Venue Spotlight: Eureka! Volunteerability – trying something new!

volunteering, museums & galleries, West Yorkshire

Venue Spotlight: Eureka! Volunteerability – trying something  new!

Trizia, Access and Inclusion Manager at Eureka! The National Children’s Museum, is writing a series of guests post about the steps they’ve taken to be an accessible and inclusive visitor attraction. In October Trizia explained some of the facilities and services the museum has in place to ensure it’s a welcoming and inclusive attraction for everyone and this month Trizia is explaining their Volunteerability programme.

Volunteerability empowers young disabled people to volunteer at the museum and has seen great results for the people who have accessed the six week programme, from increased confidence to improved social skills. Not only this, the museum has been able to receive valuable feedback from the young people to make sure it continues to be an accessible attraction. Find out more about the programme below.

--

Disabled Access Day is all about encouraging disabled visitors to try a new venue, and encouraging venues to consider how they can become more accessible. As the countdown to March 12th continues, I’ve realised that one of our most successful accessibility programmes at Eureka! The National Children’s Museum, turns that relationship around, placing disabled people firmly at the centre of the visitor experience, but as contributors, rather than as passive receivers.

I’m talking about our Volunteerability project, through which we provide 6 week volunteer placements in the museum for profoundly disabled young people, supported by their personal carers. Volunteerability volunteers work alongside the Eureka! team, taking front of house roles and playing an essential part in helping the museum to provide an excellent visitor experience for everyone.

Disabled people are often seen as passive recipients of assistance, and this programme gives disabled people a more proactive profile within our local community. Throughout their placement volunteers contribute to the running of the museum, expand the Eureka! team’s understanding and awareness of disability, by their presence, challenge the assumptions of the visiting public and reflect our organisation’s inclusive ethos.

Volunteerability at Eureka! began in 2013 with a grant from the Association of Children’s Museums which enabled us to work with skilled support staff from the Next Step Trust, a local day service provision for young adults with learning disabilities and complex health needs.

Eureka! and Next Step staff worked closely to ensure that the museum roles would be relevant and realistic – we took a person centred planning approach which began with a familiarisation day for the potential volunteers, and continued with tweaks to our induction processes and role descriptions. The young people were supported by their carers throughout, were provided with a Eureka! uniform, and expected to participate in workplace etiquette – attending morning meetings, signing in and out of the building etc.

Feedback from everyone involved – volunteers, carers and the Eureka! team was highly positive from the beginning. Baseline, mid and end of placement interviews enabled us to measure skills such as greeting visitors with a smile or with a stock greeting, asking questions or initiating conversations with colleagues. Everyone enjoyed seeing the progress made by the young people – the Eureka! team felt a part of that progress and parental feedback told us that the young people’s confidence and social skills had benefited enormously from the experience.

The placements conclude with a ceremony to which families are invited, and volunteers are presented with a certificate of thanks from our Chief Executive, Leigh-Anne Stradeski. Currently we run 3 Volunteerability programmes a year, and each programme sees two young people taking part.

Photograph of Natalie a volunteer on the volunteerability programme in a shop Volunteerability has its roots firmly within the spirit of Disabled Access Day – to try something new - and now it is definitely here to stay at Eureka! It would be fantastic if our experience encouraged other venues to set up their own Volunteerability programme too