The Heritage Ability project by Living Options Devon has helped 20 heritage sites in the South West to become accessible to people with a variety of disabilities, including mobility, deafness and autism. Seven hundred heritage destination staff have been trained to improve disability and deaf awareness and make the South West’s heritage sites more accessible.
The team worked closely with disabled volunteers and their carers, who carried out multiple mystery visits to assess sites. They have created solutions that are achievable and cost-effective, to benefit as many people as possible.
They are now working with attractions such as Durlston Country Park in Dorset, Killerton House in Devon and the National Maritime Museum in Cornwall to implement the changes. These include providing all-terrain mobility scooters called Trampers; guided tours for British Sign Language users, filmed by Deaf volunteers and available on tablets or downloadable; Easy Read and Large Print versions of literature; and creating a Visual Story for people with autism to prepare for their visit beforehand.
Sites have already reported that some of these innovations have also proved useful for young visitors and tourists from overseas who speak little or no English. Heritage Ability is also delivering free training to staff in Disability and Deaf Culture Awareness by people with lived-experience, taking the pressure off employers.
Project manager Maryann Soper says: "Change cannot be achieved overnight but we hope these places will become role models to show what can be done and the value of a community-led approach."
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