On Tuesday 12th September Jenny Wilkins and I had a great, preliminary meeting with Jessica Holroyd, from an organisation called Living Options, to discuss The Heritage Ability Project. Heritage Ability is a project designed to support heritage sites to become more accessible and operates across the South-West, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Jessica explained to us that they will be seeking volunteers with disabilities who can give up their time to visit these sites as "Mystery Visitors", and provide feedback about their visits so that the project can ensure the interventions they make are suitable. 

The project particularly wants to hear from potential volunteers who have a learning disability, a physical disability, are on the autistic spectrum or who are deaf/hearing impaired. 

The South West is full of wonderful heritage places to explore, from caves to historic houses and sweeping landscapes. According to the Papworth Trust, disabled adults in the North and South West report the highest number of life areas (education and leisure) where participation is restricted.  Despite the efforts of museums, galleries and other leisure attractions, feedback from disabled and Deaf people suggests there is more that can be done to make these places more accessible.

The Heritage Ability project, delivered by charity Living Options Devon and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund has a clear vision - to break down barriers at these heritage places, unlocking the South West for everybody to enjoy. Over the next three years, the Heritage Ability team will support a variety of unique places across the South West to help them improve the experience for disabled and Deaf visitors. From the West tip of Cornwall all the way to Gloucestershire, the team will work with at least 20 sites to deliver accessible interpretation, from BSL (British Sign Language) clips, to visual stories and easy read documents. Many sites will also benefit from an all-terrain scooter or ‘Tramper’, which will enable people with limited mobility to access the countryside like never before.

Five heritage places are taking part in Cornwall. These are National Trust Godolphin, National Trust Tin Coast, Geevor Tin Mine, National Maritime Museum Cornwall and Wheal Martyn.

As part of the project, Heritage Ability are looking for disabled and Deaf volunteers with a passion for heritage to help spread the word, become advocates for the project and help their sites on their ongoing journey. They also need your help to conduct some mystery visits at the sites and provide feedback which the team can use to help the sites improve. If you’d like to be involved, take a look at the website at www.heritageability.org. You can email the team at [email protected] or call 01392 459222. You can also send a SMS to 07958 517919.

Twitter: @heritageability

Facebook: heritageabilitySW