to access information and ave a passion for adventure, equality and accessibility.  Of course the internet has many more links and options for you to check out, my list is either based on my own experience with my son or experiences of our friends to help you get started. 

If you have any links or information that you’d like to share with the Visits Unlimited community then pass them to us and we’ll add them to our list. 

 

Make your venue accessible in a few easy steps

Making your venue accessible

A small investment of your time, energy and money now will create a strong benefit all round. The size of the UK population that requires venue accessible support is growing, have a look at these few suggestions that we have seen as we have visited attractions with our children and family members ourselves, or seen as we’ve trained in venues that have shown us their innovative ideas.

  1. Is your website accessible? Do you have easy to access disability friendly information on your front page or a clear link to a page on your website that’s easy to see? Is the content clear, up to date and able to be fulfilled?
  2. Are your staff up to date with their disability and equality training? Do they know your accessibility policies? Are your customer service team able to answer questions around the services and support that you provide? Are they aware of the correct terminology and confident on how to support families within a moment of upset, distress or requiring support to problem solve a situation?
  3. Are you easy to find? If you offer a tourist attraction that is accessible for people who have a disability, their family and their carers, can people find you? When we are looking to plan a day out we are looking for specifics and we are looking for easy access. Shout out about yourself on sites where we look for reviews.
  4. Are your signs clear? Are your signs in images? Do they stand out so that they are easily visible? Signs are great boundaries that help us feel safe, guided and on the right track so to speak. When a place is crowed and over stimulating it can be difficult for some people to navigate, on top of this if they feel confused and unsure about which way to go it can add to the stress. Positive signs can ease anxiety and allow individuals to feel more in control.
  5. Do you have a guide of your attraction? Does your guide highlight the accessibility information?
  6. Do you have menu’s written in larger font using a font like Ariel?
  7. Do you offer payment by card reader machine and is your card reader on an extendable wire for wheel chair users to have easy access too?
  8. Are your isles clear? Doorways clear and wide for wheel chairs users to easily get through? Are your ramps available and in good working order?
  9. Looking out for our carers. Guide dogs are working animals and tirelessly ensure their owner is safe, can you place dog water bowls down in appropriate areas so that they can have a drink?
  10. There has been a lot of press coverage recently about disability access and toilets. What are your toilets like? Is there room for a wheel chair to turn? For a carer or family member to be in there to support if necessary? Is there room for an adult to be changed?

Why make your venue accessible?

  • 212 billion pounds make up the disability pound in the UK? That’s a lot to miss out on.
  • The common shared vision of a tourist attraction / venue is to support individuals and families to make memories, have great days out; people with a disability want this too.
  • Over 3 million families within the UK use a push chair for their babies / infants. Slopes, ramps, doorways, isles and child friendly areas are important.

Many businesses today are seeing how creating a venue that is accessible makes good business sense but above all it create inclusion. Inclusion of staff who have a disability and inclusion of visitors / customers who live with a disability.  There is so much information within easy reach to begin making some positive changes. Feel free to call us now to support you with assessments to advise on changes and adaptions, training for management and staff and training your staff to be a trainer or champion themselves. Visits Unlimited deliver a package that creates confidence around inclusion so that you can deliver an amazing experience for everyone.

It’s World Autism Awareness Time

Are you aware of autism?

How are you using this week to help you?

A lot of people have heard of this disability, it’s a word we hear a lot but there’s still a lot of education needed on this subject.

Let me through some questions out to give you some food for thought;

  • Do you understand about it?
  • Do you really know what it is?
  • Do your staff have an awareness of the needs of someone who is autistic?
  • Is your visitor centre / attraction autism friendly?

Here are 7 known facts about autism 

  1. Approximately 67 million people world wide are affected by this disability.
  2. Each individual is different.
  3. Asperger syndrome is a higher functioning form of autism.
  4. Many individuals can experience a reduced sensitivity to pain however may be extra sensitive to sounds, visual stimuli and touch.
  5. Many people believe that autistic children are not affectionate, this isn’t always the case. People who are autistic can be affectionate but also touch sensitive.
  6. It may be difficult for an individual to hold eye contact, a structured conversation, they may lose interest and focus whilst you are talking to them.
  7. Families and carers who support an individual with autism need help and support.

Number 7 is definately where you come in.

Autism affects roughly 1 in 100 children in the UK and this statistic covers only those diagnosed.  Autism is not a learning disability but it is a disability, this affects schooling, peers and social learning as the child grows. Many children are excluded and can be isolated, parents face practical and emotional challenges and can also be isolated and excluded from their own social groups.  A day out may need meticulous planning, detailed detailing and constant managing of behaviour, boundaries and vigilance of where they are and who they are with during their time out.

  • There are so many resources available for you to tap into to support autism awareness amongst your staff.
  • Simple to more detailed adjustments can be made to support visitors which can make all the difference to their experience with you; which Visits Unlimited can support you with.

You can make a difference right now by participating in the awareness of autism week, this disability that affect 67 million people around the world and the number is rising.  Make your visitor attraction welcome to everyone, support your staff to develop the awareness so that they can help provide the best days out for families.

World Autism Awareness Week