I was brought up by someone who worked in health and social care, my mum now has 40 year’s experience in working in health and social care with older people and people with disabilities – one of my early memories is her running a workshop for my Brownie group where we all drew a floor plan of the village hall and went around trying to work out all of the adaptations that might make signs more readable to people with visual impairments, or where doorways weren’t comfortable wide, where the key ramped exits and entrances were, etc.
My mum also told me about the social model of disability. This model is a great place to start when you think about how you welcome people with sensory, learning or mobility impairments to your Fun Palace – essentially it is society and architecture that disables by not bearing in mind the experience of those with impairments.
There’s great video here from Scope with people talking about what that means:
So, what simple things can you do to make sure everyone is included in your Fun Palace?
First off: talk to people, make contact with local branches of Scope, Mencap, activists and those running activities or taking part in activities around you. Ask people with impairments what they’d like to be able to do activity wise, and what they might like from a building.
Be radically accessible – don’t make it a second thought, make work and activities for people with impairments that others can join in with. Could you ask a local sign language student to interpret for you on the day? Could they teach others at your Fun Palace to sign simple things? Can you find someone who could pick people up in the local area who would find public transport difficult to navigate? Pro-actively and radically accessible:
- Have you thought about making work for and with specific groups? For example reminiscence games, gardening, and music activities can be incredibly beneficial for dementia sufferers.
- The community around Enabled By Design list things that make their lives better/more fun, from Wheelchair costume making, to hacks around everyday life to make tasks easier, better, and more simple.
- And Mencap have a great series of resources on supporting people with learning disabilities in visual arts, dance, drama and music, as well as a guide on welcoming people to your venue
Second off, there are a tonne of resources out there that set basic standards for accessibility to buildings, websites, and print.
One often forgotten and easy to adapt thing is your print – from signage to programme notes, often they’re trying to squeeze too much in and therefore using a much too small font size. Think about where signage is placed, about the font type and size in handouts, and produce a large print version for those who might prefer or need it. There’s a quick guide from the Sensory Trust on font types and sizes here and some great resources on the Sign Design Society here
Likewise there are standards that websites should follow, which are brilliantly summarised here by South Bank University, and small things can make a big difference – such as adding descriptions to key image’s ‘alt’ tags so that screen readers can describe them.
There are also really useful guidelines for online and offline content from the British Dyslexia Association.
If you’re producing video content and uploading it, then Youtube have a simple closed captioning feature that will mean you can caption everything you upload – everyone should be aiming to do this, and there are really clear instructions here – if you don’t feel like you’ll have time to do it yourself, there’s still plenty of time to find someone to help. And I’m always on hand (HN@funpalaces.co.uk) to talk you through things if the technology seems a little daunting.
Finally, you should be clear about how accessible your venue is – the Fun Palace pages allow you to list certain technologies that might be available, but you can also explain more about how people can access the building/Fun Palace – as well as invite people to contact you if they have specific requirements you could adjust for. And check the basics; check for accessible toilets, wide corridors, good lighting, clear signage, tables that wheelchairs with arm rests can fit under, seating for those who cannot stand for long amounts of time; does it have a hearing loop? Ramped access? Could you hire a ramp or hearing loop system for those with hearing aids, or ask a hearing loop or ramp provider to donate a system/ramp for the day of the Fun Palace? .
There is a brilliant checklist available here (a few things are more applicable to a workplace environment, but the lists themselves are very useful) and if you’re very interested there’s the full national buildings guidance available to read here.
Basically the key thing is to actively think about how others access your activities, building, print, and online materials. A small amount of thought and time on your part will make a huge difference for someone else. And remember to delegate if you need to – find someone with time to look after this one job, ask around if there are any occupational therapists, or teachers specialising in SEN, or health and social care professionals in your networks who will know this already, and might be able to talk and help you out.
Featured Image by Trish on Flickr shared via a Creative Commons license.