The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has just awarded a grant of £527,000 to the Heritage Ability scheme which involves a huge variety of much-loved places – from the National Trust Tin Coast in West Cornwall, to the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire and country parks in Dorset.
In 2016, disability charity Living Options Devon carried out a range of consultation activities to build a greater understanding of the barriers experienced by disabled and Deaf people when visiting heritage sites.
The consultation, made possible by National Lottery players, included focus groups, surveys and ‘mystery visits’, consistently highlighting the same key barriers: poor physical access; lack of disability and Deaf awareness; lack of accessible interpretation; lack of information about access and lack of facilities.
The charity, which has worked for 25 years to empower people with disabilities, is setting out to change that and has already teamed up with 18 heritage sites across the South West.
Led by a team of disabled and Deaf volunteers and advisors, the project includes improving access for people with physical disabilities, establishing British Sign Language as part of each sites’ interpretation and making adaptations to improve experiences for those with autism.
Working closely with a team of disabled and Deaf volunteers and advisors, the three-year project will focus on:
- Making it easier to plan ahead
Being able to plan ahead for a visit can be crucial for people living with a disability. The project will work with each site to improve accessibility guide information on their websitesso visitors’ expectations are managed and they feel at ease before a visit.
In addition, the project will work across sites to create a variety of online materials, suitable to meet different disability needs.
- Improving interpretation and use of British Sign Language
With support from volunteers, the team will work across the sites to create accessible interpretation, leaflets and guides – including large print formats to suit those with visual impairments and Easy Read formats for people with learning disabilities.
The project will also improve access to stories of each site for Deaf people who use British Sign Language. Volunteers will be recruited as BSL film guides to produce film clips for each of the heritage sites which will then be available to download onto personal devices and onto tablets on site. Some of the sites will also benefit from guided BSL tours.
- Transforming physical access
Around half of the sites will introduce all-terrain mobility scooters, otherwise known as ‘Trampers’, which will enable visitors with physical disabilities to access parts of heritage sites that would otherwise be completely off limits to them.
More heritage sites are expected to get on board with the Heritage Ability scheme over the coming months. They would join:
- Geevor Tin Mine
- National Maritime Museum Cornwall, Falmouth.
- National Trust Godolphin
- National Trust Tin Coast
- Wheal Martyn Museum, nr St Austell
- Cockington Country Park, Torquay
- Kents Cavern, Torquay
- National Trust Castle Drogo / Woodland Trust Fingle Woods
- National Trust Killerton
- Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter
- Seaton Jurassic
- Seaton Tramway
- Seaton Wetlands
- Durlston Country Park, Swanage
- Lulworth Estate
- Moors Valley Country Park
- Forest of Dean
- National Trust Prior Park, Bath
Phillip Smart, General Manager at National Trust Killerton said:
“Heritage Ability approached us back in 2016 asking if we wanted to be involved in filming British Sign Language clips as part of their pilot phase, and we jumped at the chance! Accessibility is something we’ve always wanted to improve here at Killerton, and although we have made improvements over the years it’s going to be so helpful to have the support of the project. We’ve already built a bespoke shed to house the Tramper in preparation for when it arrives, and we can’t wait to work with the team and volunteers to see what’s next!”
To discover how you could help and for more information about the project, contact Jessica Holroyd, Engagement and Communications Officer at Jessica.firstname.lastname@example.org or Tony Potter, Project Manager for Delivery at email@example.com.
Join the story on social media – visit @HLFSouthWest and @HeritageAbility and use #heritageability and #NationalLotttery
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