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

Accessible Services

Accessible Services, Making it Happen

When I was growing up I never thought twice about pushing the last few minutes at home before dashing out, running down the hill for the bus and racing up to he back of the bus where the older ones sat.  I never thought twice about going through doorways, using public toilets, browsing the narrow aisles of clothing and taking a heap of clothes into the changing rooms for a quick modelling before meeting up with friends for a quick coffee before home.

It’s easy not to see some common obstacles to some people when they’re not obstacles to us, three steps up is a quick jump when your running, a wheel chair user requires a ramp, someone with a new hip replacement may prefer a ramp to keep a steady step or someone with co ordination difficulties.

Door frames that are a little too narrow for a wheel chair or pram to get through, do you think the wheel chair user wants to scrape the arms of their chair and your paintwork? There are so many ways that you can support inclusion within your service for both your employees and your customers. If you’re not sure then ask the people who would be using them.

Electronic doors, large signs not heavy with text, accessible toilets, helpful support from staff, ramps and hand rails, put a lift in or repair broken lifts, everything makes a difference including positive speech within customer services. There are so many things you can do to eliminate exclusion because when a section of your custom is excluded they don’t’ come to you and invest their money with you.  You are missing out on a healthy chunk of multi millions of pounds spent in the UK by people with disabilities. Not only that but some adaptions you may get some funding support with that could help you get started.

Accessible services accessed by all.

There are many pre conceptions about what a ‘disabled person’ looks like. IF you can see signs of a disability then yes there are people who are partially sighted, hearing impaired, wheelchair users, people who’ve previously had a stroke

But there are hidden disabilities such as;

  • Epilepsy
  • Arthritis
  • Depression and other mental ill health diagnoses
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Learning disabilities

Just to name a few. Now whilst we can not always evolve our services over night to accommodate changes and needs, we can make a start and some small adaptions can help many people gain access. Millions of people in the UK live with a disability. Many live with an undiagnosed disability so we know that the number is much higher than statistic given.

Many of us are in someway connected to a disability either our own or to someone else who lives with one. Inclusion creates a sense of community, inclusion creates so much joy for people and inclusion creates a lot of benefit for you from a business perspective.

 

Anything is Possible

Anything is possible these days…

Along our own journey to create a focused approach in supporting tourist and visit attractions to support creating happy memories for families who live with a disability, we have met some the most inspiring, determined, resourced and resilient individuals who know how to apply the skill of adaptability to make their ‘anything is possible’ happen.

Recently I was talking to a woman whilst I was out on a hike. A rare day off permitted me to escape up a harsh overgrown track and rummage amongst the bushes to finally find the route to the top of the valley sides. A rugged terrain that opens up to smoother surfaces the higher you go. Perfect.

The woman I met was sitting on a rock quite near the edge of the drop sipping her tea, as I began to pass we got chatting and then out popped my flask so together we drank tea and held our senses within the moment. The breeze that cooled a  hot back under the rucksack, the noise of the birds and the leaves rustling around and the feeling of the sun that began to tease us of a spring around the corner.

I knew the lady I was sitting with was blind, her husband had gone ahead to scout out the terrain on a particular route as we sat enjoying all the snacks and talking past adventures. She told me how she missed her guide dog ‘Sox’ on these walks, I asked why he hadn’t come with her to stretch his legs out and she explained that he’s trained for the streets and not for hiking out up such terrain.

Making ‘anything is possible’ accessible.

Taking that half an hour out for a sociable chat and brew taught me so much, this wonderful lady called Dianne explained that there are routes designed for partially sighted people, routes that are less challenging around the terrain and less unpredictable and the styles are easier and more accessible when crossing.

I asked Dianne how she would prepare for a day out hiking the hills, here was her help list:

  • “When I have to leave Sox at home I definitely take the husband.” We did laugh!
  • “I always tell at least 2 people where I am going. The route and expected times.”
  • “We became members of the Ramblers association because there’s a lot of advice and support on there.”
  • “I’m not afraid to try a route even it becomes too difficult and we can’t get around it.”
  • “I take my time to prevent injury and falls, it will take me much longer to do a route hence why I go on shorter routes, I know then that I can get around it and I don’t have to rush, I can enjoy the environment in my own way.”
  •  “I have a few rest stops where I can sit and be present. My husband is great at being silent and enjoying the world around us as much as I do.”
  • “Taking on these challenges in a safe but still adventures way helps me stay feeling young and connected with myself.”
  • “And I bring tea, lots of tea – a litre flask in fact and snacks. Abundance of tea and an abundance of snacks and i’m good to go.”

We parted ways at the fork in the road, a poignant moment where I felt absolute respect for this woman and her husband, I took the higher route and walked to the top but along the way I brought her lesson with me and I took the potential of everyone who lives with a disability up there with me because I had once again met someone who showed my clearly that anything is possible if you find the right way.

Thank you Dianne

Easy group walks

Alternatively contact your local ramblers group and enquire about accessible walks in your area. 

Celebrating English Tourism

The very best of English tourism

Visit England has released their finalists who are in the running to receive their Visits England Awards for Excellence 2017. This is their annual celebration of the very best of English tourism and we are delighted to see The Deep in Hull, East riding amongst the finalists and so they should be.
We won’t hide our ‘deep’ respect for this visitor attraction who just continue to keep riding ahead in creating an amazing experience for their visitors. When we first provided our customer experience training there we remember feeling that ‘wow’ when one of the managers who attended the training explained that on a busy day they can take 4,000 visitors.

Standing proud for english tourism

The reason why I remember that (not just the awe feeling because of the sheer volume of people coming through in one day), but because they focus seriously on making sure that when individual needs of a visitor are different in some way, they want to meet it.
We have seen a fraction of the ‘behind the scenes’ at The Deep and their genuine passion at providing a professional, supportive, fun and organised provision of attraction to the public is real and we at Visits Unlimited thoroughly welcome this wonderful visitor experience being recognised for their work and their purpose.
We are proud to have been one of their external training companies leaving behind a positive influence towards Welcoming and supporting people who live with a disability as well as their family and carers.
Check out the other finalists a www.visitenglandawards.org/

Well done team!

A nice little surprise for us

197 emails sat in my inbox after having a few days out of the office but one of them really brightened my day.

We had been informed by stair lift reviews that they were enjoying our blogs so much that they placed us on their 100 Best Blogs for Disabled People and Carers.
So a huge thank you to everyone at Visits Unlimited who contribute to the work we do and blog about, a big shout out for all those who bring us in to train them and create more awareness, A big shout out to all those who live with a disability, their family and carers who work tirelessly to continue opening horizons and experiences and a big thank you to www.stairliftsreviews.co.uk for recognising our work.
Our passion is our purpose and our purpose is our passion, it’s a team effort and our community is amazing.
Thank you everyone.
From the Visits Unlimited Team : )

Sam Bowen

Sam Bowen Visits Unlimited Associate

I first contacted Visits Unlimited two years ago when I saw a post about their distributing Max Cards to families with disabled children. I spoke to Katie initially to apply for a card and ended up telling her about my former career in Museums.

From the moment I spoke to Katie and heard her passion for increasing access to Museums and heritage sites, I knew I wanted to be involved. I became an associate member of Visits Unlimited and helped out on a training session being held nearby.

Fast forward a year or so and I was back in contact with the Museum Development Service who I had worked with prior to having my daughter (who was born with special needs). We discussed the need to raise access awareness with museum staff and support them in becoming more welcoming to people with disabilities.

I put Katie in contact with Joanna Low, Museum Development Officer, and we together developed a training day. The day came and I wasn’t nervous, but excited that I was finally delivering training with Katie to a group of Museums I had worked with before on a subject that I am passionate about. The day was a huge success and I am now working with four of those museums to progress their accessibility plans.

I left the Museum world nearly 8 years ago with the sudden life changing moment of having a severely disabled child. I’m now returning to that field with a much better understanding of disability and a whole new perspective on life. It’s empowering and fulfilling to match my professional museum experience with that of being a special needs parent, it’s as if a jigsaw is now complete.

 

If you’d like more information on how to improve accessibility in your museum or visitor attraction, then please contact Katie Clarke for more information.

Planning ahead can reduce challenges.

Planning ahead can make all the difference.

I was always one of those ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ kind of woman until I hit my mid 20’s when I became a mum for the first time. Suddenly I was hit with, not just being the in-house planner but full on project management mum supreme.
Being a parent or carer of someone who lives with a disability requires planning. Planning, planning and more planning.           Trial and error is a usual behaviour that you become comfortable with and when you find something that works and a strategy that works, you stick to it.
When we talk to other people about how we get through the challenges of the practicalities and get out and enjoy our days out, then one of the biggest tips we can give is – plan ahead – because the less surprises that meet you on your journey the better right!

Here are some of our top tips for planning ahead:

  • Plan your day around your resources: time, energy, equipment, finances and so on. When you are looking at a day out make a list as you start planning so that you start identifying what you will need for your day out.
  • When you’re planning, don’t plan on taking enough, plan on taking a little more than you need.
  • Anticipate your needs as much as you can whilst travelling.
  • When looking at a particular destination, do as much research as you can on the accessibility information around your needs. If the website isn’t that clear then give their customer service a ring with any questions that you have.
  • I personally prefer to call when booking hotels, flights, or booking tickets and so on so that I can speak to an agent from the beginning. There’s usually so much information we then can get that we wouldn’t necessarily get from websites.
  • Look up any reviews on well known platforms, the best information comes from people who have been there before you and tried and tested those services and the attractions.
The more planning that you do the more prepared you are. That was once something that my mother would nag me about until I had my own child with disabilities. That nagging advice soon became my motto and it made a huge difference to our experiences from start to finish. 
Planning won’t guarantee smooth sailings because things go wrong, complications pop up and challenges manifest themselves. Remember that we are resourceful, we are resilient and there’s always a way to get around any problem.
I believe it was Thomas Edison who once said; “Just when you think you’ve run out of options, you haven’t.” 
From a day out trip to travelling abroad, plan as much as you can. Plan and prepare but don’t forget the biggest thing to plan for…FUN!
The core of your trip is to have a great time, to have fun so don’t forget to plan for that and to have that too.

Max out on a day out with your max card

The Max Card for families who have children with additional needs

The Max Card, I meet so many people who still haven’t heard of the Max Card and would be entitled to having one. Read this and get applying!

The Max Card is designed to make days out more financially accessible for foster families and families of children with additional needs, we’ve had ours for about 3 years now and it has meant that my son has been able to access many attractions free or at a huge discount. Ever attraction / venue offers something different; some allow the card holder and parent / carer in for free so offer big discounts on the price. Either way the list of places where you can use your max card is lengthy and all over the UK and the list of venues is growing so it’s really worth checking out, if not for you then pass this information and link onto someone you know who could use it.

With the help of supporting local authorities and venues, we aim to bring families closer together through fun and enjoyable days out. From Eureka to Go Ape, Museums to cinemas. Crazy golf to Zoos, boat trips, aquariums to paintball!

From Aberdeen to Cornwall, Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland there’s no getting bored in the holidays. I can’t recommend this enough, my son loves being in charge of his and gives him a great sense of independence being able to use it.

Application is easy, email them (i’ve put the link at the bottom of this post) and one will get sent out to you through the post. Enjoy your days out and pass your stories to us so we can share in your happy days out!

Visit their website Max card today and get yours sent out now!

No Silence Please We’re in the Library!

No Silence Please

We have google, we have wikipedia, we have YouTube and so many other sources to discover information but for our family there’s still a huge amount of magic going down to the Library. Not only are we supporting a local community service, but with every book you rent, the author of that book gets a little commission so that feels good as well. The smell of all those books, the choices of stories and peoples imaginations, illustrations and of course time always seems to stand still as you browse the ‘blurb’ on the reverse of the books to see which grabs your interest at that point.

However the library experience isn’t always that easy, magical or relaxing and for some parents and children for many years it hasn’t really been quite stressful. The library has traditionally held the golden rule of etiquette which has been; Shhhhh, talk quietly, in whispers and respect other people’s study, focus and concentration needs.

But what about our children who are autistic? Requesting their silence doesn’t work, they connect with that rule we have easily and suppressing their need to express themselves when they need to is a restraint that won’t happen.

No Silence Please

Campaigners have launched a network of autism friendly libraries in England allowing parents to take their children who love with autism to enjoy this wonderful space free from judgement, being stared at and criticised.

There is a need to support library staff with awareness training and accessibility improvements to the design of the library’s themselves such as calm spaces, low calm music, awareness material and posters around. Dimensions and the Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians (ASCEL) are working to evolve England’s 3,000 or so public libraries into more welcoming venues for people who have autism. What a fantastic cause to be aware of and support.

This movement began in 2016 so we’ll definitely be watching this unfold and we look forward to keeping you updated.

 

Communicating with partially sighted or blind customers.

Gain the confidence to communicate with partially sighted individuals

More than 2 million people within the UK live with sight loss which equates to around 1 in 30 people (RNIB). As the health of our nation changes and the rise of people who live with a disability increases, then the culture of our communication must change too. However the adaptions we must make are not alien to us, we have all the tools and resources already at our disposal we just need to tap into the awareness of what those resources are and gain the confidence to use them. Put these two things together and you can make a huge difference to someone’s experience.

How to communicate with confidence with a partially sighted individual

  • My first point is an important point; don’t assume that because someone is partially sighted or blind, that they have other medical conditions and medical conditions. Treat ever individual as that; an individual because a physical obstacle or challenge does not indicate mental ill health, learning disability or other conditions that require other people to answer the question you are asking, consent or make decisions for them.
  • When you are approaching a person who is blind, make your approach known in a friendly manner. Don’t shout and startle them, don’t approach in a super ninja stealth like manner either. Just identify yourself as you approach in a warm and friendly, confident tone of voice. If you smile as you’re doing it, so does the tone of your voice – sounds strange but your body language speaks your mind and when you approach feeling tense, uncertain, frustrated and so on, your voice will reflect this.
  • If the person has a white cane or two white canes, don’t offer to take them from them unless they ask you too. These canes are an extension of themselves and they rely on them to provide the feedback of the immediate environment. They feel safe with their canes and unless instructed by them, you may cause upset or anxiety by taking these away from them.
  • Like wise if they have a guide dog, please remember that this is a service dog and the dog is working for their owner. Theses are highly trained dogs. Please don’t distract the dog, feed the dog or confuse the dogs training by giving alternative commands. Let the dog do his / her job at keeping their owner safe.
  • People usually ask me about how to communicate effectively because “how can you use body language?” Firstly don’t assume that someone who you see is ‘blind’ is actually 100% blind, many people are partially sighted and this has varying degrees. Secondly your actually body language makes up around 55% of your communication, tonality is roughly around 38% and the words you use are around 7% so between you tones and voice pitches and the words you use; that’s around 45% so don’t worry – you will get your message across loud and clear without extra effort.
  • The what to say bit! Be aware of your terminology and how you refer to the individual, nobody wants to disempower anyone else nor offend them. Take a moment to think before you speak but also relax a little, don’t worry if you say; “have a great day and i’ll see you later on in the tour.” You are not being offensive so don’t go into awkward apologetic mode, just stay away from: “can you not see what you’re doing?” or “Gosh is it hard being handicapped?” Which I heard recently – yes cringe!

If you would like extra support or training regarding communicating with people who have sensory based disabilities then please contact Katie Clarke.

Communicating with visitors who have hearing loss

Communicating with visitors who have hearing loss

There are approximately 11 million people registered with hearing loss within the UK, this is around 1 in 6 of us according to the RNID, these statistics reflect only those who have been registered as having hearing loss, the number in reality will be much higher.

If these figures show that 1 in 6 of us experiences a hearing loss then the probability will be high that as a tourist attraction or venue, you will be welcoming people into your environment who will require an adaption to the auditory presentation of both staff and venue settings.

People who experience hearing loss communicate visually and using physical gestures, people who live with partial deafness may also combine visual, physical gestures and the tonality of sounds to build a picture of their environment around them.

There are varying degrees of hearing loss, there can be mild to moderate, one side or both (bilateral), some people are unable to detect the deepness of male voices but can pick up the higher pitch of female voices for example.  You can’t always tell right away because not everyone choses to wear a hearing aid or some more advanced hearing aids slip inside the ear and have no external presence so it isn’t always easy to know.

How to support a visitor with hearing loss

Many people with hearing loss have learnt to lip read, this isn’t always a perfect science for them but they can pick up on the general lip formation of words by mixing what they read from the facial expressions, body language, hand gestures and if sound is there then the tonality and certain sounds around the lip formation allows the picture of the word to be formed.

So you can see from this that it is important that you face the person you are talking too, this is generally good etiquette anyway but in these situations it is critical. It is hard enough to decode what someone is saying if they are looking down which means it’s hard to read the lips, read the face and the tone is usually lower when we look downwards.  This and having to ask someone to repeat themselves as the queue forms behind can be uncomfortable for the visitor and not a great start for them.

  • If someone indicates to you in some way they they have hearing loss, make eye contact and smile. A smile puts someone at ease and then ask if they would like to use your loop system, your physical gestures such as when referring to the loop system will help someone easily understand what you are saying. Make a judgement on the background noise of the environment because if it is a crowded area then you may need to step a little closer or use more physical gestures. If the visitor is struggling to understand in the environment due to the noise then consider asking them if they’d like to talk somewhere quieter.
  • As you are continuing to talk to remain where they can see you.
  • If you sense someone has hearing loss and you want to ask them something, then get their attention first and let them settle their attention on you before you ask the question so that they can process the information. This can be done with eye contact and a smile, a small wave nothing fast, aggressive or intimidating.
  • When it comes to tonality, stay as you normally would. Unless you are asked to slow down, speak higher and so on, don’t. We get by learning the tonality of communication on a daily basis getting used to the normal tones of calm, relaxed, angry, agitated and anxious etc just like you do. It’s usually much easier if you speak within your normal tone and pitch range – unless otherwise specified.
  • When you are speaking to your visitor try to keep the conversation flowing so that find it easier to follow and don’t be afraid to lead the emotion to help them follow what you are saying this can be done through facial expressions.
  • Why not introduce some visual sign language and meaning cues to your areas? Or have this aids behind reception desk with common words on them so that they can be used for communicating.
  • The obvious one is always – if the individual has a carer with them, friend or relative; speak to the individual if it is them you are referring too. Living with hearing loss does not mean they can not make their own decisions.
  • Do not make assumptions, don’t assume the person is following every word or is processing the information you are saying at your speed. Sometimes it takes a few seconds longer for them to filter what you are saying, process it and then find the right response before giving you the response. Be patient, patience is essential here.

If you would like more support and information about how to train your staff in the highly effective techniques of body language communication, please contact Katie Clark.

 

Maximise your Customer Service Approach with a great first impressions

Why first impressions are so important

I’m going to take you straight to the point on this blog which is your bottom line.

If you want your business model to be successful you have to develop great communication and customer service management skills.

What if right now I could give you the strategy to creating the ability to deliver just that – great customer service, would you read on? Sure you would because you want your business model to be successful, accessible and dynamic however there’s a process that happens before your visitor or customer even begins to engage with your service, there’s a vital part that you must fulfil before they even start inviting you into their psychology of building a rapport and giving you the chance to provide them with a great quality of service.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression!

When you meet someone for the first time, a part of your brain called the limbic brain starts to register what you are seeing and begins the process of deciding two thing: firstly, do you feel safe with this person or situation and secondly, can I trust this person or situation. Does that seem a little far fetched to you?

When i’m coaching my business clients to get this point across I ask them these questions;

  • Would you go into business with someone you didn’t trust or feel safe with?
  • Would you hire someone to work within your team, represent your business or company who you didn’t trust or feel safe with?

The wise answer would be no.

Let’s take this back to you and the service you provide.

A customer or service user walks in, within 0.4 seconds they have started processing to work these two answers out, now as a customer / visitor those two vital questions are usually represented by do I feel respected (safe) as well as can I trust this service, this person, this environment. Within 30 seconds the brain thinks it knows everything it needs to know about the situation to make a judgement which then becomes a fixed rule. Once you have created a first impression and the fixed rule comes into play then it is extremely difficult to change that impression about you, you may not get a second chance let alone a whole load more to change their opinion about you. In business this can have a damaging effect on your profile and therefor your profits.

So how can you maximise on those first 30 seconds? Here are 7 quick but highly effective tips to use right now and transform your immediate relationship building skills.

  • Eye contact is what we call pro-connecting behaviour. This doesn’t mean that you have to stare the person out, combined with the other non verbal cues I will share with you, soft muscles around the eyes and good eye contact is a great way to immediately start that connection process before even one word passes between you.
  • A smile. Research shows that we remember people more if they smile. A smile is warm, welcoming and puts us at ease because it tells us that we are welcome and that we can relax a little.
  • Relaxed shoulders. A tense shift, a long day, frustration, anxiety and nerves; all these emotions can sit on our shoulder (it’s where we carry and try and hold up our world). Our shoulders can become tense and start looking like they are extensions of our ears rather than our necks, the only thing is you will look tense and when you look tense and greet someone tensely they will mirror that unconsciously because we resonate with our environment if we start to feel unsure and can become guarded.
  • We all know about open body language but the reason i’m slipping this one in is because when I walked up to a receptionist the other day at a hotel to book in, the receptionist herself greater me with her arms folded and a stern look on her face. I didn’t feel welcomed at all, intact I felt awkward – is that how you want your customers to feel. So open shoulders and arms unfolded is an inviting behaviour.
  • Tone of voice. This all depends on the situation and the environment, but generally friendly and direct. You don’t have to over soften word or go high pitched, the lower pitches tend to instil more confidence that a higher pitched tone but keep it warm and inviting.
  • Consider the words that you say within those first few seconds, to my business clients I warn them against an immediate jump in. Set the baseline for trust, let business flow after that has started. Don’t bamboozle your customer or visitor, a simple “How can I help you?” The ‘How’ invites an open conversation where you get to show case your customer care skills which is what you want to happen because by this point you can embed in your great rapport skills.
  • The first impression that you want to give will change depending on where you are and what you want to achieve. So before you go out there to start making that impression firstly think about what image you would like to give the other person. What you think and feel, your intentions and emotions will come through in your body language because it is the most fluent form of communication that we have so if you can focus on a particular image of yourself that you want to get across, you are more likely to actually behave in that way.

The non verbal world is the most powerful way we can communicate, it’s the most fluent and wonderfully accurate way we can get a message across and when we get it right we can produce amazingly powerful, highly effective and influential results that everyone can benefit from.

Want to know more about body language? check out my website at Kaizen Insight 

Your receptionist is your front line first impression.

The Receptionist

I was sitting in a waiting room not so long ago reading a 2014 Hello magazine and getting lost in wondering what these people were doing now when a young man approached the reception desk to book in for his appointment.

The young man had checked in himself with his mum present to support communication if necessary, the receptionist recognised that the young man wore hearing aids in both ears and had a speech impediment which presented itself as a stutter.  I could see that the receptionist felt unsure of how to communicate and feeling unsure of how to handle the situation had spoken directly to his mum.

I introduced myself and spoke about Visits Unlimited and how we support the process of developing confidence to communicate with individuals who have a disability and also highlighted that many people live with a ‘hidden’ disability and that more than likely they will be coming across more than one person a day that they would never know lived with some form of disability.

We briefly identified why she felt nervous and unconfident in communicating with this young man, then we created some strategies that she could easily tap into to support her to deal with those and instead recognise this young man’s capability, his need to be independent, his wanting to learn to manage his own appointments because these are big accomplishes to his confidence developing.

We did some fast work around body language and how to use it to show confidence, to show connection and to show that he is important at that moment and that there’s a really good reason mum’s in the background. We worked around her main obstacle which was not knowing how to communicate with an individual that she recognises requires hearing support. 

Your receptionist is so important to your business.

One of the most important roles within any business is the receptionist, the first impression of your company or business comes from here. Your clients, visitors and customers will either feel cared for and respected or herded to their seat where they blend into lack of importance. Reception is the gateway to how you want others to see the service or experience you provide and it’s important that your front line team receive the dynamic training that allows them the skills, awareness and time to apply great quality service. 

A few minutes was all it took to alleviate the receptionists lack of confidence and support her to feel more open, less self conscious about adapting communication approaches and recognising the importance of her role in providing a safe and respected experience for any individual. That few minutes will create a foundation for her to continue gaining more confidence. 

How we can help you.

If you or your team would like to be supported to develop a powerful experience for individuals who are disabled, then we can provide packages of assessments of your area and how to make cost effective and reasonable adjustments to make your space welcoming, friendly and accessible. We can provide you with an awareness of your clients and share with you some highly effective communication techniques that can easily be adaptable when communicating with anyone who requires extra support, please contact Katie Clarke at Visits Unlimited.  

The skills, strategies and techniques that we teach and provide are transferable and helps you to create a sustainable model of communication management that developed confidence and helps to manage all situations. 

Our carers are so important to us.

Our carers are so important to us.

Carers can make daily activities a little less challenging for us and they can really support our family days out and family experiences to be more enjoyable.

I have a teenager; he’s 15 years old with learning disabilities. He’s a great student at school, he’s apparently joyful, helpful and hardworking. I say apparently because at home he’s moody, he answers back, he’s rude and can be frustratingly disrespectful but we get it.

Recently my son was having a melt down at home whilst a good friend of mine was over having a coffee. My wonderful friend offers me a chocolate biscuit to dip into my almost cold coffee by this point as my son stomps upstairs, shouting his version of horrible and disrespectful words to me as well as telling me he no longer wants me as his mum.

 “Teenagers.” My friend says. “Mines the same, it’s their hormones.”

But her teenage son isn’t the same as mine. Her teenager at 15 has his own phone, freedom, is able to take the train with his friends to Manchester, he checks in by phone when he should and comes home safety, on time and raves freely about their adventures in the big city. He’s growing up into a fine young man, planning college and what he’d like to study. He goes to the cinema, hangs out with his pals, goes to a football game and fills his diary with great social activities.

My son at the same age completely understands that there’s a world out there that he can’t access like some of his friends. My son can’t navigate transport on his own, make safe decisions or appropriate choices, work out what to do if he’s lost, deal with strangers, cross roads, locate the right food for lunch and a drink, hold a clear conversation and be understood and he can experiences great levels of anxiety without a capable adult there to translate this complex world for him.

Now remember back to when you were 15, did you want your parents around you 24/7? Wasn’t it PGL time (parents get lost). You wanted your time, your freedom. You wanted to fly the nest in a safe way, on that elastic band where you could go out, be all that and strut your independent stuff but come home at the end of the day for dinner and your warm bed with your clean clothes folded on the chair waiting for you to put them away.

My son like many of our children, friends or parents with disabilities, they want that too.

A carer can be such an anchor for us.

When we met the guy who became James’s carer and we watched how they gelled and James suddenly had someone in his life for a few hours a week that wasn’t his parents or his grandparents but his buddy, his friend who would let him have that independence. Where they could high five the goal James scored at the local football club his carer got him into. Where James could run around with a whole bunch of 20 something young men who have all become his big ‘bro’s’ and look out for him. Where he can be more like the other kids around him because for James, they would see him out with his pal just like they were doing.

His pal who takes him to the Man City stadium because James really wanted to go, who hangs out with him, chats about guy stuff and takes him for rides around in his car. The guy who’s cool and let’s him have a bit more freedom when they’re out doing activities, having experiences and enjoying attractions.

That person who on paper is a carer but in our lives is the person – or team – who can transform our children’s life experiences, open there worlds that little bit more and feel much more free without the constant parental guidance.

Days out with carers are so important, there’s a dynamic that is essential for our children’s growth and allows us the learning of stepping back even if it’s just for a few hours.

When you see a carer supporting their client on a day out, or if you welcome them into your visitor attraction, know that carers can mean so much to our children or family members and because of that they mean so much to us. They are an important person within our family unit and we can cherish them, carers who help us navigate a day out experience are worth their weight in gold and for all those visitor attractions who recognise their importance, thank you.

 

For more information on carers see Carers Trust

Foster Bridge in Hebden Bridge

Foster Bridge

We are listening as much as possible and sending Chris to travel the length and breadth of Hebden Bridge.  Chris soon has a meeting with all interested parties at Foster Bridge (one of Hebden Bridge’s listed bridges).

Foster Bridge is an old packhorse bridge now and in very poor repair, to the extent that anyone with a mobility impairment cannot cross over it. The interesting thing is that over the bridge is a cricket club and an archery club and a lovely extensive river walk with seating and picnic areas AND the bridge is by far the best way to access these wonderful areas.

The Council have funded the renovation of the walk which do meet accessible standards however because the bridge doesn’t allow access for those with mobility impairments there is little chance of being able to reach those services and natural gems on the other side.

As a team we are working incredibly hard but do feel free to make contact with us if you have any questions. We are grateful for your continued support and we look forward to making each action take this project forward.

From Church to Rock Concerts…

Hebden Bridge Rocks and clearly Chris is enjoying his work!

There are many things to love about Hebden Bridge, just ask the people that live here or the people that visit. But the more Visits Unlimited work within it’s infrastructure, work alongside the town’s residents the more we absorb it’s true asset and that is it’s intrinsic drive of resilience.

Chris recently assessed Hope Street Baptist Church and soon found out that the residents aren’t the only resilient ones, the buildings seem to share that there determination to stay up and stay strong.

“My latest visit was to Hope Street Baptist Church. Big landmark with a presence, town centre, main road.  You’d think after being completely flooded out twice in four years with a church full of original wooden pews, walls crumbling with the damp, roof splitting and leaking you might be tempted to write the whole thing off.  Not so fast!”

“With typical northern grit the whole structure has been stabilised, pews rescued and plaster renewed with a midsummer date set for full opening! Quite a statement when we’re all sat there in hard hats with planks of wood above us to stop the big chunks of falling plaster and netting to catch the rest!”

But it’s not just church services that Chris has been invited too…

“I’ve also been invited to the first rock concert so I can see if my recommendations for accessible seating, and for inclusive hearing systems have been followed, and more importantly – do they work!”

So whilst Chris puts the hard slog of grafting in within the town, the preparations are being set for the training sessions which is content and premium rich so keep an eye out because we shall be advertising them on here soon as well as our social media page and via the Town Hall.

If you see Chris on his travels around do stop and say hi and we look forward to seeing you very soon.

Hebden Bridge Attracts the Eye of Visit England!

Hebden Bridge is Eye Catching News

Visit-England are very aware of this town accessibility project that we are all working hard on.  Visit England asked our lovely accessibility assessor Chris to recommend a shop and a café for them to contact so they could trial a new web development on their site.

Chris duly obliged, both readily agreed and both were contacted. The cafe business should be well-publicised for their volunteering and yet again another big arrow on the map for Hebden Bridge.

The work between Visits Unlimited, Hebden Bridge town council and business owners has attracted national coverage.

A huge thank you to those businesses who’ve come forward and shown a great deal of interest to help make this town more accessible and welcome many more visitors.

Katie, Chris and team!

Visit England