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.

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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.