Space, Signing and an Extra Pair of Hands!

museums & galleries, 2016, guest blog, West Yorkshire, England

Space, Signing and an Extra Pair of Hands!

Trizia from Eureka! The National Children’s Museum has been writing us a series of blogs about the facilities and services the museum has to help ensure it’s accessible and inclusive. This week Trizia updates us on their Extra Pair of Hands service and tells us all about the museums exciting plans for Disabled Access Day!

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Just a month to go and the posters for Disabled Access Day have landed on my desk at Eureka! The National Children’s Museum, in Halifax, and I’m busy thinking up whizzy captions to tell allour visitors about what we’ve got planned for Disabled Access Day.  And I do mean all of our visitors – because I feel that non-disabled visitors to Eureka! should learn something from the day too.

If you’re disabled, or know someone who is, you’ll probably feel that many people you encounter while out and about will go out of their way to avoid speaking to you. No, you’re not being paranoid – Scope published a survey in 2014 which found that 21% of the great British public aged between 18 and 34 years old, did just that.  And if you do actually manage to have a conversation with anyone, it’s likely that you’ll be able to tell that they feel uncomfortable doing so. (67% of people in the survey admitted to that one).

But there’s hope! The same survey (‘Current Attitudes towards Disabled People’) also found that “…both the general public and disabled people believe that more everyday interactions and greater public education about disability will increase understanding.”

That’s one of the reasons 12th March is so important for non- disabled visitors too– it’s a great opportunity for them to participate in “everyday interactions”, improve their confidence around disabled people, and as Scope puts it “#EndTheAwkward.”  But that can only happen if everyone gets involved!

That can be easier said than done if you’re the parent of a disabled child.  At one time or another, all parents have probably wished for a Mary Poppins to materialise and help out with the children on a family day out. Imagine then how much more stressful the experience is if you’re coping with an autistic 7 year old who is noise-sensitive and a lively non-disabled 3 year old who is prone to running off as soon as your attention is diverted.  That’s when you really do need an extra pair of hands.  Cue Eureka! to the rescue!

Since 2012, Families of disabled children visiting the museum can book our Extra Pair of Hands service in the form of a trained member of staff called an Enabler.  Before coming to Eureka!, parents can ring to book a chat with the Enabler, to discuss any anxieties or needs they may have. The Enabler will explain about our fully accessible changing and toilet facility, reassure the family about spaces to eat, or quiet places to get away from the busy environment, perhaps booking them their own slot in our Chill Out room. The Enabler will make a note of their child’s needs, using their knowledge of particular disabilities to suggest the most accessible galleries. And it doesn’t end there!

On the day of the visit, the Enabler will meet the family – in the car park or at the train station if required. The family will recognise them from the photograph they sent a few days before. The Enabler will have a pair of ear defenders to hand, just in case, plus lots of playful fun up their sleeves to keep everyone amused for the next two hours as they accompany the family around Eureka!

Oh, and did I mention that the Extra Pair of Hands service is free? If you’re an annual pass holder, your pass includes up to 2 supported visits a year.  But if you don’t have an annual pass, then you can book one visit free of charge to try out the service and see if you like it. 

We can’t usually provide the service during our busy periods, but on 12th March we’re providing an Extra Pair of Hands service all day (subject to availability). Visitors simply need to ring us 2 weeks in advance to book their Enabler to help them get the most out of Disabled Access Day.

12th March also marks 3 months since Tim Peake, the European Space Agency’s first British astronaut, arrived at the International Space Station. We’ve been following his mission really closely at Eureka! and we’re running free Destination Space workshops for children aged 5 to 11 years and their families.  These are a chance to witness exciting experiments and gain some unique insights into life on the Space Station. Workshops are included in the entry fee - just book your Destination Space place on arrival.

We’ll be reserving 50% of the places on two of those workshops for hearing impaired visitors – and we’ll be providing qualified BSL interpreters to make sure everyone gets in on the space-age action. *

In the galleries, BSL users will find a floating interpreter to help them get the most out of the space related activities. By the way, our Enablers are all taught 12 basic BSL signs and would love the chance to try them out with you! And remember, the Extra Pair of Hands service, the accessible changing facility and the ear defenders, and our Enablers will still be at Eureka! long after Disabled Access Day has been and gone.  So do come back and visit us again!

I’ve been amazed at the variety of happenings planned for 12 March in my local region (Calderdale) and to see more high street shops and banks getting involved. Disabled Access Day provides more opportunities for everyday interaction between disabled and non-disabled people, which is the first step towards increasing understanding and instigating change. And when the events on offer include a Mellow Museum, a pop up sensory room and free coffee, it’s great fun for everyone as well!

*BSL interpreters provided by Music and The Deaf

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Find out more about Eureka! The National Children’s Museums plans for Disabled Access Day.

If you have any questions for Trizia join her on twitter on 7th March for Museum Hour when they’ll be discussing all things access.