Manchester City Football Club Helped Me Score!

Manchester City Helped Me Score The Best Goal!

Not being a football fan myself the over enthusiasm my son shares with his PA goes way over my head but I think as parents we did good this year and scored the ultimate christmas present for my manchester city mad 15 year old!

Manchester City Surprise.

Actually it was Groupon that gave us the idea; book a Manchester City Tour now! So I did but even with all of my background and usual obsession with forward thinking and planning I forgot to ask the ultimate question a parent needs to ask if they have a child who has extra needs: Is this accessible?

With fingers crossed I dived for the phone and began preparing my list of questions and hoped for some easy and clear answers, after all having just come back from Harry Potter World where we were spoilt with accessibility greatness I felt I was holding my breath.

What can I say? The whole conversation was amazing, I was put straight through to the tour organising team and their care and attention to detail wonderful. They always used his name as we spoke, his PA went free, they told me every little detail of where to park the colour of the car park who would meet us and everything in between. Manchester City were scoring high on my happy list.  The last thing the customer service guy said to me before the end of the phone call was; “We really look forward to meeting James and we’ll make sure he has the best time!”

Man City sang music to my ears!

What parent doesn’t want to hear that! I was so excited about his day out I was almost exploding when I told him (I had to keep it quiet for 3 weeks!). The ending of this story is that Man City pulled through on everything they said they would. James and his PA had an amazing day – even though his PA is a Chelsea supporter (think he kept that bit quiet as they’d recently beat Man City).

A leap of faith paid off so thank you Manchester City Stadium Tour team for giving my wee laddie a great experience and making us apparently the best parents in the world!

Manchester City Football Stadium Tours

Happy New Year

Happy new year from all of us!

2016 had it’s downs but for Visits Unlimited we had our ups as well. We have a lot to celebrate following some great training, meeting tonnes of great people and creating some really strong connections. We are passionate about supporting venues to help create memorable days out for families and for people who live with disabilities and we feel we really did that last year so this year we are aiming to do it bigger and better!

2017 is only a few days old and we have a great journey ahead of us to help design a more accessible tourist industry so that we can all enjoy the many amazing attractions that the UK can boast about.

This is our goal and commitment this year and we all wish you the best success for 2017 and the fulfilment of your own personal and professional determinations.

From the whole team at Visits Unlimited we wish you a great 2017!

Training Packages

Training packages with a difference.

We like a challenge and Dunham Massey gave us one, our 7 hour training programme condensed into 2 hours.  Katie being Katie can make anything happen so taking the great gems from the course she created this pocket sized training programme that packs a punch.

Feedback? Well one of the managers at Dunham Massey said the same thing as what staff said at The Deep for example, stating that our training, whilst focusing on great accessibility for visitors and for staff who have a disability; is as much focused on great customer care and service for all visitors.  That’s the feedback we wanted because then we know that we got it right.

If there’s one thing that being parents of children with disabilities has taught us it’s adaptability. We want to get the message across, we want our great visitors attractions in the UK to have the best and most accurate information and the best confidence building training.

That’s our focus and we keep our values at the core of any planning of programmes we make. So even though we delivered a 2 hour session taken from our prime programme, we got the messages across we wanted too and we delivered content that was immediately applicable to situations, thought provoking for future development for their centre and confidence building for their staff.

Now we are rolling out this programme so send us an email now and find out how and when we can deliver a great training package to your attraction or centre and let’s get you on the accessibility map.

Dunham Massey Accessible For All

Dunham Massey National Trust

Dunham Massey invited Visits Unlimited to spend 2 hours training 90 members of their staff with our customer service and accessibility training package.

We arrived early to be treated to a rather wonderful and informative walk through a part of their park to be met at the end with some home made butternut squash and spice soup, fresh sausage rolls and sandwiches. It’s not difficult to love our job!

Dunham Massey is mainly run by volunteers and there’s nothing short of enthusiasm in everyone of them making it such a pleasure to deliver our training package.

Katie Clarke and Karen Hickton from team Visits Unlimited packed those two hours with practical, directive information that didn’t just deliver the academic requirements but allowed the space for the 90 strong crowd to really get a glimpse of what the visitors journey really looks like.

The audience representing this great National Trust visitors attraction gave us their full attention, the group exercises turned out to be so productive we took away lots of ideas as much as they did to apply to the Dunham Massey experience.

What we thought of Dunham Massey

It was nothing short of an excellent afternoon, we got a warm welcome from everyone and the only downside for us was that when we finished it was dark and we couldn’t go for more of a wonder around the grounds. Still, we definately were left with the feeling that we’d be going back with our families to see the deer again and get that warm welcome we know we’ll get.

We know how hard it can be to find a day out that ticks a lot if not all of the boxes if you yourself have a disability or care for someone who has. We definately recommend Dunham Massey because this team will work really hard to make sure you have a great day out and they focus on everyone having a great day out.

Dunham Massey information.

 

Accessible Hebden Bridge. Making the most of these hills and curd tarts.

Enthusiasm, energy and plentiful bakers, a days work here is a pleasure.

I’ve been travelling to Hebden once or twice a week for several weeks now and enjoying every minute of it. The car seems to find its own way over the tops now and I especially look forward to choosing appropriate driving music to suit the day.

People are beginning to recognise me around town now. Sometimes they already know who I am when I introduce myself, sometimes they ask if I was the person seen hovering around outside the day before, sometimes they have been warned by friends I visited earlier!
Everyone is extremely friendly and eager to learn, especially when I tell them they can claim for anything I recommend as that’s the whole purpose of the scheme! They are up for purchasing ramps and suchlike, up for staff training, new signage, new procedures – anything goes!

I’ve found the residents to be a very resilient bunch. After hearing some of their horror stories about the last couple of major floods, any changes I suggest seem a pleasant diversion rather than yet another imposition. Not one long face yet!
The worst aspect of the scheme for me is that sometimes I can’t help. A shop owner may have asked for an audit, is totally committed to following advice to make things better and is willing to undertake extra work, but I may see immediately that the ramp required would reach into the road, the steep path would require a fortune to reconfigure, there is just no room to fit a vertical lift etc etc.
And, paradoxically, my (sensible) advice on access sometimes conflicts with the (sensible) advice on flood defence. We’re both right but we can’t both have what we want.

I’ve been asked twice if I’m writing a novel when seen collating my notes on the general environment.
I’m much fitter than I’ve been for several years pushing my wheelchair around a very hilly town, along miles of tow paths and over some very demanding bridges.
But I’m not losing the weight I expected due to an excess of curd tarts. Being a proud Yorkshireman now living and working in Manchester, I have resigned myself to the fact that I will not find this delicacy in any local bakers, but now I’m forced to pass bakers with shelves full of them. I just have to make up for lost time I’m only human!

Hebden Bridge 

RAF Cosford, great accessible day out!

RAF Cosford 5 stars. Cost effective, educational, fun and accessible day out and we loved it.

When there’s a group of 12 of you, you want to spend a few hours in a place that’s easy and enjoyable for all the family and we found it. Easy to find off the motorway and perfect on a Sunday morning with the more quiet energy of road. We rocked up and found the parking without any issues (parking was £3.00). Disabled parking bays thoughtfully marked and positioned, they were all full when we arrived however we had no issues parking and logistics were no more difficult for us.

RAF Cosford was a welcoming and warm building. Spacious as soon as you went in, coffee shop right there (nice prices), spacious seating and toilets all there when you first enter as well. This museum is free entry but donations are welcome. History and time lines up on the walls and the learning journey begins.  The pathway route that leads you round the museum and displays are wide, smooth and pleasurable to be on, there were a many wheel chair users there when we were and from what I saw (please note that I am not a wheel chair user myself), the manoeuvrability for individuals wasn’t compromised.

Straight outside for the first bit with some beautiful little and not so little planes proudly retired and displayed.  Engineering through the years is a pretty magnificent thing to see and they literally have so many different planes from all eras of the 1900’s.

The kids loved it and my eldest son who has learning disabilities found it relaxing, he was able to deal wonderfully with the level of stimulation and especially joined in on the science behind aviation design. It was a pleasurable and unrushed experience we would definitely go to again.

 Check it out…

Rebecca Ferguson at Bridgewater Hall Manchester

Rebecca Ferguson review, Bridgewater Hall Manchester 24/10/2016

Rebecca Ferguson was little known to me and I was kindly given these tickets by my friend Nadia Clarke due to her being away of the date of the gig. The only prior knowledge I had of Rebecca Ferguson came from hearing her song ‘Nothing’s Real But Love’ and a vague notion that she had participated in The X Factor at some point in her life (Wikipedia tells me she was on it in 2010, and came second.) So my PA and I drove to Manchester to the sound of her Spotify playlist, determined to learn the lyrics to or at least familiarise ourselves with a couple of her songs.

As it turned out, we had more than ample time to study in the car as the sat nav made us circle much of Manchester before we parked and because of this we had to park in a NCP car park which cost an eye-watering £17! There is disabled parking available but it had to be pre-booked and we did not have enough time to do this making this option inaccessible for us.

We also didn’t see anything of the ample menus the Bridgewater Hall website boasts and our only dinner options from I believe the Stalls Bar were a couple of pieces of overpriced pizza and Twixes – there’s a minimum spend to pay when using a card too. Maybe it’s a case of fail to plan is to plan to fail, I’m going back in December for The Sound of Musicals so I will endeavour – and implore you – not to make the same mistakes.

There were strobes and haze that could potentially affect fans with epilepsy but this was well-advertised around the venue.

Rebecca Ferguson herself did not come on till close to 9:30pm (not the advertised start time of 7:30pm) but when she did it was with a bang. Her songs included Mistress from her latest album, Superwoman and the toe-tapping I Hope (from the older album, Freedom). The repetitive chorus of this song made if both catchy and easy to learn, and she also catered for newer fans with a rendition of the c Chaka Khan’s classic: I’m Every Woman.

Overall it was a lovely night even if hectic at first, and while I’m not sure I’m a loyal Ferguson fan, Bridgewater Hall do host many musical theatre stars whom I admire so in the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger: hasta la vista baby, I’ll be back!

Want to check more out on Bridgewater Hall? Click me…

Supporting Partially Sighted Visitors

Supporting partially sighted visitors have a great day out.

You want to provide a great day out for your visitors and you want to make sure that your business or attraction is accessible for people who experience life with a disability.  By providing a safe and welcoming environment that offers clear directional support you will create an enjoyable experience for partially sighted people to thoroughly immerse themselves into and enjoy.

Some of your visitors may find it difficult to speak up, speak out for what they want and what they need.  They may not be able to protect themselves in certain environments and unless an environment is designed with safety in mind, there is a safe guarding issue.

There are so many things we can do to support visitors who a partially sighted here are a few easy to access changes:

  • Paint a white strip on every step so that each step is easy to distinguish and each step can be taken more safely.
  • The size of your sign, it’s print, the colours used and the type of font you have.
  • Information, directions and instructions in offered in brail or talking points.
  • Clear signs that show support for access of guide dogs and making them welcome with water points for their comfort.
  • Training for staff so that they can immediately tap into positive, direct verbal communication when talking to visitors because we so often rely on non verbal communication we can easily misrepresent ourselves and leave the visitor feeling unheard and frustrated.
  • Keep pathways clear, remove obstacles.

Already you will be thinking about your attraction or business and the environment, your policies and what you can do to make things easier. Why not check out the RNIB for more information about how you can make your area more welcoming, safer and accessible for people who are partially sighted.

Understanding visitor needs. An experience shared.

Understanding Visitor needs.

Understanding visitor needs is an area that requires constant attention, constant nurturing, measuring and reviewing.  Whether you work within a tourist attraction, high street shop or own an online business, understanding your visitor’s or customer’s needs is what will create a solid foundation of a business approach.

This is a common sense approach that is proudly taken by many businesses, marketing teams and customer service teams.  It isn’t however, an approach modelled across the board.  I would like to share with you an experience that my son had recently, although he is unable to explain it to you I would like to translate the experience as i’ve come to learn from him over these last 15 years.

The story as it was

We’d gone out on a family day trip, one we were all looking forward to and had planned the best time of day and best day of the week for reduced sensory overload for our oldest son who has learning disabilities.

The attraction was busy, crowded but manageable with movement albeit navigating around crowds was common. By lunch time it was busier and noisier and my son was trying to focus on me whilst asking me a question.  Having a speech impediment making himself clear takes some effort.

As my son was walking away from a particular place a gentleman walked towards him whilst looking in the wrong direction and knocked into him.  My son’s first reaction is to say ‘Ouch’ this isn’t shouted but it will be loud enough for people close to him to hear.  The response from the gentleman was ‘For god’s sake,’ as he walked off. My son heard this and I saw his head lower and his eyes go to the floor. As I walked forward to reach him and support him (I will explain), a member of the attraction staff supported the gentleman’s behaviour by smiling with him, raising his eyebrows and pursing his lips at my sons behaviour.

This is what my son’s experience was.

The build up to the day was really exciting, we had the full itinerary planned for my son’s comfort and sense of control. Google earth had prevailed with routes, maps and the birds eye view so it was all familiar driving there.  But the level of excitement and expectation, anxiety and nerves stretches him and we soon have to start using our now well rehearsed management strategies.  All is going well. Eventually the sensory richness becomes overload and we recognise this and take a break using the resources we know work.

What is happening is his nervous system is becoming heightened and in order to cope with the rushing of information at super speed that he can’t keep up with processing in his brain, he starts to shut down in order to cope.  We can see this with his body language, through his speech and of course his behaviour.  Rarely now does his overwhelm become a public display, we have worked hard with him over the years to support him to release his pressure cooker feelings in more constructive ways however his brain is still trying to make sense of things that only a few moments ago he could make sense of.

Suddenly there’s a different language all around him – or that’s what it feels and sounds like.  Then there’s his nervous system; it’s feeling unorganised and sparky and his nerve endings hurt, his cranium is feeling tight and the loud noises are trapping him. It’s a bit like an assault on his system. So when someone knocks into him it hurts him. It isn’t his fault and he doesn’t know how to suppress his response for the sale of not offending someone who has hurt him so he says it.

Understanding visitor needs

My son wasn’t being rude, he wasn’t being offensive he was feeling overwhelmed.  We know our son and we know how to deactivate him in minutes and bring him back to a more balanced and centred sense of coping where suddenly the language he hears around him again is the one he speaks. Where things have come into order again and he is feeling more in control. Where he has his safe family around him that directs him and gives him the time and patience he needs.

I wanted to write this because if you notice a situation where someone is feeling slightly overwhelmed and responds in a way that you feel is in someway different, uncharacteristic or is clearly a behaviour due to overwhelm or anxiety.  Don’t roll your eyes, purse your lips or shake your head.  I’m not saying dive in an go for the rescue, chances are the parents or carers will create the immediate environment necessary to manage the situation. Just go on with your day, give them the space and respect, show solidarity if you feel there is something practical you can do such as ask if they would like you to go for help. Look after their bags for them whilst they manage the situation or help them find an area where they can go and find the space to support who they need to support.

Just take a second to think what would be the action that shows compassion, wisdom and yes courage because it takes all of those 3 to be any type of parent let alone a parent of a child with disability.

Thank you in advance because when someone comes over and gives us a minute of their time to offer their compassion, it makes a world of difference to us.

 

Harry Potter World

Harry Potter and the magical 4 hours.

Harry Potter is celebrating 17 years and the magic is still flowing. I remember picking up the first Harry Potter book, The Philosopher’s stone and being unable to put it down. I’m not sure how that looked sitting in the nursing staff room we shared with the doctors as I sat and flipped through a book about a 12 year old boy in the wizarding world – 3 consultants borrowed my book after me and so the book swapping frantic behaviour began.

No matter how old I got or get I still enjoy a bit of Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley’s great adventures and so with great pride and shear joy, I was thrilled when (with a little persuasion) both my boys jumped on board.

Harry Potter and the Amazing Accessibility.

Okay so it was game on, my boys wanted to go and visit Harry Potter world (and of course I did) so it was planning time. My oldest has learning disabilities and over stimulation of his nervous system can actually cause him discomfort if he is touched, Harry Potter World knocked or feels overwhelmed.  For me the planning has to start early so I called their helpline to see if the planning could be supported by the customer service team.

What a great experience I had. Warm and friendly, completely understanding and couldn’t have offered me more support if I tried. We worked out what day of the week was the quietest, the best time within that day, the best place to have lunch which had the least crowd and where that was within the attraction so we knew the general time we’d get there.

All this information is the golden goose for James because if he has a time line he feels in control and that is a huge resource for him to enjoy his Harry Potter experience.

I got in for free as his parent which was a generous gift (or it is for us when the extras we need to book to support these experiences add up). I was offered disability parking bays even though I don’t need one and had to keep refusing it (in a fully grateful way) and the welcome we got when we arrived was perfect, signs were easy to follow so there was no complex navigation to work out.

The Magic Continued.

The logic in our planning paid off and we had space and time to enjoy our movement around the place, the toilets accessible and clean and a set of them near the entrance, the ramps wide so when wheelchair users came passed there was comfortable and respectful room. What I mean by that it, it didn’t feel like an after thought, wheelchair users could move around the massive Hogwarts structure without being rushed.  The tour was on one level, I can’t personally remember any steps other than the ones near the Hogwarts castle structure, these were only a few (the large spacious gentle sloping ramp ran adjacent) and the steps illuminated for those with visual impairment.  The support around was subtle and easy to access and it made the day utterly enjoyable.

All these little things add up to big deals for parents and carers, we are no different in the fact that we know if our children are enjoying themselves then we get to relax a little and enjoy the day as well.  In this case it was pretty awesome for us all and bar a few little moments of overwhelm for James, who did very well to bring himself back from them I’ll give it thumbs up.

Top bits to see…

Diagon Alley, Gringots bank, the special effects, the famous bridge, the chamber of Secrets snake door, the Basilisk’s skeleton, riding on broom sticks over London, Professor Snape’s potions room, Harry Potter’s dorm, Hagrid’s famous robotic head (that you really can’t tell it isn’t him). Oh the list is endless so go and see it all!Harry Potter

Just one bit of feedback that I think is important which is the close design of the shop. This isn’t wheelchair friendly on a busy day with pop up stands in between the more fixed ones. The wands are all down by the from paying desks so as people are queuing to pay, you have people queuing to work our which wand they’d like to by. This wasn’t something we could do with James as the space was too tight and doesn’t advocate time taking and decision making. The shop (as it always is) is quite expensive but there’s no need to prepare you for that as that’s a given really. I tried the Butter bear but even with a sweet tooth that was way too sweet even for me but if you have one you can cross it off your bucket list so to speak.

I’m so glad I got to take the boys and that they saw the magic behind the magic because there’s something about seeing how it’s done that doesn’t erase the magic of what you see on screen, it just seems to make it so much more amazing.

Harry Potter World a great website awaits you. It’s all there but I also recommend speaking to the customer team.

Clothes shopping, how hard can that be?

Let’s go clothes shopping

That’s what her text read; ‘Clothes shopping on Friday?’

Great! A girlie day in town where I get to hang out with a friend who I know will like a sneaky glass of wine and cake to celebrate our purchases. We’ll  have long chats about this and that and the stuff in between whilst we put the worlds to rights discussing work, politics, the economy and how to make the perfect parkin and carrot cake.  Clothes shopping with my friend is always an pleasure but is also fringed with frustration.

 

I met Lucy a while ago now, she’s a loyal friend who is brilliant at bouncing ideas off, she’s grounded, intelligent, well educated, earns well from her profession and she lives abroad with her husband enjoying life.  My frustration isn’t with her, it’s how people treat her.  Most people don’t see what we see because my friend is a wheel chair user and that’s what people usually see.  Was this day going to be a different day?

 

The journey for our clothes shopping began…

The original idea was to get a bus into town so that we could enjoy a glass of wine with lunch whilst strategically planning the shop route for maximum benefit. But after letting 2 buses go because they couldn’t accommodate the wheelchair we had to think again. The train in as a direct mode of transport was out because you had to use stairs to cross the platform and the lift had been out of order for as long as anyone can remember.

The car it was then and the wine idea crossed off with most of the days transport plans. Wine for coffee, still lots to look forward too.

It wasn’t too busy in town but a lot of people would display signs of impatience at my friend’s presence in her chair. She took up extra room on the pavement or couldn’t get out of people’s way fast enough when they were texting and not looking where they were going. It took a little longer for her to get through the door of a shop or she had to use the lift. Looks of inconvenience, huffs and puffs and one person even tutted!  I’m a body language expert but I didn’t need to look hard to recognize it and I find it infuriating. Clothes shopping

 

Taking a break.

3 out of 5 shops before our coffee and cake break were accessible and we did the dressing room fittings, got the giggles and had a ball, we were finally on an easy stretch.  The second to last shop had 3 concrete steps leading up to the entrance and asked a member of staff if we could use their ramp.

The blank expression gave away the answer. Maybe you could ask your shift manager where it is or if you have one (I shrugged – I couldn’t help it).

“No, I don’t want to bother them. I’ll have a look at the back.” Came the reply as she walked off leaving me standing there wondering if she was aware of how offended I was? I figured not and did the initiative thing and asked the next member of staff If I could speak to the manager.

 

When you see things from a different angle.

The manager came within moments and was very lovely, polite and professional but no, a ramp wasn’t available because they didn’t have one apparently they’ve never really needed one?  “You’ve never has a wheelchair user come in your shop before?”  I didn’t wait for an answer before I gave them Visits Unlimited’s number and explained about the huge impact that accessibility will make on their business and reputation.

The 5th shop we got in but the inner design was chaotic, the isles were narrow because the racks of clothing created the thin isle boundaries. I admit, it’s only when we’re out together that I experience life through my friend’s eyes.

Turning her wheels slowly and carefully because if she knocked clothes off the hanger it was hard for her to put them back. Maneuvering around the maze was chaotic, there was no room for people to pass us and therefore the huffs and puffs or uncomfortable looks would be continued. These types of shops are unpleasant to go around but not only for wheelchair uses but also for people like me who don’t like chaos and sensory over load. I like space to browse, choose and wonder – but I digress.  The point is we can’t plan for any of this, we find ourselves in situations we’d like to avoid but by then it’s too late and we waste time and energy trying to navigate out of them.

By the end of the day we’d had our usual great time together which is invaluable but the reviews from us were mixed.  We would have liked to have spent more time in the main clothes shops but like most things when they are more challenging, they are tiring.  Lucy’s attitude is more than positive and reflective and she’s far removed from someone who will make a scene but in those moments when she faces constructed obstacles such as steps, steep ramps, dirty disability accessible toilets that she can’t manoeuvre her chair around easily in or people that see her and her chair as an obstruction, well that’s just hard to stomach.

 

It’s a consumers market out there yet businesses are leaving out a huge segment of the market. It doesn’t have to take thousands of pounds for people to make adaptions that make a difference and that difference is massive. Not only does it serve your business but the bottom line is that it makes a huge difference to people who experience a disability.  People like Lucy who wanted to buy a new top for her friend’s wedding, who wanted to browse the shoe isle for a new pair of heals.  Millions of pounds extra can be invested into the high street – this isn’t just about clothes shopping – this is about looking at how else we can support the high street and visitor attractions to exist.

Otherwise it’s online shopping which does little for people with disabilities to break state and get out. To experience the sensory richness of being out and about experiencing.  Let’s invest in the awareness and then invest in our businesses and attractions so that our friends and family who experience a disability can enjoy investing in themselves.

 

On a last note, check out this link from the BBC news and help us.

Days out and the magic that makes a difference.

Days out, whats important to you?

Days out make memories for a family. What is the one thing that makes a trip worthwhile? How did the day out make you feel? What do you remember most when you go home?

I know that for me it is the small things that make a difference and it is usually to do with feeling welcomed. The smile at the reception when I go in after having had a tricky journey and not being able to park near the entrance as the places were all full. Or after getting lost and the sat nav told me that “you have arrived at your destination.”  I know only too well that the country lane with a couple of houses on either side was not where I had hoped to end up.

 

That little effort goes a long way

A smile really makes a difference. To be greeted by a friendly and confident member of staff who is not put off by 6 children plus an electric wheelchair makes all the difference.

A few words like “is there anything I can do to help?” is like music to the ears. What hits me is that this does not happen enough. In fact as it is quite rare it is actually not just music to my ears but a symphony playing at the Royal Albert Hall.   Sometimes the shock of someone asking me takes me aback and I need a few minutes to compose myself to answer. I could say “oh no I am fine thanks” as that is rather British but actually instead I say “oh thank you, that is great. Not at the moment but I will get back to you if I do!” In return I give the person a big smile.  They smile back and although the whole interaction only took less than 30 seconds it has given me a spark, some zest, a new lease of life that helps makes the trip now worthwhile and sets me in the right frame of mind for a memorable day out.

 

Supporting people to have memorable days out.

It takes confidence to approach an individual who has a disability, especially if there is a sensory loss involved. Our approach, our facial expressions, tones of voice and words we use are important in supporting someone to feel respected, welcomed and heard.

Our body language specialist Karen Hickton has listed below some useful techniques to use which are easy to learn and very easy to apply. Remember that days out for some people take extra effort, extra planning, extra skills, extra management so if you go that extra mile you can diffuse some of that stress very quickly.

Our non verbal language is speaking all the time. It is conveying in actions our thoughts at that time. Sometimes these messages can be confusing, we can be unclear with our intentions and our actions can be misinterpreted.

Below I have written ten easy to use but key actions that can help you approach with open professionalism. Be warm and friendly from the moment you approach to closing the conversation down. If your intention is to create and leave a great lasting impression then you will achieve this, and make a huge difference.

 

Make those days out welcoming…

  • When approaching a person who is disabled or their family, friends or carers; approach them with a warm, soft and friendly face. A smile helps them feel safer and more relaxed and this takes only a second of your time. This may sound like an obvious one but I have recently experienced a number of occasions where this hasn’t happened and I have personally felt un welcomed. Research shows that we remember someone more if they smile at us because of how it makes us feel.
  • Eye contact is very important even if the individual doesn’t or can not return this connecting gesture. Eye contact with the family or those with them, is also important and very valuable in building a brief but helpful relationship.                      *Please be aware of cultural sensitivities here.
  • Keep your voice tone mid range if possible, speak to the individual with the disability in a friendly and calm tone not a high pitched one. Be clear with your words and be direct to the person you are talking too. “Hi, is there anything I can do to help?” Keep the warmth in your words and your eye contact gentle, don’t talk and scan the environment at the same time. This action can be an unconscious one if we become uncomfortable with a situation and we don’t want to be in it. We can disengage from the other person without thinking, this is something they will pick up on so be aware of avoiding this.
  •  Don’t talk over the person who has the disability. A disability does not necessarily mean they are unable to make informed choices and speak for themselves. Number one rule…don’t make assumptions.
  • Keep your body language open and facing the people you are talking to, if your feet are going one way and your upper body another, this looks like you’re only half present and you want to be gone.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask (appropriate) questions where the answers will help you assist someone. Ask them confidently and if you come across a question you don’t know how to answer, take it to a colleague.
  • Have at hand knowledge of your policies or extra support / facilities that your company or visitor centre / attraction has.   Do you provide facilities that makes things easier then please do share them with clear instruction or directions.
  • If you don’t understand something that is being said by an individual confidently ask them to repeat it, write it down or point it out. Is the  environment very noisy and overcrowded? Is communication difficult? Consider inviting them to a quieter place where you can communicate clearer.
  • End on a positive note such as; “enjoy the rest of your day” or “If there’s anything else we can help you with just find one of us.”

There’s nothing in that list you probably didn’t already know because this is baseline customer service but many people who live with a disability or families and carers rarely take for granted someone taking the initiative to come over and offer their support.

 

Be genuine, be respectful, be yourself.

 

Do Something Different in Yorkshire

Do Something Different Survey Results

Time flies when the sun is out!  Back in June we launched the ‘Do Something Different’ project which is setting up a web based resource aimed at families with children and young people with a wide range of disabilities, plus disabled people and their carers/Personal Assistants.   The resource will feature a selection of venues, attractions, parks, walks, short breaks and will be for anyone who is looking for suggestions on interesting and varied days out in the Yorkshire and Humber area.

To do this we asked you to fill in our survey or comment on our face book groups ‘Visits Unlimited’ and ‘Visits Unlimited Days out in Yorkshire’.

Do Something Different Survey Summary

The results were really encouraging, over 60 people entered the survey and over 40 different places were suggested.  It was lovely to see the wide range of venues and activities that people visit, and we hope that this will help encourage others to try and do something different!

The places listed in the survey were numerous here are some you know and hopefully a few new ideas:  Eureka; Flamingo Land; The Yorkshire Wild Life Park; Castle Howard; The Yorkshire Sculpture Park; The seaside; The South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum; The Cow and Calf; Ponderosa Farm.

We asked for diverse ideas and that is what we got!  Most people said they chose their favourite place because of the accessible activities and venue (85%) and the friendly/ helpful staff and volunteers, (64%).

Here are some of the reasons people recommended their favourite place:

  • Diggerland: The staff have a real can do attitude and help kids with disabilities push their own boundaries.
  • Flamigo Land:  My son being allowed to be lifted on rides as most parks insist you have to be able to stand and get on and off rides.  If your child is daredevil like mine then this great as they can actually enjoy the rides
  • Yorkshire Sculpture Park:  Cheap day out if you have a Max card. Food’s nice but you can take a picnic to save money.
  • Wentworth Gardens: The farm is accessible to disabled people, the staff are lovely, it’s not expensive and it’s not too big. Even the shop has reasonable priced toys
  • Yorkshire Wildlife Park:   Staff are very friendly and empathetic to the needs of families with children with additional needs and its easy to get around with or without a wheelchair. There is also plenty of seating in case they get tired partway round.
  • Scarborough:  Accessible with buses and lift to main town in Scarborough.

We asked how these venues could be improved and the most frequent answer was better/ more accessible toilets, some felt the staff could be more aware and more friendly.  Parking and recognition of need for parking close to the venues was also a problem.

These points are invaluable to others as it is first hand experience.  It is this information that will make the Do Something Different Resource of real value.

The project doesn’t end here.  We are now looking at the information available on the website and will then be approaching all of the places mentioned in the survey to see how, using your feed back we can make them more accessible.  We want to offer training and support to enable them to implement the ideas and changes recommended by you.

Its not too late to get involved.  We will be updating you on the face book pages and asking for more information on some of the places mentioned, this resource needs to be current and reliable so in turn we will be relying on you!

Finally a huge thank you to everyone who completed the survey and gave us feedback.  We look forward to continuing this dialogue until we have ‘Visits Unlimited’ across the country.

Also a special thanks to Samantha, Sara and Leanne for the lovely photos.

Making Hebden Bridge into an Accessible Destination

Creating an accessible destination.

When you have a beautiful and sensory rich town like Hebden Bridge we want people to come and experience it. We know that when people enjoy it they then share it.  It isn’t easy for everyone and Visits Unlimited have been invited to support the local community and business to make Hebden Bridge a more accessible destination. We want to make Hebden Bridge an even greater experience for everyone because we know Hebden Bridge cares.

Improving accessibility improves the economy.

Saturday 3rd September was the launch of our new project #AccessibleHebden at the Hebden Bridge Town Hall.  We are truly delighted to be working in close partnership with the ‘Hebden Bridge Partnership’ and Calderdale Community Foundation. We will be working together over the next 6 months to help make Hebden Bridge an attraction for everyone to enjoy.

As a national Community Interest Company we have delivered both disability awareness and customer service training across the country for a number of years to many small businesses, venues, attractions, museums and heritage sites within the tourism sector.

We know that supporting a venue to become accessible to a wide range of impairments is much more than doorways and ramps.  It is about a positive can-do attitude; finding solutions to participation and inclusion; and imbedding a warm welcome approach throughout the organisation, its staff and volunteers.

 

What are the benefits of becoming a more Accessible Destination

More than one in six people in England and Wales having an ‘activity limiting’ health problem or disability. British and international visitors from this market segment currently spend over £3 billion on overnight tourism trips in England each year and UK disabled people spend up to £12bn on trips out this is especially relevant for businesses. In short, improving your accessibility could improve your business. Being an Accessible Destination will raise the profile of Hebden Bridge through social media and will really put you on the map of places that are going that are going that extra mile and are welcoming to people with a range of impairments.

Long term vision

It also goes beyond being good for business. It supports your own members of staff/volunteers who may themselves have a disability or one of their friends or family. The Hebden Bridge and Calder Valley community will hugely benefit, as will the elderly and families with buggies chance we have placed a community focus on this project.

What will businesses gain?

There are three aspects all businesses need to address to provide access for all:

  • Customer service and training – being disability aware with the right attitude and confidence to serve all customers
  • Information and marketing – providing detailed information on the accessibility of your facilities and services and making this information easy to find
  • Physical facilities – making reasonable adjustments to buildings and facilities so they are easy for everyone to enter and move around

 

The cost of becoming an Accessible Destination

It may be surprising to know that some of challenges can be resolved in a low cost and creative way and this we have great experience with.

Each organisation will be able to apply for a grant of around £2000 to help with some of their challenges around meeting the needs of not only disabled tourists but also their families, their friends and of course local disabled people.  The results of creating these changes will affect the whole community and the results can only be beneficial.

Do you want your local business to support your town to be an Accessible Destination?

If the answer is yes then please contact myself; Katie Clarke by email; Katie@visitsunlimited.org.uk for a copy of the expression of interest for the FREE Access Audit.

Or you can pick up a hard copy at the Watermark or the Town Hall in Hebden Bridge and return it there or post it to:

Katie Clarke

Visits Unlimited

15 Savile Park Gardens

Halifax

HX1 2XL

Our auditor Chris Cammiss will be meeting many people on his travels whilst doing our Access Audits. He will become a familiar face in the community.         Chris is a very experienced auditor and will offer practical and reasonable recommendations for you.

Calderdale Community Foundation will administer the grants and their aim is to make this as easy as possible. What this means is there are no long-winded forms to fill consequently this making it an easy process.  Businesses and organisations can give a phone call to the Foundation and someone will help with the process.

 

Thank you

We are pleased to give something back to the Hebden Bridge community. Each member of our team were involved in supporting friends and the community during the boxing day floods 2015.

We love the motto of the community and the Watermark Fund. We are very proud to be working with so many good people including the new Disability Access Reference Group, Hebden Royd Town Council’s Mayor Tony Hodgins, the Neighbourhood Planning Committee, and businesses, organisations, venues and local people.

Accessible venues to visit and places to stay. The VisitEngland Access for All Award Winners.

We love this downloadable resource hot off the press from Visit England https://www.visitengland.com/sites/default/files/downloads/accessawards2016_brochure.pdf

It makes things so much easier to have accessible venues to visit and places to stay in one place rather than having to trawl through the internet and spend hours planning a trip.   I can honestly say that it takes us many hours and sometimes weeks to organise a trip away with our family when we have to take into consideration our daughter’s complex access needs.   Things have definitely improved in recent years and there are some really excellent websites now that we are able to go to that include:

https://www.euansguide.com/

https://accomable.com/

www.disabledgo.com/

http://www.attitudeiseverything.org.uk/

https://www.tourismforall.org.uk/

http://www.accessiblederbyshire.org/

http://www.accessiblecountryside.org.uk/

plus of course some excellent specialist travel companies.

If you have any good links and contacts that you use please do let us know as we are working on a list for families to download from our website.

After the floods in Hebden Bridge we are really pleased to be working on a new project in the Calder Valley.

We will be working with the Hebden Bridge Partnership and Calderdale Community Foundation over the next few months and helping increase tourism to this beautiful town whilst at the same time improving accessibility.

Chris our access auditor describes the project: “Much of my regular work involves intensive study of a specific site. The prospect here of working with many people at a multitude of different locations is very exciting. I’m keen to help local businesses improve their accessibility in all sorts of ways, and to focus their energy so Hebden Bridge becomes a beacon of best practice in accessibility.

I’m hoping to work with as many local disabled people as possible so we can set in motion permanent changes in attitude which will mean Hebden will continue to progress long after the project has ended.

As a long-term permanent wheelchair-user, I’ve gained lots of personal experience of access issues as a very active tourist both by myself and with my large family, so this will be an excellent opportunity to pass on much of what I’ve learned.

Disabled people form a large percentage of the population – around 15%. With this population ageing the figure will rise. News spreads faster than ever these days so successful outings to welcoming, accessible venues will soon attract more and more visitors. I really want to see Hebden Bridge benefit here, rewarding their positive attitude in approaching Visits Unlimited.”

How to Plan an Accessible Day Out

There are some great travel writers around inspiring us with their tales of exploring different places across the globe and getting us to believe that anything is really and truly possible.

I recently came across Emma’s blogs and thought we would share one of her excellent posts on planning an accessible day out.  I am sure many of you will relate to her post.

Emma is a lifestyle, travel and disability blogger who shares her experiences living with Muscular Dystrophy on www.simplyemma.co.uk. While travelling to faraway places can be exciting, travel can also be local and just as thrilling. The key to a great accessible day out is all about information, planning and having well trained staff with disability awareness. Emma shares her top tips on how to plan an accessible day out from a wheelchair user’s perspective.

http://www.simplyemma.co.uk/how-to-plan-an-accessible-day-out/

Big thanks to Emma for giving us permission to use her blog.

News from the Accessible Tourism Field

News and updates from our colleagues in the Accessible Tourism field:

 We would like to thank our friends at ADiAccess for their article and an update on the Purple Pound:

At ADi Access we have a bit of a bee in our bonnet about changing the perception that providing proper ‘Access’ for millions of people in the UK will somehow be costly and a waste of time for the businesses involved.

Although we are focused primarily on those with a sight impairment we are regularly reminded that most people just don’t think about the obvious when it comes to adequately catering for all.

In fact, it’s that common that we have a Pinterest board dedicated to ‘You only had one job’ which shows an ever increasing number of images that show some, frankly, idiotic choices made by people when designing buildings and facilities for disabled access.

 

But why does it happen?

Is it just carelessness?

Maybe a ‘not my job’ attitude?

We can’t answer that question but we think we can answer this one.

 

When you think of access to public facilities you might be forgiven for thinking “Well who would benefit from this?”

 

We get this a lot and the answer is simple, “Everyone who provides publicly accessible facilities”, the list is probably longer than we can imagine, needless to say you could probably think of a few…

Our company is based in Cornwall so with tourism such a large part of our economy we thought we’d do a bit of research and see what, if anything, Cornish tourist businesses might be missing by only ticking the ‘disabled access’ box.

That’s when we unearthed these amazing facts and decided to put them all together into one post about the ‘Purple Pound’.   See it and believe it!

Author: Spencer Hassell – Operations Director – ADi Access

Accessible Communication

How accessible communication can make a huge difference.

When we were last at The Deep in Hull the staff put together their advice on Do’s and Don’ts.  The energy behind making this list was brilliant because we saw first hand the influence of our training.

This blog post is dedicated the their work so here it is.

Do’s and Don’ts – Our Top Tips in communicating with visitors with a range of needs.

Do’s

  • Talk to the person not the carer
  • Be approachable
  • Let the visitor know you are there if they need anything (but without being condescending)
  • Be aware but not imposing
  • We aware of your wording – sensitive phrasing
  • Be polite and friendly
  • Re-phrase the information if the visitor does not fully understand rather than repeat several times
  • Be patient as some people may take longer than others to respond/understand/interact/take in information
  • Use discretion and best judgement when issuing carers tickets
  • Explain things clearly but not patronising
  • Use a soft tone especially if things are escalating
  • Ask people if they need help – at an appropriate time
  • Look at the individual not the carer
  • Body language is important – open hands, eye contact, facing forward
  • Be respectful
  • Be open minded
  • Listen
  • Be nice!
  • Be human
  • Be compassionate
  • Find someone who can help if you feel in an uncomfortable position or don’t know the answer
  • If someone rings and they are getting frustrated say you will ring them back
  • Say clearly “this is what is happening and this is what I a going to do”
  • If you are feeling uncomfortable breathe through your nose to relax
  • Lower your shoulders and have a good posture when speaking to people
  • Active listening and three nods to show you are there for the person
  • Build relationships
  • Be aware that sometimes if needs are not met anxiety will rise
  • On the phone ask for their contact details – phone number and email incase you need to contact them again for any reason
  • Ask on the phone “can I call you back” if you need to gather more information rather than keep them hanging on
  • Ask “what can I do”.
  • If a child is becoming challenging ask if parent if they would like a quiet place
  • Speak to the mum if there is a challenging situation and ask if she needs any support or is there anything you can do
  • Ask if they are ok.

 

Don’ts

  • Just talk to the carer
  • Patronise
  • Invade personal space/touch their mobility aids etc
  • Rush them or show impatience
  • Presume they need your assistance without asking
  • Single them out in a crowd
  • Shout/raise tone/speak slowly
  • Use derogatory phrases
  • Stereotype
  • Patronise
  • Speak to disabled people like children
  • Automatically assue carers ticket is required
  • Treat different disabilities as the same
  • Make assumptions

New resource for venues – working with families with autism

New resource for venues – working with families with autism

We have long been passionate about the work that Kids in Museums do and so are delighted that they have produced a new resource. We have already used it in one of our training sessions and staff have found it really helpful. We hope you do too.

Museums are for everyone and Kids in Museums is an organisation working extremely hard to promote inclusion and accessibility.

We are really impressed by this new resource from Kids in Museums. They have put together this information to to help museums, galleries and other cultural organisations better welcome families and young people with autism. Whether your venue or attraction is just starting to investigate how to be more welcoming to those with the condition, or are looking at ways to improve what your organisation can offer children, young people and families, this new resource can help you on your way.

 

Families with autism support.

This new resource was written in collaboration with Ambitious about Autism and Claire Madge of Tincture of Museum.

First Things First

Sometimes, knowing where to begin is the most difficult step, and working to become more inclusive of autistic visitors can sound like a mammoth task. It doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul of what you do already, it’s OK to start small. The new resource contains advice on where to begin, and inspiration on how to go further.

The Visit

Visiting a museum can be a daunting thought to families with an autistic member, but it needn’t be, museums are treasure troves of specialist knowledge and can be a holy grail for those on the spectrum that have a passionate interest in a subject. There are some very simple things that can easily be put in place which can make things simpler for a family to visit, and they benefit all visitors, not just those with autism.

What is Autism?

Autism can be a challenging subject to tackle, but there are simple ways and means to get to know the condition better. Kids in Museum’s new resource points to organisations that exist to raise awareness and understanding about autism as well as exciting examples of things museums are already offering autistic visitors. As with everything Kids in Museums does, we listen to people, and we are sharing their stories to help museums get to know and better welcome families and young people with autism.