What is an Early Bird Opening?

autism, useful articles, 2016, West Yorkshire, Tyne and Wear, England

What is an Early Bird Opening?

An Early Bird Opening is when a venue- typically an attraction, a museum or gallery- opens its doors early and encourages people to visit at a time that is typically quieter and more relaxed than the normal hustle and bustle of its opening hours. Generally, a venue opens an hour before its usual hours, and guests are invited to stay once the venue is open to the general public. Also known as autism friendly openings, these events tend to be tailored to children or young people with autism or additional support requirements, and encourage family, friends and carers to visit the venue too!

So, what are the elements of an Early Bird Opening?

• Rules tend to be relaxed, so let visitors access all areas and wander around as they like! Additional activities such as inclusive storytelling or workshops are sure to keep your visitors engaged throughout their experience.
• Extra staff are usually on hand to provide additional assistance where required, as well as to answer any questions visitors may have.
• Adjustments to the venue’s environment - such as adjusting the lighting so that it isn’t too bright or too dark, lowering music volume or turning it off completely - can be made to ensure the venue is autism friendly. Additionally, a quiet chill out space for visitors to make use of if needed is a great way to cater to all.
• If an early bird session doesn’t suit your venue, why not consider a night owl session? Extend your evening opening hours to give your visitors a chance to explore.
• Does your venue offer sensory backpacks or ear defenders? In case noise becomes too much, or a visitor becomes overwhelmed, these items may make a world of difference to the experiences of your visitors. Don’t forget to promote them by using signs and informing visitors upon their arrival – it helps guarantee that everyone has a fantastic time when they visit you!
• A visual story (more info on this below!) gives your venue the chance to engage visitors before they even arrive – you can also use it to further promote any adjustments you may have made to your venue!

How can you hold a successful Early Bird Opening? Here are some tips:

Advertise the event on Euan’s Guide
All events can be added to your listing on Euan’s Guide, the disabled access review website. Updating your ‘What’s On’ section with your planned event is a great way to reach a larger audience, and raise awareness of your event. It’s also an easy way to promote your venue’s accessibility, and encourage people who may not have visited you in the past to try something new! We can promote venues who have listed their events on Euan’s Guide on our social media channels – so don’t forget to keep your Euan’s Guide ‘What’s On’ up to date!

Limit the number of visitors
Limiting the number of visitors that can attend an early bird session is key to its success. If there are too many guests, the event might feel similar to your everyday offering. To avoid this, specify how many can attend and advise how people should book on your website. Another useful piece of information to list is the contact details of a staff member who is able to answer any questions potential visitors might have - avoiding generic telephone numbers or emails!

Promote your social or visual story
A visual story helps future visitors know what to expect when they visit you. Early Bird Openings are a great opportunity to promote visual stories – the additional information it provides lets visitors know what the plan is for the day, and helps them prepare to have a great time! If you’d like to find out more, both Eureka in Halifax and Seven Stories in Newcastle have fantastic visual stories on their websites. Furthermore, Seven Stories have just announced a regular Early Bird Opening slot – starting this Saturday, August 6th, and returning every first Saturday of the month thereafter!

If your venue is holding an Early Bird Opening, don’t forget that you can share your experience with us via Twitter using @Access_Day!