Accessibility was a major issue during my stay at Lumley Castle.

My latest excursion was to the far North – historic Durham, Lumley Castle to be precise, for the Visit Durham Autumn Conference.

Accessibility was a major issue during my stay at Lumley Castle.

I’d agreed to go to represent all our groups and ended up presenting, much to my surprise!

Very interesting event almost scuppered by a mix-up on my arrival the night before.

We’d booked a room for the night before (we have documentary proof!), but when I arrived – no booking to be found. No booking for any accessible room under any name at all!

Turned out, after a frantic half-hour. That there was a booking for me on the day of the conference – I’d been put on the wrong page!.

After a quick check by the cleaning staff, I was in!

But into what? A long portable ramp was deployed to overcome two steps on entry to the corridor. This had to be left in place for my whole 24-hour stay, although the entrance led to five other bookable rooms.

I was then shown into a comfortably large room and left to explore.

It was listed as an accessible room on the website but after a thorough look around I could only find one vertical grab rail in the shower pod which constituted any form of aid – no rails around the toilet, no bath, no accessible shower, no shower seat, in fact no room to turn around in the bathroom!

Watch this space!

Luckily, the Conference was great – string of interesting talks and presentations, lots of lovely people to meet.

An image of five people in front of a large fireplace. Chris is in the centre.
An image of five people in front of a large fireplace. Chris is in the centre.

 

My talk went down well I think. In it I had listed several places I’d audited in Durham, including Raby Castle, which I luckily gave a glowing report. As I finished, a smiling gentleman came up to me and shook my hand, introducing himself as the interim Chair of Visit Durham. Turned out he was the CEO of Raby! I’ve now got an invitation to return!

Afterwards, I bought some “Coals from Newcastle” from the display of local trades held next door. Black honeycomb as you ask. Then headed home in time for dinner.

Next trip – UK Tourism in exotic Leeds next week!

Intrepid Chris

Read more about the Autumn Conference 2023 Here

 

Patient with ALS in Australia first person to tweet using direct thought via brain-computer interface

ALS Patient Tweets “Hello, World!” Using Brain Implant

Philip O’Keefe, an Australian man with ALS, has become the first person to tweet using only his thoughts.

O’Keefe received an endovascular Stentrode brain computer interface (BCI) in April 2020, which allows him to control digital devices with his mind.

In a tweet on December 25, 2022, O’Keefe wrote, “hello, world!” He used the hashtag #HelloWorldBCI to share his experience with the world and offer inspiration for the future.

O’Keefe’s tweet is a significant milestone for the field of BCI research. It shows that BCIs have the potential to restore independence and communication for people with ALS and other paralyzing conditions.

How does the Stentrode BCI work?

The Stentrode BCI is implanted in the brain through the jugular vein. It contains a small chip that records electrical signals from the brain. These signals are then sent to a computer, which converts them into commands that can be used to control digital devices.

The Stentrode BCI is designed to be user-friendly and dependable. Patients can learn to use it in a matter of weeks.

What are the benefits of the Stentrode BCI?

The Stentrode BCI can help people with ALS to regain a degree of independence. They can use it to control their computers, phones, and other devices. They can also use it to communicate with their loved ones.

The Stentrode BCI could also be used to help people with other paralyzing conditions, such as spinal cord injury and stroke.

What are the limitations of the Stentrode BCI?

The Stentrode BCI is still in its early stages of development. It is not yet clear how long it will last or how effective it will be in the long term.

The Stentrode BCI is also not a cure for ALS. It cannot stop the progression of the disease.

What is the future of BCI research?

BCI research is rapidly advancing. Scientists are working on developing BCIs that are more powerful, more user-friendly, and more durable.

BCIs have the potential to revolutionize the way we treat a wide range of neurological conditions. They could help people with ALS, spinal cord injury, stroke, and other paralyzing conditions to regain their independence and quality of life.

More information on BusinessWire here.

Chris has been busy working with the team developing plans for the projected Station to be built at Elland

Improving Accessibility Through Collaboration

As you know, I’ve always been passionate about influencing local planning decisions. Whether it’s improving the roads, opening a new building, or changing land use, I always have an opinion – I’m a Yorkshireman after all! I believe my knowledge and lived experience with disability are valuable contributions, but is simply voicing complaints from the sidelines truly effective?

Anyone can shout, “That will never work!” or “You can’t be serious!” It might feel satisfying in the moment, but does it really make a difference? So, what happens when someone actually says, “Alright, put your money where your mouth is. Work with us and tell us where we’re going wrong”?

Believe me, it’s incredibly satisfying.

Accessibility A train comes into the station at Elland
A train comes into the station at Elland

From Outsider to Insider

I was recently invited to work with the team developing plans for a new station in Elland, alongside accessibility improvements in the surrounding area. It was a truly positive experience. I was listened to, included in every decision, and made to feel like a valued member of the team.

This experience opened my eyes to the immense amount of research that goes into such planning, and the delicate balancing act required for many decisions. From my perspective, I might propose a specific solution based on my extensive knowledge of my disability and the needs of others. The team, while familiar with some accessibility concerns, also has to consider costs, complex engineering requirements, underlying building constraints shaped by the landscape, and local pressures from residents, businesses, hospitals, schools, and so on.

Aerial artists impression of the proposed station at Elland. Trees are in the background with bridges over two rivers in the foreground
Aerial artists’ impression of the proposed station at Elland. Trees are in the background with bridges over two rivers in the foreground

The Complexity of Seemingly Simple Solutions

Luckily, my background in maths allows me to understand the detailed architects’ and engineers’ plans. Even seemingly simple constructions like a public shelter on a platform or a ramp up to a bridge involve immense complexity.

Learning and Earning Respect

Through this collaboration, I’m gaining valuable insight into the planning process. While my core principles of improving accessibility remain unchanged, I’ve gained immense respect for the designers, architects, and engineers who strive to follow guidelines and regulations while providing what the public wants, all within budget constraints.

Aerial artists impression of the West Vale Bridge at Elland. Trees are in the background with bridges over a river on the left
Aerial artists impression of the West Vale Bridge at Elland. Trees are in the background with bridges over a river on the left

Accessibility Building Bridges, Not Walls

Hopefully, I’m also making a positive impact on the team. By working together, we can break down barriers, create new connections and priorities, and even change long-held perspectives on accessibility.

Ultimately, as in every aspect of life, even the most straightforward-looking situations involve compromise. But through collaboration, we can achieve the best possible outcome for everyone.

Until next time, keep safe,

Chris

Up-to-date information about the Elland Train Station Click Here

Information about joining ACDAF Here

Extreme Auditing (working through the Pandemic)

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

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

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

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

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

Read More

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.

Do Something Different, Update

Do something Different Survey closes on 4 September so please let us know about the places you have visitied in Yorkshire or Humberside, and want to recommend to others.

We have had fantastic suggestions from walks in the countryside, parks and pools to short breaks and train journeys. It doesnt matter if you recommend the same place, it just means it must be good so please fill in our survey.

We want to make days out easier and provide people with inspirational ideas that dont need to cost alot, but can be enjoyed by the whole family because thats the important part.

I forgot to mention that we are offering the chance to win one of three family days out if you complete the survey and entre the prize draw. Go on you could be a winner.
Thank you, Audrey

Click Here to go to the survey

Service with a smile is key for great service.

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?

Katie Clark shares her thoughts.

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 to 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” and I knew only too well that the country lane with a couple of houses on either side was not where I had hoped to end up.

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.

Brighton Centre – Winning performances on and off stage!

Great to hear of this work and happy to share this article from Suzanne Mantell, Visitor Services Manager at the Brighton Centre.

Set in the historic and vibrant city of Brighton & Hove, The Brighton Centre is one of the largest conference & entertainment centres in the South East of England, with a capacity of up to 5,500. The venue has recently been awarded ‘gold status’ for its commitment to Deaf and disabled music fans, following recognition by Attitude is Everything – the charity that campaigns on behalf of disabled audiences and operates a nationwide Charter of Best Practice.

To qualify for Charter status, live music venues and festivals must demonstrate exemplary access provision and an on-going commitment to improving accessibility – working with Attitude is Everything to go beyond the legal obligations set out in the Equality Act, to implement best practice, and to provide a fair and equal service to their Deaf and disabled customers.

Brighton Centre was specifically recognised by Attitude is Everything for:
• Their long term commitment to accessibility
• Innovative provision of additional viewing platform spaces
• Installation of a Changing Places toilet
• Working with local disability organisations as partners in growing access provision

The venue is particularly pleased about the addition of the Changing Places toilet, which is not just for the use of customers at the venue, but can be used by anyone who needs it when their Box Office is open (Monday to Saturday 10am-4pm).

CP2 CP1

Alongside the work with Attitude is Everything, the Brighton Centre also worked with VisitEngland and took part in their recent Access for All project, whose aims were to improve accessibility for all. Accessibility training for staff was a key element of this project, a large part of which was delivered by Visits Unlimited to more than 50 businesses from seven destinations in England. Staff at the Brighton Centre very much valued the training, which was delivered in a thought provoking yet still fun way, and which encouraged the staff who attended to aim for even higher standards in their plans to improve access at the venue.

More information about accessibility in Brighton & Hove is available from http://www.visitbrighton.com/plan-your-visit/accessibility

‘Customer Service For All’ – Visits Unlimited training offer.

This time of year is pretty hectic for management teams and training co-ordinators at heritage sites and attractions as new starters in customer facing roles commence induction and settle in.

Visits Unlimited are keen to support your volunteers and visitor experience managers in delivering outstanding customer service to all visitors at your attraction including those with specific needs.

Check out our accredited and assessment ready training workshops for an inspiring face-to-face training experience at your venue with our passionate, qualified and experienced trainers.

Get in touch by email or our contact form in February and book us now for preferential rates and payment terms.

A warm welcome:  Annie Riley at The Deep, Hull.

 

Visits Unlimited January Training Offer!

Now is the critical time for organisations in the UK tourism industry to plan their employee training schedule for 2016.  If planning your training calendar now you may be considering questions like:

1)  We need to consider all customers including those with specific needs,

2)  We must ensure all our personnel meet  legislative duty within the Equality Act 2010,

3)  Will our volunteers be confident in communicating with difficult clients and managing difficult service scenarios and the range of service expectations our organisation demands?

4)  Our training budget must be allocated to high quality, measurable training that has long term value.

January Offer

Visits Unlimited are delighted to be able to offer a bespoke range of Customer Service courses for management, staff and volunteers within a compelling January offer.

All courses and workshop sessions map to the nationally recognised Level 2 Extended Award in the Principles of Customer Service in Hospitality, Leisure, Travel and Tourism.  Your staff can progress to formal qualification through our training – genuine CPD value.

  • All courses booked in January will receive a 40% discount on our standard rates.  That equates to £35.00 per delegate typically.
  • Our discounted January rate is £600 plus travel for the day (9.30am to 4.30pm) for up to 20 people.
  • Book us for a training course now and you can pay for it in April.

We are happy to train staff from multiple sites to share costs – upto 35 people for £1000 including travel expenses for a full day’s training session at a location of your choosing.

Added value!

We provide all learning resources within the fee.

Delegates booking in January will receive complimentary subscription to our forum and resource portal from April 2016 to April  2o17!  You can utilise our latest resources all year round.

Free promotion!  We’ll share your training achievements across our extensive partnership network within the industry and the public.

 

 

Expert Chris joins team Visits Unlimited

We are delighted to welcome Chris to the team.

Chris Cammiss B SC (Hons) Physics. PGCE: Access Auditor/Associate Consultant Trainer


I’m a full-time wheelchair user, having contracted polio as a child. I have lived the disabled life since the age of seven, worked all my life, been married and brought up my children. My work is viewed from the perspective of a wheelchair user.

After graduating from Manchester University and following the hippy trail across America for a year, I decided to train as a secondary school teacher. There followed a long, rewarding career as a Maths and Sciences teacher, Head of Department, in a range of inner-city state comprehensives. I had to take early retirement following an operation to reconstruct my right shoulder and subsequent rehabilitation, all caused by too many years of physical abuse playing wheelchair basketball (aggressively) and running the occasional marathon. I then worked as a long-term volunteer at the Manchester Commonwealth Games 2002 where I found a niche advising on disabled access at the venues and on general language/behaviour around disabled athletes and visitors.

For the last few years I have worked for Disabled Living, a long-established Manchester charity. Here I deliver well-received courses in Disability Awareness/Equality which takes me all over the UK. I conduct Access Audits up to any degree of complexity (NRAC) as requested by the client. I give specialist advice on any disability related issues.

Outside work my passions are travel (USA, Europe, NZ, Cuba, Peru, Singapore HK…), live sport (rugby, football, basketball …) and live music (the louder and darker the better …). I write articles for Rough Guides and generally like to involve myself in any disabled issue of the day.

I’m delighted to work with the team at Visits Unlimited.

The Deep making waves for all visitors.

I’ve been delighted to work with Louise Kirby, Operations and Personnel Manager and Zoe Montgomerie, Marketing Officer of The Deep in Hull.

We worked together on two aspects specifically.  Firstly to review and develop their Access Statement document and then address website usability for disabled visitors – the first ‘point of service’ for visitors on the planning cycle leading to their visit.

The Deep understand the benefits a day out makes to a family or travelling party that includes a disabled member in that travelling group.  It’s not just a moral obligation to make accessibility central to any marketing and operational strategic plan, it makes total sense to use ‘accessibility’ as a vehicle to drive forward superior customer service across the board.

So why bother putting time and effort into developing an access statement?  It’s pretty frustrating when I see access statements that don’t reflect the services offered at a venue.  Imagine a retailer having no product in the window display?  So we worked on addressing layout, content and usability with the disabled visitor in mind.

Now potential and repeat disabled visitors have not only great facilities and service provision but relevant and easy to find information when researching this terrific attraction.  As a parent carer myself, I can’t wait to visit now.  And thanks to the recent work we’ve completed it won’t feel like I’m ‘taking the plunge’ when I  visit The Deep!

The Deep is delighted to have had the chance to work with Visits Unlimited to update the access information available about our attraction, products and services. Spurred on by an excellent practical and insightful presentation by Visits Unlimited at VisitEngland’s Purple Pound conference, The Deep set out to review how its Access Statement could better serve our customers. Visits Unlimited helped to focus our vision and provided us with real feedback in a positive way; they clearly share our desire to improve accessibility within the tourism industry. They make the most of their specialist knowledge alongside appreciating the needs of the operator.
Louise Kirby, Operations & Personnel Manager, The Deep

 

Big week for Matt contributing at the School of Social Entrepreneur programme

Director Matt has been selected to join the School of Social Entrepreneur Programme after  gruelling shortlisting process including  Dragons Den style pitch in July.

Now on the programme, Matt is excited looking forward to working with other social entrepreneurs on the programme commencing tomorrow in Liverpool and over the course of the year.

https://www.the-sse.org/about-school-for-social-entrepreneurs/

Acclaim for Visit England “Access For All’ Training Programme.

The access training element of VisitEngland’s project ‘Access For All’ (co-funded by the European Commission) is now reaching conclusion.  Access Unlimited, the collaborative partners of the face-to-face training element of the programme made up of Visits Unlimited, The Accessible Training Company and Access Solutions, are on the last leg of their England tour with six of the seven regions involved in the project now trained.

Katie Clarke of Visits Unlimited has led the training and has toured Lincoln, Birmingham, Nottingham, the Peak District, Brighton and yesterday, Kent.  Businesses from hotels, Premier League football clubs,  theatres and restaurants all came together to form regional ‘Accessible Destinations’ with the common aim to work together in understanding accessible tourism and becoming more accessible and appealing to all visitors.

Northumberland businesses make up the seventh ‘Accessible Destination’ to receive this training on the 10th June.  Katie and Matt Riley will be delivering this final session and concluding this phase of the project.

A snapshot of feedback in Kent shows the power of face-to-face disability awareness training led by the people who live with or have a disability.

“The strongest point of the training was the personal insight and the stories.”

“ l learned today how important it is to make things as easy as possible for disabled visitors and their families.”

“The most important thing I have taken away with me today is to ask “What can I do for you?”

“Learning from first-hand experience is invaluable. Now I really, really understand that your experience starts way before you even get here.”

“Our welcoming is going to be even more welcoming.”

“I now have the confidence to ask the person what their access needs are and if there is anything I can do to meet those needs.”

“I am definitely going to make sure that we improve our website and I have learned today how important the pre-planning and information is.”

“Don’t pigeon-hole people. Ask the local community what it is they want.”

“ Now we have a greater understanding of what it takes to go through each day. It is my responsibility to make sure that the trip goes as good as it possibly can and is as relaxing and stress free as possible.

“I am going to make sure that our website is much more family-friendly with more pictures and imagery, better worded and more appealing.”

“I learned today that we are only a small part of the whole visitor experience and that the very tiny details are the things that can make a big difference.”

“You don’t need to spend a lot of money – it is much more than putting a lift in. It doesn’t have to be a huge outlay, increasing business and revenue can be achieved with a very small investment.”

The training modules covered in the one-day course was jam-packed with the latest information on Accessible Tourism, legislation found with the Equality Act 2010, customer service tips and action planning support – all delivered by inspirational trainers with personal insight and expertise on the subject.

Well done to The Accessible Training Company and Access Solutions for coming together with the team at Visits Unlimited and putting together an excellent course for the programme.

Huge thanks to Ross Caladine and Hannah at VisitEngland, Brian Seaman for all the prior work including access statement audits of the businesses signed up, each of the seven ‘Destination lead’ project managers and the businesses that have taken part.

Well done to Katie also.  You will be able to reacquaint with your family again after the final session!

Focus on accessibility.

Visit Lincoln Businesses Inspired!

 

Thank you Katie & Angie so much for the session on Friday. I was really inspired by the day & thought you delivered the session in a great way – it had impact, was memorable and also really practical!

I have already reflected many times on the content & your stories – and what we can do in Lincoln to ensure we are supporting families like yours who just want a great day out/holiday.

On behalf of Visit Lincoln & all of our partner businesses – a huge thank you.

Emma Tatlow, Visit Lincoln Partnership Manager.

Marketing Birmingham Taking the Lead in Accessible Tourism

Becky Frall, Policy and Development Manager for Marketing Birmingham attended our recent ‘Access For All’ training day and has fed back to us.

“I will let fellow destination practitioners and hospitality businesses know that the understanding resulting from this training will generate a desire to implement practical solutions to access needs and empower all staff to attend with kindness and courtesy to the inclusion of disabled visitors, resulting in the very apex of quality in customer service. Getting this right will generate a loyal repeat market and strong word of mouth recommendations, impacting positively on their bottom line. I will highly recommend your training services to our network in the city, and to fellow destination managers.  Thank you so much for such a well-rounded, enjoyable and enlightening day.  I look forward to seeing you and Matt again.”

We look forward to meeting up soon, Becky!

Birmingham Venues Tackling Accessibility.

A fantastic response from delegates attending our ‘Access for All’ Visit England training programme yesterday held at Le Tour Hotel, central Birmingham.  Representatives attending were:

Marketing Birmingham, Le Tour Hotel, Aston Villa Tours, Selfridges, Think Tank Science Museum, Alfie Birds and Birmingham Hippodrome.  They all collaborated enthusiastically, working towards offering truly accessible and amazing experiences for disabled and non-disabled visitors to their venues.

 

Visits Unlimited Joined Up Thinking.

 

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Visits Unlimited were delighted to meet with Access Champ’s Arnold Ferrell this week.  Sharing ideas and knowledge is the key to progress.

The accessible tourism market is growing and changing at great pace. It’s essential to work collaboratively with partners to create the most robust business model and offer great services that will stand the test of change and meet the needs of the customers we serve.