Wheelchairs and mud – not a marriage made in heaven!

Using a manual chair means the wheels are narrow so they sink easily. Having absorbed that fact early on I don’t usually make mistakes nowadays.

On outdoor audits I try for dry days; I’ll look for ruts and footprints in the dry mud and work out how bad it would be on a wet day. Sounds like I know what I’m doing but I can still be caught out.

I once arrived for an official conference during my early days working in Calderdale – it was very wet, but I thought the car park would be tarmaced. Wrong!

I thought there would be empty designated parking spaces at the entrance. Wrong!

I ended up parking in the mud at the back of the car park, getting out in the mud, pushing through the mud to the entrance, and looking and feeling like a dirty drowned rat when I eventually got inside.

Not the best start to the afternoon!

My worst mud experiences by far came as a parent, taking my rugby fanatic son to junior rugby matches and training. From Under 9’s to Under16’s, (that’s eight seasons – yes, eight) winter Sundays had to include a trip to our local club or to a match elsewhere.

Yes, there was excitement! Yes, there was banter! Yes, there were bacon sandwiches! And yes, there was mud, glorious mud!

Being a junior team meant we were usually sent to the furthest pitch, away from the clubhouse – the one through the underpass, beyond the motorway, past all hope of rescue (don’t ask where the toilet is). I always had pushers, however, “come on Dad, take your hands off the wheels, trust me”.

I never crashed but the chair would be covered in mud over the footplates.

The final insult was my son – immaculate out of the showers in white shirt and smart tie on match days. However, he’d walk into the shower fully clothed in his kit, get undressed in the shower, stuff the sopping kit into a bag, and pass the whole dripping mess to me to wash for next week! Adding insult to injury.

I ruined so many clothes during those days, not to mention the frequent mess in my car.

Thankfully those days are behind me now, or so I thought.

As you know I like a good rock festival in the summer, and we have a great one at Jodrell Bank called Bluedot (Earth from space – geddit?) Mid-summer, always bone dry, until the last event when there was a record-breaking downpour the night before. Parking in a very muddy field should have warned me off, having to be carried through the entrance gates to a little patch of grass should have set off the alarm bells, but no! I was on a mission! I’ve never been so completely covered in mud during my whole life. The worst part was crossing the sea of mud to the accessible viewing platform, way over there…. I set off and got nowhere, then a friendly voice – can I help? broke my leg years ago, wheelchair for six months, know how crap it is…and off we went. Perfect result, brilliant music but then had to leave my chair and outside clothes on the patio when I got home while I transferred to another chair to go into my house! Hosed it all down next morning.

But my favourite mud story doesn’t involve me directly – a few months ago I was auditing a potential communal garden which was bordered by an open wire fence. Whilst writing some notes I noticed pre-school children playing on the other side of the fence. They’d found an interesting puddle, and were absorbed with buckets and spades. The boys started conversation – why are you in that chair? do your legs work? my Grans got one of them. How fast will it go? The usual. Whilst answering as well as I could I noticed a little girl sitting

in the puddle and using a spade to pour the (very) muddy water down her outstretched arms and onto her (very) white dress! Whilst driving home I couldn’t rid my mind of the image of the loving parents coming to pick up their beloved child in her (once) white dress!

Until next time,

Cheers,

Chris the mudlark

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

Synchron, a brain computer interface company, today announced a Twitter takeover by Philip O’Keefe, one of the patients implanted with the Stentrode brain computer interface. Mr. O’Keefe is the first person to successfully message the world on social media directly through thought using an implantable brain computer interface.

Mr. O’Keefe, a 62-year-old man with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), successfully turned his direct thought to text via Twitter when he messaged “Hello World” using the Stentrode brain computer interface.

When I first heard about this technology, I knew how much independence it could give back to me. The system is astonishing, it’s like learning to ride a bike – it takes practice, but once you’re rolling, it becomes natural.

Now, I just think about where on the computer I want to click, and I can email, bank, shop, and now message the world via Twitter.

Philip O’Keefe

Mr. O’Keefe took over the Twitter handle of Synchron CEO, Thomas Oxley, MD, PhD, @tomoxl, using the hashtag #HelloWorldBCI. Mr. O’Keefe’s goal was to share his experience of regaining independence with the world and offer inspiration for the future.

“My hope is that I’m paving the way for people to tweet through thoughts,” was his closing statement.

Philip received the endovascular Stentrode brain computer interface in April 2020 following progressive paralysis caused by ALS which left him unable to engage in work-related or other independent activities. Mr. O’Keefe has since been using the technology to reconnect with his family, and business colleagues continuing email exchanges and staying actively involved in his consultancy and other business projects.

“These fun holiday tweets are actually an important moment for the field of implantable brain computer interfaces. They highlight the connection, hope and freedom that BCIs give to people like Phil who have had so much of their functional independence taken away due to debilitating paralysis,” said Thomas Oxley, MD, PhD, CEO, Synchron. “We look forward to advancing our brain computer interface, Stentrode, in the first U.S. in-human study next year.”

Synchron’s flagship technology, the Stentrode is an endovascular brain implant designed to enable patients to wirelessly control digital devices through thought and improve functional independence. Synchron’s foundational technology, a motor neuroprosthesis (MNP), is implanted via the jugular vein using neurointerventional techniques commonly used to treat stroke, and does not require drilling into the skull or open brain surgery. The system is designed for patients suffering from paralysis as a result of a broad range of conditions, and aims to be user friendly and dependable for patients to use autonomously.

More information on BusinessWire here.

Updates from our own Access Consultant – Chris Cammiss

December news!

Seems to be a very long time since I wrote anything, but that doesn’t mean I’ve not been busy – oh no!  Work is as interesting and demanding as ever, if not more so, and the rest of my life hasn’t been dull either.

I recently completed a long report for Calderdale on a huge road project connecting Halifax to Huddersfield, touching Elland etc which involved a lot of driving along busy roads, checking out possible crossings, negotiating roundabouts, coping with tricky gradients and discussing the dreaded “shared space” beloved by planners and hated by disabled pedestrians.

I’m still on the Accessible Calderdale project – stalled by Covid but still in operation – and found myself at St Matthews Parish Centre this month. Lovely, welcoming space inside but a crazy car park, too steep to push my wheelchair out of and a busy road to cross from the church without the benefit if a crossing. (The absolute downpour I encountered didn’t help – especially as I left my coat in the car. It’s a man thing).

I also noticed that the Calvert Trust were advertising for Trustees this month so I thought I might apply to see what they were all about. I’m happy to report that they’ve co-opted me onto their Operations committee. Little do they know…..

Outside work my car passed its MOT. It’s Motability but they extended my lease because I couldn’t get around car showrooms which were shut during lockdowns.

Had a lovely weekend break Shropshire in a country house which has an RHS connected garden. Very accessible garden and only one tiny portable ramp in the house. The staff used it so much they are going to leave it in place permanently!  On one day we mentioned a nearby house with a stunning garden which was unfortunately shut for the winter. They immediately rang them up and arranged for the garden to be opened up just for myself and partner!

Finally, I’m fully jabbed and now hopefully bullet-proof. Both Covid jabs, official booster, flu jab and even Shingles. Are there any more?

Northern Rail work continues at pace. Very exciting developments. Next week I go to check out a mock-up of an accessible toilet pod. If it stands up to scrutiny then it could be the answer on hundreds of Victorian stations which don’t have appropriate buildings to construct an accessible toilet in or don’t have many buildings at all. Watch this space for developments.

I conducted my most recent Audit on the Accessible Calderdale project at AgeUK in Halifax. Great place, friendly staff and the strangest door system I’ve ever come across. Two narrow single doors next to each other, with a central column? Unless one was originally “in” and the other “out” I can’t fathom it.
Some work to do soon for the new Leisure Centre – can’t wait for that! Just my cup of tea.

Outside of work, we had to say goodbye to our beloved caravan (over twenty years old) which had endured so many fierce winters on the Cumbrian coast that the chassis was about to collapse. A new one just wouldn’t be the same.

And my final act of the month so far has been to successfully complete an online Speeding Course. Yes, I’m afraid to admit I was caught on camera speeding around. Not racing up to Cumbria, not chasing around Manchester where I live, but driving around Halifax a few mph faster than allowed! But online was better than the classroom version I did a few years earlier! (another story)!

Have a great Christmas and see you again in the New Year.

Britain loses hundreds of public toilets

Cash-strapped councils have closed a fifth of conveniences, leaving some people with no choice but to stay close to home.

Republished courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd, written by Chaminda Jayanetti.

Public toilets are not as convenient as they were. Getting caught short outside home has become an increasingly tricky problem as a result.

The trouble has been caused by austerity-hit councils in the UK who are not legally required to provide toilets for the public and who have cut expenditure on them in order to protect services that they are obliged by law to provide for local people.

The result is a major reduction of Ladies and Gents across the nation. According to Freedom of Information data obtained by local government researcher Jack Shaw and shared with the Observer, the number of public lavatories that local authorities have funded and maintained fell from 3,154 in 2015/16 to 2,556 in 2020/21 – a drop of 19% across the past six years, which comes on top of reductions in previous years.

Public health workers have warned that this loss of public conveniences is now causing major problems for a range of people, including the homeless, disabled, outdoor workers and those whose illnesses dictate frequent toilet use.

Continue reading here

The Captcha Conundrum & Accessible Alternatives

How to tell legitimate users apart from automated systems in an accesible way has been a problem for developers of accessible web sites for a long time. Here at Visits Unlimited we use invisible systems on comment, contact and log in forms that minimise the risk of causing accessibility problems but even these can cause problems on occasion.

Raghavendra Satish Peri has written an interesting article at digitala11y.com discussing different methods, their advantages and disadvantages, and problems on the methods used by very large sites.

…I wanted to contribute to the accessibility pages on Wikipedia recently and decided to make an account. I thought the process would be easy to register and start making edits, but I was quickly proved wrong. It requires solving a CAPTCHA.

I thought there might be an alternative method to complete my registration, but the whole exercise to find an alternative on Wikipedia frustrated me. In fact, I never found an alternative that day that used audio or a one-time confirmation code sent to a mobile device.

This is what it’s like to be a visually impaired person who uses the internet. Even the world’s most popular sites aren’t completely accessible.

You can read the full article on Digital A11Y’s accessibility blog here.

The high cost of living in a disabling world

For all the advances that have been made in recent decades, disabled people cannot yet participate in society ‘on an equal basis’ with others – and the pandemic has led to many protections being cruelly eroded

Republished courtesy of Guardian News & Media Ltd, written by Jan Grue

At times, it feels as if the disability rights movement won. After years of groundwork, 1981 was declared the International Year of Disabled Persons. I was born that year, in Oslo, Norway, and though I did not receive my first diagnosis of muscular dystrophy until I was a toddler, the coincidence is apt enough: I was born into a world that was, at last, beginning to recognise this aspect of my being in it.

Then, from 1983 to 1992, came the United Nations’ Decade of Disabled Persons. And the Americans With Disabilities Act, the UK’s Disability Discrimination Act and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The turn of the millennium was marked by a litany of good intentions and disavowals of unequal treatment – by an endorsement, as the first article of the UN convention has it, of disabled people’s right to “full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others”.

I came of age in this world, more or less protected by these rights. In Norway, which produced its own act in 2008, I received an education, found work and started a family. I am writing this as a tenured professor, as well-protected as a member of a protected class can be. And yet I am writing with a feeling, as Tony Soprano had it, that I came in at the end – that the best, in the sense of our best and greatest hopes for universal, rights-based protections, and for the logic of anti-discrimination, is over…

Continue reading here

Working with Hardcastle Crags

Our first meeting by Les Allan – member of the Accessible Calderdale Disability Access Forum

I was picked up by Community Transport for Calderdale and taken to Hardcastle Crags for our initial meeting with Chris Bryerley.

One of the main problems about Hardcastle Crags is getting there, apart from walking routes there is only one way in and out. It is a narrow road and unsuitable for large vehicles. There is a bus service to Hardcastle Crags but it only runs for part of the year and buses are few and far between. Some form of public/private transport needs to be brought in, this could be in the form of mini buses such as those used by community transport. These should be available not only for disabled people but for anyone who cannot get there otherwise.

The meeting was held outside Gibson Mill which proved to be a rather noisy area with dogs barking, delivery vans and people stopping for refreshments. This caused me some discomfort and I am aware that much of what was being discussed was lost on me. There did not seem to be a choice of sitting in the sun or shade, I do not feel I was the only person who felt uncomfortable sitting in full sunlight.

Various issues were discussed including access to the mill itself and access to the river. It seems to me that half of the reason for visiting Hardcastle Crags is to experience the river and it would be disappointing if this was not possible. There are lots of ways to improve access without spending large sums of money, such as, levelling tracks, smoothing out surfaces, and providing access from the main path to the riverside for people with mobility issues.

I am looking forward to working further with Hardcastle Craggs and making some improvements together with the National Trust.

My visit to Shibden Park on 10th June 2021

By Aisha Mir

Me and my son who is 2 years old were picked up and dropped off home by Community Transport Calderdale by Chris Hancox and Steve Mitchel, who were absolutely amazing. As we got to the park, we met up with the manager Mark Spencer, who I didn’t get to meet properly because he had to rush off somewhere and I was half an hour late due to having a problem getting my son’s car seat in and we had to make sure it was safe for him to travel before we could all set off.

On arrival to the park we were met by the other park managers, who were absolutely great and took us around the park and listened to what we had to say – well we all listened to each other and they were really nice.​

We all spoke about what needs to be changed to make the park more accessible for wheelchair users, the blind, old people, and people with buggy’s etc. We spoke about how dangerous the bus stop is and the road leading down to the bottom car park –

“It is all so painful with all the pot holes and uneven surfaces”.

They have done a great job with a path going around the park at the top. I do understand that a lot of places cannot be changed due to it being historical but that does not mean an alternative route can’t be made close by that is accessible.

“Don’t get me wrong this park is an amazing park and they have worked really hard on it, which is really appreciated but there are still so many places we cannot access especially being in a wheelchair and having a toddler in a pram too – it is not easy”.

For example, we went around the outside of the museum and on the way back down my wheelchair with the pram started to skid on its side due to the steep incline and sand that has been put on top for the filming of Gentlemen Jack. We were told that the sand will be removed. Then straight after that, the train came a long and I had nowhere to go to give way on the road so I had to take my baby on an uneven grass with a steep incline which was really scary because we could have toppled over down the banking! So really if you have a train going around the park an accessible path can be put down on the side so the pedestrians can walk or roll around the park safely.

There is a lack of signs all around the park which is a big problem and very confusing for tourists to find their way around, especially those who have never been to this park before.

It would also be great if the toilets had a changing place inside it for the people who need it, which is very important so they can also relax in the park and enjoy the beauty it has to offer.

A lot more was discussed so hopefully fingers crossed they will actually act on what we said. Over all it was a great day out and the weather was really nice too. It was great meeting everyone in our group again after a long time because of this Covid 19 lock down.

We then all went to the café, I had a mocha which was really nice after such a long time and my baby had an ice cream, which he only had a few licks of and didn’t want it anymore which was shocking because he loves ice-cream, so yes, the mummy had to eat it which I didn’t mind it was too nice to waste ha ha!

We all had a lovely chat with the group which was also really nice. Then it was time to go back home with Community Transport Calderdale, which was a great drive back and we chatted all the way back.

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

As you know, I’ve been trying to get involved with the “powers that be” in planning decisions for some time. Improving the roads, opening a new building, changing use – I’ll always have an opinion, I’m a Yorkshireman after all!

I’ve got a lot of knowledge and a lot of lived experience – worth listening to – right?

However, it’s all very well shouting from the sidelines, but does that really do any good?

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Extreme Auditing (working through the Pandemic)

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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Fully Accessible, The Space @ Field Lane is a new community Space in Calderdale

Opened in September, 2020 (but temporarily closed due to the Coronavirus lockdown), The Space @ Field Lane is a community building which had lain derelict and in very poor condition for nearly ten years.  This left the local community with nowhere to come together for socialising for group or activities or to access services and training without going into the centre of town.

The Space @ Field Lane image of dining area

In 2016 a group of local residents came together to rectify this situation and negotiated with Calderdale MBC to take over the building, to carry out a full refurbishment and then for it to be run by local residents.

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So near and yet so far……..again.

I love getting out and about. It’s good for fitness, and we also live in a very beautiful country containing lots of awe-inspiring buildings. A particularly keen interest of mine is in history, so what better way to combine both passions than exploring a magnificent ancient ruin?

Just prior to the lockdown, my partner and I felt the need to get out and about and had located a suitable hotel online and so we stayed in North Yorkshire for a long weekend and made sure we thoroughly explored our surroundings. We found we weren’t far from Rievaulx Abbey (Click Here To Visit Site) which I’d heard about but never seen. The weather was decent so off we went.

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What’s in a name?…….and the name is “accessible”……..

Well, we all know what that means now, don’t we? Read on…..

A few weeks ago my partner and I were feeling a little stir crazy and thought we deserved a weekend away, so that’s what we planned.
(Ironically this was the weekend just prior to hearing Government advice not to travel unless totally necessary. So, we had a lovely three days of gorgeous villages, artisan markets, great weather, excellent meals and too much to drink, to return to a different world. If we thought we were stir crazy then….?)

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Centre Vale Park Todmorden looks like a great place to visit after lockdown.

Recently I was made aware of Centre Vale Park in Todmorden . I’ve not had the pleasure of a visit yet but looking at the little I’ve seen online it looks very enticing &  seems very accessible .

There are 33 hectares so it covers a fairly large area & seems to have areas to suit everybody . I look forward to visiting when lockdown is behind us all to see what it has to offer . Situated on Burnley Road , half a mile from Todmorden town centre it boasts woodland walks , open parkland , play areas & even an under 12s roadway , to name but a few . Definitely one to look forward to .

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So, the first year of the brilliant Accessible Calderdale project is already over! Bring on the second!

It’s been consistently absorbing and incredibly varied. Massive plans, big ideas, selfless individuals – it’s all there.

I’ve met many, many interesting, committed, hard-working people – all determined to make their particular voluntary project work. Hopefully my advice, followed by money from Community Foundation for Calderdale will help them all to realise their dreams.

People always want to hear a summary at this time of the year – high spots, interesting people, fascinating twists, unexpected turns – so here goes!

After roughly forty audits I’ve accumulated plenty of stories……

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To the Mayor of London from Nadia Clarke

To the Mayor of London:

I would like to say something regarding the 2019 New Year’s Eve Fireworks event. I am a wheelchair user, as I have cerebral palsy, so I booked for the accessible area for the event. It has been my dream for years to go, and I travelled all the way down from Halifax. I had to pay for a Hotel and also transport for not just me, but my 2 PAs, so this was at great expense. A few weeks ago I got my letter with the information for the event and it was not very detailed at all. When me and my PAs were heading to the event the map was useless, as it did not show much of the  surrounding area or the streets. On the tickets it said “From Waterloo” at the top, but did not explain what this meant. I am guessing this means that is where we could get to the area,  however, as the tube is at times inaccessible for wheelchairs and also would be crowded on New Year’s Eve, this was not the best option for me.
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How accessible is your business/venue?

Are you meeting your legislative requirements?

Did you know that being accessible can help your business grow?

Visits Unlimited is a Halifax based organisation working with attractions and businesses both locally, regionally and nationally.  We work with colleagues in the tourism industry to help reduce the physical and non-physical barriers often experienced by disabled people.

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Accessible Calderdale Project Free Access Audits and Training to the Voluntary Sector

Visits Unlimited trainers have many years of experience of delivering training to a wide range of organisations, tourist venues, businesses, statutory services and the voluntary section.  We train management, front of house staff and volunteers across the country.

Visits Unlimited is part of the England Inclusive Tourism Action Group alongside Visit England and other partners in the tourism industry.

Our offer to the voluntary sector and community groups in Calderdale:

Free Training to all those organisations who have put in an Expression of Interest Form for our Free Access Audits.

Recent feedback from our local training session

 “ Thanks Chris and Katie for sharing your personal experiences to help us understand more about disability”

“I can use what I learned in everyday aspects of my life – professional/parish and volunteering”

“Very informing and eye-opening.  Thank you”.

Free Access Audits

  • Would you like to develop your community group venue to become more accessible to people with disabilities?
  • Are you considering re-locating your group and would like to ensure the proposed venue is inclusive and accessible?

Chris Cammiss is our skilled and professional auditor, trainer and disability advisor. Chris works is an auditor for a variety of venues including large tourist attractions, stately homes and castles, health settings, large businesses, transport, shops, hotels, outdoor venues and small organisations.

Chris provides a full access survey with a report a recommendation. Groups will have the opportunity to apply for funding through the Community Foundation for Calderdale to support recommendations for access and inclusion.

Feedback from recent audits
“So helpful”, “fabulous audit”, “looking promising with the funding from Community Foundation”, “invaluable”.

Contact Lorraine@visitsunlimited.org.uk 07596 707795 

The Accessible Calderdale Access Audit Expresssion Of Interest Form is downloadable by clicking this link.

Email the completed form to lorraine@visitsunlimited.org.uk or post to: 15 Savile Park Gardens, HALIFAX, Yorkshire, HX1 2XL.

Chris, collaboration, great folk & the lion’s den.

Longleat, where change is welcomed.

I went back down to Longleat on Tuesday to see Simon Townsend and his team from Cheddar Gorge and Longleat to discuss my two earlier Access Reports.

After enjoying a lovely journey there I was quickly deflated when I found the main Entrance completely blocked off! Proper electronic barriers, clear signage, the venue was clearly closed! Luckily I could see a distant Land Rover parked amongst the trees so I knew some sort of access must be possible but how, where? Being the consummate professional I am I had arrived without Simon’s number or indeed the contact details of anyone relevant to the venue!

Eventually I started to think more clearly, looked around more carefully and found “the button”. Quick press and I was through to Security and the barriers soon began to move aside.

After parking, one more random question and I was directed to the Estate Office. Jump forward a few minutes and now I’m back in the real business world. Simon collected his team, a suitable room was located, coffee was brewed and off we went.

What a positive meeting! Everyone was on the same page and very keen to progress. Lovely to encounter so much enthusiasm. It’s always a good sign when everyone is discussing issues without mentioning costs. Of course costs will be relevant later but it never blocked or influenced a discussion here.

I was particularly relieved to find how much common ground there was. I had indicated several areas in my reports where I wanted to see immediate improvement. You never know how well negative comments will be received in these situations, but all was well, we all agreed, they had the same reservations as me and indeed some changes were already on track.

Hopefully this will be a long-term connection, yearly reviews, training updates and so on. I want to continue working with such lovely venues and enthusiastic staff.

After a very productive meeting, feeling very pleased with the situation we eventually dispersed into the night.

Now, I had been there before, but in the pitch black you can easily lose your bearings. Signs are missed, floodlights don’t quite illuminate the places you want. Paths which are obvious in the daytime become inexplicably invisible in the dark. After a few wrong turns (including a near miss with the lion enclosure) I spotted red rear lights in the distance and set off in pursuit. I was able to locate some paths and negotiate the winding route to eventually catch the line of departing staff just as if I knew exactly what I was doing!

A great day and a very positive conclusion to my work which had started back in November. Katie’s training is yet to come and then we’ll know more about how to carry this great collaboration forward. Watch this space!

Chris

ACCESSIBLE CALDERDALE PROJECT

Making Calderdale Accessible For All                      

A new venture run by a local not for profit organisation Visits Unlimited! Making Calderdale a place that offers a warm and inclusive welcome to people who live here and those who visit.

Visits Unlimited has received 3 years funding from the Community Foundation for Calderdale to work with disabled people and local voluntary groups, the local authority, visitor attractions, transport companies, businesses and Visit Calderdale.  They are working together with Disability Partnership Calderdale and are really excited to have this opportunity to make a difference to our local community.

“We want everybody to take full advantage of what our beautiful area has to offer.  That includes visitors and people who live here.   We want to make sure that Calderdale is a fully accessible and welcoming place where people with disabilities and their families can enjoy and leave with memories that entice them to return!”

Visits Unlimited

Visits Unlimited is a Halifax based user led organisation who works both locally and nationally with colleagues in the tourism industry.  They run a training and access audit programme across England and clients include the National Trust, English Heritage, football and cricket grounds, large tourist attractions, small businesses, theatres, music venues, museums and hotels.   

Visits Unlimited ran the Accessible Hebden project thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation for Calderdale in 2015.  Working with disabled people they completed over 40 access audits and surveys on small businesses to support them to become more accessible.   This project is now imbedded into local strategic work and the Hebden Bridge Disability Access Forum continues to roll out the work and to be a key player in new planning and designs.

Accessible Calderdale

Accessible Calderdale is building on this work and will be working across Calderdale together with Disability Partnership Calderdale to ensure that we have the voice of disabled people, their families and carers, organisations working with people with a range of impairments to have a say in how the project runs.

“Visits Unlimited have been a catalyst for us on the Hebden Bridge project.  We had identified access issues with our Access Group but just turning up was not good enough. Visits Unlimited did a report on the train station and to have their report under our arm has given strength to our argument every single time we have met and we were able to go to Network Rail and the highway authorities   – it has made a big difference.  I have learned a lot – things I did not know or what was available.” Hebden Bridge Partnership.

 “Our disability survey was extremely useful as we did not appreciate the things that needed doing.  Chris gave us lots of useful simple ideas including even changing the door knob on the toilet facilities that we never thought about.”  Pennine Heritage.

The project has developed two working groups which convened in December 2018, ‘How to get there’ with a focus on accessible transport and ‘Places to go’ which focuses on accessible tourism. The groups will meet four times a year and are integral to the project in developing Calderdale into an accessible and inclusive place.

Calderdale Disability Access Forum

Visits Unlimited are establishing a Calderdale Disability Access Forum so any organisation or individual wishing to get involved can contact the project coordinator, Lorraine Beiley.   The group will meet in March 2019. We are delighted to have already made some good alliances with voluntary and community sector, the local authority and Visit Calderdale, and are holding an event at Square Chapel on February 26th 2019 – guest speakers include Visit England, our own Eureka and Accessible Derbyshire.   #wewelcomeeveryone   We will be doing free access audits and there will be opportunity for community organisations to apply for a small grant from Community Foundation for Calderdale.

Contact details

For more information contact Lorraine@visitsunlimited.org.uk or rob@cffc .co.uk