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Accessible heritage sites for all

Cornish attractions make sites more welcoming to autistic visitors

Date Posted: 15 October 2019

Cornish attractions make sites more welcoming to autistic visitors

Four heritage attractions in Cornwall have introduced new guides to encourage more autistic visitors, thanks to the National Lottery funded project - Heritage Ability.

The National Trust properties of Botallack, Levant Tin Mine and Godolphin, along with Geevor Tin Mine; have all introduced new Online Visual Guides. The guides explain useful information about each site, helping autistic visitors feel more comfortable during their visit. 

The online guides enable visitors to plan their trip in advance, warning them of areas that may cause anxiety on the day. The guides include information on areas that have loud noises, lighting effects or spaces that get crowded, giving them pre-warning so they can avoid them if wished. The guides also signpost visitors to quiet areas of the sites and best times to visit so people can avoid busy times.

Heritage Ability produced the Visual Guides in close partnership with each heritage site. Heritage Ability is a three-year initiative, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, to support over 20 heritage attractions in the South West become more accessible to disabled visitors and Deaf British Sign Language (BSL) users.

The Visual Guides may also be beneficial for people with mobility issues and parents with young children as the guides include information on the facilities available and other useful information.

Jack Roberts, Head Guide at Geevor Tin Mine, said:

"We have really enjoyed working alongside Heritage Ability on a number of projects over the last few years. Our goal is to make our site as accessible as possible and having online guides available is a great step forward in achieving this."

The Heritage Ability project is managed by Living Options Devon (LOD), a user-led charity. All the projects developed by LOD are supported by people who have a first-hand understanding of the challenges faced by disabled and Deaf people.

Heather Brown, Deputy CEO of Living Options Devon, said:

"All our partner sites in Cornwall, have now introduced Online Visual Guides to their accessibility tool kits. This is so exciting, as it really opens up the attractions to people who in the past have not been able to visit, or just found the experience too overwhelming. Now they are better able to plan and enjoy their visits to these heritage attractions.

"We are looking forward to continuing to work closely with our Cornish partners to see how well the guides are received in the future. And hopefully, they will make a real difference to attracting more visitors with complex needs to enjoy Cornish heritage."

Heritage Ability has been working with six partner sites in Cornwall; offering a range of accessible products to help the sites become more welcoming to disabled visitors. The National Maritime Museum Cornwall (NMMC) and Wheal Martyn Clay Works have produced their own Visual Guides.  This means that all Heritage Ability partners now have Visual Guides available on their websites.

Nikita Brown, Exhibition and Engagement Officer for Wheal Martyn commented:

"Our new Visual Guides have proved popular with our visitors, allowing them to familiarise themselves with the site before visiting. Wheal Martyn is committed to continuously improving our accessibility offer, and our partnership with Heritage Ability has allowed us to make great leaps forward.

"Alongside our new Visual Guide, the museum has further introduced quarterly relaxed sessions and sensory backpacks, designed specifically for those with autism and associated conditions".