"Improving access for blind and partially sighted people"
Access for blind and partially sighted people to outdoor heritage sites Catherine Hillis, RNIB, November 2005 National Trust Fellowship 2005 Acknowledgements Firstly, I would like to thank my mentor Heather Smith, Head of Access for All, for her time and support throughout the project. I would especially like to thank the blind and partially sighted auditors who worked with me on this project for so freely giving their time, expertise and honest feedback during our visits: Beverly Bell Hughes Wayne Chapman Chris Copeman Aidan Joynt Yvonne McCarthy Isabella Murdoch Jill Whitehead I would also like to thank those at the sites I visited in Europe and the National Trust property managers for their generosity with their time and knowledge: Luc Barbier, Parc Naturel Régional des Caps et Marais d‟Opale, France Erik van Spek, Staatsbosbeheer, Texel, the Netherlands Emma Hegarty, Chirk Castle Simon Lee, Brownsea Island And finally, a big thank you to my colleagues at RNIB for supporting me whilst doing this project alongside my day job! Especially thanks to my line manager Leen Petré for her support and useful European contacts. 1 Contents: Executive summary Chapter one: Introduction to the fellowship project Chapter two: Setting the scene: why improve access for blind and partially sighted people? Chapter three: The European comparators and National Trust properties Chapter four: Pre-visit information Chapter five: Getting to a site Chapter six: Getting around the site Chapter seven: Access to interpretative information at the site Chapter eight: Development process Chapter nine: Overall conclusions and recommendations Appendix one: Bibliography Appendix two: Facts about sight loss Appendix three: The legal framework Appendix four: Physical access at The Slufter Appendix five: Useful contacts 2 Executive summary 1. Why was this fellowship undertaken? It may be assumed that blind and partially sighted people will have no problems in accessing outdoor heritage sites. Indeed, outdoor heritage sites can provide intrinsically multi-sensory experiences for people with sight loss. However, there are many barriers that people can face when visiting outdoor heritage sites including: A lack of accessible pre-visit information that a person can request before they visit a site. Lack of promotion of the site and its accessibility to blind and partially sighted people. Transport difficulties in getting to and from a site. Sites that are physically difficult for a blind or partially sighted person to navigate. Little or no accessible information on the physical layout of the site. Lack of understanding from staff as to how they can assist a blind or partially sighted visitor and a general lack of visual awareness. Few multi-sensory opportunities e.g. to touch, listen, to smell and to taste. Lack of interpretative information at the site in accessible formats. In discussions with the National Trust at the start of the project, it was felt that while issues around physical access to heritage sites have been explored in other projects and documented in publications, there was less research into the provision of interpretative information at outdoor heritage sites. One aspect of a visit can never be considered in isolation from the whole however, and so this report attempts to follow a visitor‟s journey from deciding to visit a site to returning home. One of the great things about the fellowship has been the opportunity for me to broaden my knowledge in an area I knew very little about. 2. What was done during the fellowship? 3 A number of sites were examined as they were considered by those working in the sector to have exemplar services: Romelaëre and Wavrans sur L‟Aa, Parc Naturel Régional des Caps et Marais d‟Opale, France The Island of Texel, the Netherlands The Botanical Gardens, Utrecht Shorne Wood Country Park, Kent. Two National Trust properties were selected for comparison and were visited in order to discuss improving access at these sites: Brownsea Island, Dorset Chirk Castle, North Wales. Each site was visited in the company of at least one blind or partially sighted auditor. 3. What were the findings of the fellowship? Although few of the features at Caps et Marais d‟Opale and Texel may be new to the Trust, what was very impressive was the way in which they were executed so that the sites provide an inclusive experience for all. There are some general principles that are useful to reflect on: Whilst recognising that many blind and partially sighted people may visit the sites in the company of sighted friends, partners, family members or companions, both sites aimed to provide as independent a visit as possible. Both sites started from the principle that a blind or partially sighted visitor wanted to navigate the site and enjoy the experience autonomously. Although many of the auditors commented that they were unlikely to visit a site alone, each felt that being able to experience the site alongside sighted companions without relying on them for information and interpretation was key. Access at both sites was very much integrated into everything done at the sites; both had an inclusive approach; it was not a 4 case of there being a „route for blind people‟, a „wheelchair accessible route‟ or a special tour. Both sites developed routes around their sites for all, and incorporated features that would enable a visit for disabled people into these routes. This was also demonstrated in their publicity. Particularly at Texel, there was a commitment to providing information in many different formats, allowing the visitor to choose what was most useful and accessible to them. The development of the site at Romelaëre was very interesting in that disabled advisors were members of the technical committee overseeing the development of the project alongside the architect and surveyor rather than as part of a separate access group. Both sites use simple, creative solutions. None of the solutions implemented at Texel and Caps et Marais d‟Opale are particularly complicated but they have been designed to be usable as well as accessible. Both sites worked with other local providers to ensure that the whole visitor experience, including transport, accommodation and restaurants are accessible and promoted to all. 4. What are the recommendations for the National Trust? The following recommendations may not seem revolutionary and I am aware that the Trust is working on some of these issues already. However, implementing them will ensure better access for blind and partially sighted people. Ultimately, providing an accessible site is about customer service. None of these recommendations for development will result in a better service unless all staff and volunteers know what services are available, how these services can be used and that the services are up-to-date and in working order. 5 4.1 Promoting the site: pre-visit information Individual sites could develop their own concise access guides to complement that offered in „Information for Visitors with Disabilities‟ and promoted to local groups. This information could be presented in an engaging radio style audio format perhaps in partnership with a local talking newspaper or college and would be a useful marketing as well as information tool. Send out pre-visit information to visitors via Articles for the Blind. Host open days at the site for local people to discuss services available, promote the site and promote opportunities such as working as a volunteer. Ensure that local disability groups are invited to such open days and offered transport. 4.2 Getting to the site Sites should liaise with local providers such as community transport services and other transport providers to establish whether a service could be run in partnership. Sites could consider contacting local volunteer bureaux or local societies of blind and partially sighted people to discuss the possibility of volunteer drivers. Some National Trust members who have access to a car might be interested in a National Trust buddying scheme, such as that run by Shape Ticketing Scheme or the RNIB Leisure Link project. 4.3 Getting around the site Properties should offer large, clear print maps and should work to provide details on paths including types of path, gradient and accessible features along route. 6 All staff and volunteers should receive visual awareness and guiding training to increase their confidence in offering assistance to blind and partially sighted visitors. Sites should consider how maps, which meet the needs of as many visitors as possible, can give all visitors an overview of the site and potential routes around. There may be places in some sites where tactile surfacing could be used in a way that is sympathetic to the environment, to enable blind and partially sighted people to be more independent. 4.4 Access to interpretative information Interpretative panels should be designed to be accessible to as many people as possible, both in terms of sensory and intellectual access. All staff and volunteers should receive description training in addition to visual awareness training to increase their confidence in offering assistance to blind and partially sighted visitors. Properties should ensure that information about a site, its history, development and on the natural environment through the seasons is provided in accessible formats and promoted in publicity material and at the site itself. Audio information can be developed for all, and can include description and way-finding information for blind and partially sighted visitors. Interesting sensory features should be promoted to all visitors in an accessible manner. Sites could consider where developing tactile models of landscape or natural features might be sympathetic to the surroundings and benefit all visitors. 7 1 Introduction to the fellowship project This chapter explains the purpose of the travel fellowship and outlines the research undertaken. 1.1 Aim of the project The aim of this travel fellowship has been to examine access for blind and partially sighted people to outdoor heritage sites both in Europe and the UK. In discussions with the National Trust at the start of the project, it was felt that, while issues around physical access to heritage sites have been explored in other projects and documented in publications, there was less research into the provision of interpretative information at outdoor heritage sites. Therefore, it was decided that this project should specifically focus on interpretative methods used in the different sites visited rather than solely focusing on physical access. The project therefore examined how information panels, multi-sensory, audio and tactile interpretation can best be developed to provide an accessible, enjoyable and rich learning experience for visitors with sight problems. One aspect of a visit can never be considered in isolation from the whole however, and so this report attempts to follow the visitor journey from deciding to visit a site to journeying home. 1.2 Methodology The first stage of the project was consultation to find out about best practice in the field. I consulted with the National Trust to get an overall picture of access for blind and partially sighted people at their properties, and areas that might be developed. I contacted practitioners in the UK to ascertain both their understanding of best practice in this area in the UK and their knowledge of best practice in Europe. I then contacted practitioners in Europe and organisations of blind and partially sighted people in order to identify outdoor sites with exemplar services. 8 From this consultation, my fellowship mentor Heather Smith and I selected two main sites in Europe. These were selected as they were consistently cited as examples of best practice by both organisations in the UK and Europe. The two sites were: Romelaëre and Wavrans sur L‟Aa, Parc Naturel Régional des Caps et Marais d‟Opale, France The Island of Texel, the Netherlands. In addition another two sites were visited. The Botanical Gardens, in Utrecht, were visited due to feedback from the organisation for blind and partially sighted people in the Netherlands and as an example of a garden site. Shorne Wood Country Park in Kent was visited following feedback from Luc Barbier in France. Two National Trust properties were selected for comparison and were visited in order to discuss improving access at these sites: Brownsea Island, Dorset Chirk Castle, North Wales These National Trust properties were selected due to their interest in the project and this area of work and due to the fact that they both have similar features to the European sites visited. Both were also at a stage where they were considering how they could improve services for blind and partially sighted people. At each site the following issues were examined: access policies and plans and budgets for access involvement of end-users in developing and evaluating services and policies opportunities to touch and handle objects/artefacts/models, to listen to sounds and other forms of multi-sensory interpretation interpretative information and provision of accessible information (e.g. braille, large print, audio and electronic information) provision of audio tours 9 staff and volunteer training and provision of assistance to visitors with sight problems promotion to and use of services by blind and partially sighted people. Involving users in assessing and developing services is, I believe, essential in ensuring that services are usable, useful and accessible. Therefore, I visited each site in the company of at least one blind or partially sighted person with whom I was able to discuss services and how they might be improved. I have been very lucky in being able to work with the auditors who agreed to be part of this project. Their input to the project and report has been invaluable. The statistics given in the next chapter show the comparatively low number of people who read braille. I do not read braille, however, and so decided to visit each site with someone who did so that where braille was used, we could make sure that it was accessible and useful. I was keen that the auditors I visited Europe with should be UK-based in order that we could discuss the European sites in comparison to those in the UK. I was therefore particularly fortunate to be able to work with two bi-lingual auditors. Wayne Chapman, with whom I visited the sites in France is fluent in French and has lived in the country in the past. Yvonne McCarthy, who accompanied me to the Netherlands, is Afrikaans and understands both spoken and braille Dutch. 1.3 What work is the Trust doing in this area at the moment? The Trust has a dedicated member of staff to advise all properties about access for disabled people. The Trust has a strategic approach to making access improvements. A formal programme of Access Audits for properties has been established. The audits assess the types of access improvements it may be considered reasonable to make and provide a list of recommendations, which properties add into their Property 10 Management Plans. A comprehensive disability awareness training programme has just been rolled out across the Trust to increase staff and volunteer knowledge and confidence when making these access improvements and welcoming disabled people to properties as visitors, employees or volunteers. This training is on-going and now forms part of property „start-of-season‟ induction days and the Trust‟s customer care programme, „Focus on Customers‟. Countryside properties present their own particular access issues and the Trust is working with partner organisations to move forward in making improvements that are sympathetic to the landscape. The Trust‟s access specialist is a member of the Countryside for All group, which has been set up to discuss approaches and provides a forum for heritage organisations and disability organisations to discuss access issues. The Countryside Agency is represented on this group, along with other countryside and recreation organisations and disability organisations including the Disability Rights Commission and RNIB. A training programme focusing particularly on access and the countryside will be rolled out to Trust staff and volunteers during 2006. This will build on the disability awareness training already offered but also look at bringing in other aspects of the Trust‟s work, including interpretation. A recent garden interpretation project has been developed with the Sensory Trust and focus groups of disabled people. This project has produced ideas for improving the style of maps used at Trust properties and a seasonal trail template, which properties can use to tell the story of their gardens at different times of the year, indicating the main sensory points of interest. The Trust is also developing guidelines for working with access groups to increase the amount of consultation work properties undertake. Other major projects involve producing standards for virtual tours and continuing to ensure access for all is integrated across all Trust projects and policies. 11 1.4 What other research and guidance exists in the sector? This year has been particularly productive for research into access for disabled people to the countryside. As a result of the Rural White Paper, the Countryside Agency has conducted a Diversity Review, in consultation with many other organisations including the National Trust. Entitled „What about Us?‟, two summaries of research into why certain groups are under- represented in visits to countryside sites have been produced. The full Diversity Plan for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will be published next year. In August, the Association of Inland Navigation Authorities produced „Making More of Our Waterways‟, which focuses on working with the local community to promote the use of the inland waterways. The Countryside Agency and the Environment Agency have both published revised guidance papers this year. The revised version of „By All Reasonable Means‟ was published by the Countryside Agency in October. The Sensory Trust, an independent charity that promotes and implements inclusive design of outdoor space, was contracted to produce this guidance. English Heritage and Heritage Lottery Fund have also published „Easy Access to Historic Landscapes‟, a sister publication to „Easy Access to Historic Buildings‟. This guidance was also worked on by the Sensory Trust and was published in October. The publication provides guidance and advice about increasing access, including examples of good practice from around the UK. The National Trust contributed to this guidance, as did several other heritage organisations and disability groups. At the time of writing, Countryside Council for Wales is undertaking consultation on improving access to National Nature Reserves. A bibliography of relevant publications is given at Appendix One and a list of useful contacts is given at Appendix Five. 12 1.5 A note on the report One of the fantastic things about the travel fellowship has been the opportunity for me to broaden my knowledge in an area I knew very little about. Although I have researched access for blind and partially sighted people to indoor heritage sites, art galleries and museums, I knew very little at the start of the project about access to countryside and outdoor heritage. I have been on a very exciting learning curve. However, this does mean that this report documents a learning journey and by no means represents definitive answers to all the problems presented. This report should be read alongside recent guidance in the sector, particularly „Easy Access to Historic Landscapes‟ and „By All Reasonable Means‟. Where appropriate, I have referenced these documents. 1.6 How the report is structured This report is structured to reflect the visitor‟s experience at an outdoor heritage site and compares the experience at the European and National Trust sites. Each section ends with a series of short recommendations for the National Trust. The report is structured in this way in order to examine each key issue that could prove to be a barrier for a blind or partially sighted visitor. Best practice is highlighted in each chapter from the comparator sites that provide services of particular note in each area. Chapter two sets the scene by posing the question - why improve access for blind and partially sighted people? This chapter outlines some of the problems visitors with sight loss may experience at an outdoor heritage site. Chapter three gives background information on the European sites and National Trust properties chosen for the study. Chapter four then begins the journey of the visitor to an outdoor heritage site by examining how a visitor will learn about 13 the services available at an outdoor heritage site and what information they will have to decide if they want to visit a site. Chapter five then considers how a visitor will get to a site. Chapter six examines how a visitor gets around a site, particularly looking at the information given to them on the layout of a site and other orientation clues. Chapter seven looks at the range of interpretive information and multi-sensory opportunities available at a site. Chapter eight examines how access has been developed at each site in terms of consultation, management and process to see if there are lessons that can be learnt for the Trust. Chapter nine then examines what overall lessons the Trust can learn from the European comparators and specifically what changes could be implemented at National Trust sites to improve access for blind and partially sighted people. During the site visits to both European and UK sites, I took digital photographs of the auditors using facilities that highlighted good and bad practice. I have included some of these photographs to illustrate examples of both. However, this report must also be accessible to those who cannot see the images or cannot see them well. So for each image, I have added a few sentences of description, as should be done for images on a website, which attempt to explain both what is happening in the photograph and the point being made visually by the image. Image one: The role of the auditors was essential to this project. This image shows two of the auditors who worked on the project, Jill Whitehead and Aidan Joynt, walking around the easy access path at Shorne Wood as part of the site visit to Kent. Jill is guiding Aidan along the path. 14 2 Why improve access for blind and partially sighted people? This chapter describes the barriers that blind and partially sighted visitors can face when visiting outdoor heritage sites. 2.1 Who are the Trust’s blind and partially sighted visitors? Around two million people in the UK have uncorrectable sight loss. Uncorrectable sight loss means that even with glasses or lenses, a person cannot read standard newspaper print, or visually recognise someone across the road. Sight loss is one of the commonest causes of disability in the UK and, more than any other disability, is associated with old age. Most registered blind and partially sighted people have some useful vision; only four per cent of blind and partially sighted people have no useful vision (see Appendix Two for definitions). 80 per cent of people with sight loss are aged over 601. Not everyone carries an external symbol that indicates their sight loss. There are approximately 5,000 guide dog owners in the UK and approximately 170,000 people who use a white cane. 75 per cent of partially sighted people can read large print. 36 per cent of blind people can read large print. There are around 20,000 fluent braille readers in the UK. Many more people may be able to use braille labelling and signage. 75 per cent of blind and partially sighted people of working age are unemployed. 60 per cent of people with a sight problem have another serious illness or disability such as arthritis or a hearing impairment. Many have more than one other disability. About 23,000 people in the UK have a severe loss of both sight and hearing; about 200,000 have less serious dual sensory loss. 1 Statistics from "Blind & Partially Sighted Adults in Britain", Bruce et al, RNIB, 91 15 Every blind or partially sighted visitor is different and will have different motivations for visiting a National Trust property. A visitor with sight loss may be there for a day out with their children or grandchildren, or may have a PhD in botany or eighteenth century history and be visiting for research purposes. Blind and partially sighted people should be defined by their interests rather than by their sight loss. The aim is to make all services, information and experiences accessible so that a blind or partially sighted visitor has the same choices as any other visitor. Meeting the needs of blind and partially sighted people often results in providing better access for all visitors. For example by providing clear, accessible information, you are improving access for everyone. This is particularly the case for people for whom English is not their first language (including British Sign Language users), people who are dyslexic, have literacy problems or who have learning difficulties. The majority of people with sight problems are older people. Many people who lose sight gradually later in life may not perceive themselves as being blind or partially sighted. Making all services, buildings and information accessible to people with sight loss often means that you are improving access for those who would not think to ask for services for blind and partially sighted people. More information on sight loss is given at Appendix Two. 2.2 The issue: what are the barriers at outdoor heritage sites? It may be assumed that blind and partially sighted people will have no problems in accessing outdoor heritage sites. Indeed, many outdoor heritage sites provide intrinsically multi-sensory experiences for people with sight loss. However, there are many barriers that people can face. I asked the blind and partially sighted auditors that I worked with on the project about their experiences in visiting outdoor heritage sites. The following quotes illustrate some of the barriers and frustrations that people can face: 16 “As a keen birdwatcher I love to get out and about but I often find that there is no information on bird or plantlife in a format I can access. Maybe people presume I‟m not interested.” “Usually there is very little information that I can access at country parks. Often there is no information at all. You have to have somebody with you to get information you need and even to find out if you want to visit a place. It can put you off going.” “Although I probably wouldn‟t visit an outdoor site on my own I would like to have information to be as independent as possible and not rely on the people I am with. If we are visiting somewhere as a family I want to have the same information as my husband and daughter but also have extra descriptive information so I know what they are looking at. I want to be able to tell my daughter about the place we are in even if I can‟t see it.” “Normally the information I get gives me some sort of picture of where I am but never gives me everything I want to know; there is often very little description.” “I can sometimes find it very difficult to orientate myself in large spaces that don‟t have any reference points. I need some useful pointers like clear landmarks and different surfaces.” “By their very nature, many National Trust properties are in the countryside and have no public transport within walking distance. That can make the visit more of a hassle than a pleasure. And there are plenty of non-disabled people who are reliant on public transport as well. There can be the assumption that if you are a disabled person you will have someone with you; that‟s very old- fashioned.” “Often steps outdoors aren‟t marked or highlighted in any way. That‟s important for a lot of people, not just visually impaired people. Good signs are important as well, especially on the toilets. Why are the „ladies‟ and „gentlemen‟ signs always so small!” “I think access at National Trust properties is often only as good as the guides at the place. It‟s so important that members of staff and volunteers are aware.” “I know there are often braille guides but I wonder how much they are used. A friend of mine told me he often doesn‟t like to carry the braille around. There should be more audio. Large print is useful as well. I know a lot of people who have lost sight and don‟t like to admit it so large print is good for them.” 17 Therefore, common barriers to access at outdoor heritage sites include: 1. A lack of accessible pre-visit information that a person can request before they visit a site (covered in chapter four). 2. Lack of promotion of the site and its accessibility to blind and partially sighted people, in the form of promotional information in accessible formats and direct contact with blind and partially sighted people (covered in chapter four). 3. Transport difficulties in getting to and from a site (covered in chapter five). 4. Sites that are physically difficult for a blind or partially sighted person to navigate (covered in chapter six). 5. Little or no accessible information on the physical layout of the site or property (covered in chapter six). 6. Lack of understanding from staff and volunteers as to how they can assist a blind or partially sighted visitor and a general lack of visual awareness (covered in chapter seven) 7. Few multi-sensory opportunities e.g. to touch, listen, to smell and to taste (covered in chapter seven). 8. Lack of interpretative information at the site or property in accessible formats (covered in chapter seven). 2.3 The legal framework The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) makes it unlawful to discriminate against disabled people. It requires service providers to change the way in which they deliver services to ensure that they are accessible to disabled people. What will be considered „reasonable‟ in terms of adjustments under the DDA depends on a number of factors, such as human and financial resources. Whatever the circumstances of an organisation or particular property, it is extremely unlikely that there is not something that could be done to make the service more accessible. Importantly, what is considered reasonable will adjust over time as technology develops and becomes cheaper and as research into improving access for disabled people develops. Access is therefore never „finished‟; facilities and services should be continually evaluated and reviewed. More information on the legal framework is given at Appendix three. 18 3. European case studies and National Trust properties This chapter provides an introduction to each of the European case studies and the National Trust properties involved in this project. 3.1 Case study one: Parc Naturel Régional des Caps et Marais d’Opale Parc Naturel Régional des Caps et Marais d‟Opale is situated in the North East of France. The regional park authority covers the area stretching from Calais in the North, to Boulogne in the West to Saint Omer in the East. The proximity of Belgium, the Netherlands, the Paris area and the UK, all connected by excellent transport links mean that the area is an important tourism hub. The Parc Naturel Régional is located in the government regions of Pas-de-Calais and the Nord-Pas-de-Calais and constitutes one of the principal areas of biodiversity in France. Parc Naturel Régional des Caps et Marais d‟Opale is renowned in France for its commitment to improving access for disabled people. The Parc has won awards for access and has a strong track record of developing services with users. The particular sites examined as a case study for this fellowship were two sites in the Audomarois marsh area around St Omer, La Grange Nature at Romelaëre and Wavrans sur L‟Aa. La Grange Nature (The Nature Barn) is open to the public between May and September and is open all the year to pre-arranged groups. In 1999, Romelaëre was re-opened after extensive re-development with the aim of being accessible to all. It has since become renowned throughout France and across Europe for its accessibility. The site has an extensive walkway over the ponds and marshes of Romelaëre. This walkway takes a visitor over two kilometres of the natural reserve to a bird and wildlife observation hut. Throughout the 19 walkway there are information stations with information in print, braille and tactile images that provide information on the landscape, the fauna and the flora of the marsh. Wavrans sur L‟Aa is a small village about 20 kilometres south-west of St Omer. Close to the village is the site managed by the regional park authority, which has an accessible path that runs alongside the river L‟Aa to the village of Elnes. I visited the two sites in the Audomarois region with my colleague Wayne Chapman in July 2005. Wayne is a keen birdwatcher and often visits outdoor heritage sites in the UK. Wayne and I were accompanied on our visits by Luc Barbier who has been responsible for developing the accessible features at the two sites. 3.2 Case study two: - Het Aloo Nature Path and De Slufter, the Island of Texel, the Netherlands „Whatever you make, make it for all, or at least don‟t create man made obstacles. Remove existing man made obstacles if reasonable.‟, Texel management plan The island Texel covers 16,100 hectares and lies off the north coast of the Netherlands. It is home to some 13,700 residents and receives five million tourist overnight stays a year. The island is reached by a 15 minute ferry journey from the town of Den Helder, which is about an hour north of Amsterdam by train. Texel is one of the eighteen National Parks in the Netherlands and is managed by Staatsbosbeheer, the National Forest Management Service. Texel has a long history of working to make the countryside accessible to disabled people. Over the last thirty years, a range of different services and facilities have been developed to enable disabled people to get to the island, to stay on the island and enjoy the nature in the country park. Yvonne McCarthy and I visited the Island of Texel in September in the company of Erik van Spek. Erik is a park ranger employed by Staatsbosbeheer. Erik has led on the access initiatives and is widely regarded to be one of the experts in the Netherlands on access to 20 natural sites. We visited both the Alloo Nature Park on the west coast of the island and the flood plain, the Slufter. 3.3 Other sites visited 3.3.1 Botanical Gardens, Utrecht Two other outdoor sites were recommended during the course of the research. Whilst in the Netherlands, Yvonne and I travelled to Utrecht and visited the Botanical Gardens attached to the University of Utrecht. With a total area of 42 hectares and founded in 1630, the Botanical Gardens are the largest and oldest in the Netherlands. The Gardens have worked in partnership with the Netherlands Federation for the Blind and Visually Impaired to improve access for people with sight loss. 3.3.2 Shorne Wood Country Park, Kent I also visited Shorne Wood Country Park, managed by Kent County Council, after a recommendation from Luc Barbier in France. I visited the park in September with Aidan Joynt and Jill Whitehead. Covering some 288 acres of ancient woodland, the park is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its wildlife value. Kent County Council has developed a range of facilities for disabled visitors in consultation with various agencies including Kent Association for the Blind. These facilities include an easy access trail, which is featured in their Walks For All Pack, sensory gardens, electro-scooters and audio guide tapes. 21 3.4 National Trust property one: Brownsea Island Brownsea Island is the largest of the islands situated in Poole Harbour and is around one and a half miles in length. During its varied history, Brownsea has been used as a coastguard station, Edwardian country estate, and as a decoy to protect Poole in the Second World War. The Island is home to important populations of red squirrel and seabirds, and has a varied landscape of woodland, heather, a lagoon, marshes and dramatic cliffs and beaches. The Island was purchased by the Trust in 1962. The island is open from March to October and now receives around 100,000 visitors a year. It is reached by ferry, which takes 5 minutes from Sandbanks and around 20 minutes from Poole Harbour. It can also be reached by ferry from Swanage and Bournemouth. The current property manager, Simon Lee, took over management of Brownsea Island in the last year. A number of services for blind and partially sighted people are currently in use on the Island, developed by the previous property manager. These include braille and large print versions of an island walk and braille, large print and audio versions of a general welcome leaflet that were produced in 1998. The audio information is out of date and so has been removed from public use. There is a commitment at Brownsea to explore ways of improving access for blind and partially sighted people Isabella Murdoch and I visited Brownsea Island in September and met with Simon Lee. 3.5 National Trust property two: Chirk Castle Chirk Castle lies just outside the village of Chirk, close to Wrexham in North Wales. Completed in 1310, the castle was built by one of Edward I‟s warlords, Roger Mortimer. Although the exterior is rather grim, the interior has been occupied for 700 years and displays many different styles. 22 The castle, its formal gardens and extensive grounds are open to the public from April to October, Wednesday to Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays. Chirk Caste and Gardens receives around 100,000 visitors a year. The current provision for blind and partially sighted people is in the form of a braille guide to the castle which gives some background information on the castle but not on the contents of the rooms, and a touch list of artefacts in the castle that can be touched. Although consultation has been undertaken with disabled people, in the last two years there has been no specific consultation with blind and partially sighted people about the services on offer at Chirk. The property manager Emma Hegarty is very keen to improve services for blind and partially sighted people. A woodland walk has recently been developed and Emma is keen that as many people as possible are able to access this walk. I visited Emma Hegarty in early September to discuss the project. Bev Bell Hughes, Chris Copeman and I then visited again later in September to assess current provision and ways in which access could be improved. Although we visited the castle itself and discussed access to the building and collections, we primarily focused on access to the grounds and particularly the woodland walk. Image two: Bev, Chris and Chris’s colleague from a local Talking Newspaper, Elizabeth discuss improvements that could be made in the formal gardens at Chirk 23 4. The visitor experience: pre-visit information and publicity This chapter examines the importance of pre-visit information and cites examples of best practice that are relevant to the Trust and its properties. 4.1 Why is pre-visit information important? The information that a visitor receives before they visit a site can have a huge impact on their decision to visit and on the quality of their visit. This is particularly the case for disabled people who may experience barriers to access at sites they visit and will therefore want to know about services and facilities in advance of a visit. Providing accurate and comprehensive information on the accessibility of a site enables a disabled person to make an informed decision as to whether to visit a site or not as well as finding out what services they can access when they are there. Quote from auditor: “First off you have to have heard of the site in the first place; often sites don‟t seem to market themselves very well to visually impaired people.” As well as providing essential information on accessibility, pre-visit information is also a valuable marketing tool to help venues promote their services to disabled visitors and to demonstrate their commitment to access. Quote from auditor: “Information has to be useful for when you are there. Although I read braille I probably wouldn‟t want to read large amounts of braille on a visit, I‟d rather have the information in advance and perhaps use audio information at the site.” Blind and partially sighted visitors in particular may want to have information about a site in advance of a visit. For people who use low vision aids, prefer to access information digitally through their PC or who do not want to carry round accessible formats that can be bulky, having information in advance of a visit can be an essential way of 24 finding out about the site. Indeed some organisations develop pre- visit information packs specifically aimed at visitors with sight loss. Such packs might include information in audio, braille and large print on planning a visit, as well as information about the history of a site and interpretative information, perhaps including descriptions of important features and tactile images. Pre-visit information needs to be provided in a format that blind and partially sighted people can access. RNIB‟s See it Right guidelines (an update of which will be published early 2006) give information on producing accessible formats such as clear print (print produced to guidelines that make it easier for everyone to read), large print, audio and accessible digital information. The National Trust has its own clear print guidelines. For more information see Appendix Four. It is important as well not to regard information for blind and partially sighted people as something separate from mainstream information. Firstly, the more accessible general information is, the less an organisation will need to provide alternative formats. Secondly, many blind and partially sighted people get information from sighted family and friends; an organisation should publicise services for blind and partially sighted people in all publicity material. Some examples of pre-visit information are listed below. Further examples are given in „Easy Access to Historic Landscapes‟ (pages 33 to 36). 4.2 Pre-visit information at Texel Visitors to Texel can access information about facilities in a variety of ways in advance of a visit. Due to the partnerships between the VVV (Vereniging voor Vremdelingenverkeer, the tourist information office) the national park, Staatsbosbeheer, the ferry service and others, comprehensive access information for the whole island has been developed. The interpretive information that visitors use around the nature path at Het Alloo is also available for visitors to access in advance of a visit via the internet. The information can be downloaded from the Texel website in the hope that blind and partially sighted visitors will 25 be able to access it in a format that they can read in advance of a visit. Although Erik van Spek does not know how many people have accessed this information, he sees it as an important way to give people information in advance of a visit. The Texel website was not fully audited as part of this project but guidance on developing accessible websites is available from RNIB (see Appendix Four.) Image three: The general information leaflet for Het Alloo includes access symbols and photographs of wheelchair users and blind and partially sighted visitors enjoying the path In addition, the accessibility of Het Alloo nature path is promoted in the general publicity and information for the route. Access symbols are displayed on the front of the leaflet and images of disabled people using the route are included in the general information. This information is available in large print and braille. Information on the type of paths around the national park is detailed on all visitor information. Details such as types of surfaces are marked on a map so that visitors can decide if they want to follow a particular path in advance of a visit. 4.3 Pre-visit information at Botanical Gardens, Utrecht The Botanical Gardens in Utrecht have information that they send out to visitors in advance of a visit. This information, in braille and large print, gives details on how to reach the Gardens using public transport and describes the walk from the bus stop to the entrance of the gardens that is also marked on the pavement. The information also describes a route through the gardens. 4.4 Pre-visit information at Shorne Wood, Kent Information on paths around Shorne Wood Country Park, and indeed other sites managed by the County Council are given on information sheets as part of the „Walks for All‟ series, available via the County website and at the sites themselves. 26 These maps, in clear print, give information on the walks that can be taken around the parks and also give details on surfaces, types of gradients and their actual measurements (e.g. uphill gradients 1:15, cross slope 1:25 etc.), distances, accessible toilets and rest areas. They also give information on the services available for disabled visitors. Currently these maps are only available in clear print but there are plans as part of future developments at Shorne Wood, overseen by an access forum that meets quarterly, to update the maps and look at the accessibility of information provided. Image four (overleaf): Information on the easy access trail at Shorne Wood Country Park (copyright Kent County Council) 4.5 What information does the National Trust currently provide? Comprehensive information on access for disabled visitors is available through an annual National Trust publication “Information for Visitors with Disabilities” (which from 2006 will be known as „Access Guide‟). This is a directory of properties that gives information on access and is available in braille, large print and audio. The publication gives important access information and also highlights interesting sensory features at listed properties. Accessible features are also highlighted on each property‟s section of the Trust website. The website will be audited for accessibility and the Head of Access for All is working closely with the web team. 4.6 Recommendations for the National Trust properties Providing visitors with information about access facilities in advance of a visit both promotes a site‟s welcoming attitude to disabled visitors and enables visitors to make an informed choice as to whether and how to visit. Recommendations the National Trust should consider are: Individual sites developing their own concise access guides to complement that offered in „Information for Visitors with 27 Disabilities‟. These access guides could then be distributed by the property to local groups, services and individuals to help promote the property to disabled people. It was felt that this might encourage local people, who were not necessarily members of the National Trust, to visit their local property. Presenting information on properties in radio style audio format. Access information could also usefully be presented in audio, but rather than being a straight reading of visitor and access information, could be something more interesting and engaging. A radio programme style format could be recorded using the voices of members of staff, volunteers, local people and sounds recorded at the property (such as the peacocks at Brownsea Island). Such a recording could be developed perhaps with the help of a local Talking Newspaper or a local college, and would be a useful marketing as well as information tool. The National Trust‟s members‟ magazine is produced in this manner. Sending out access information from the property to local access groups and societies for blind and partially sighted people. Sending out pre-visit information to visitors via Articles for the Blind. Both National Trust properties visited had information in braille. Information in accessible formats such as braille, audio and now also large print can be sent free of charge via the Articles for the Blind service operated by Royal Mail. This service could be advertised to local people who might want to borrow information about a site in advance of a visit. Although this is a service offered in general by the Trust, it is not something that the individual sites we visited had done or had promoted to local groups. Hosting open days at the site for local people to discuss services available, promote the site and promote opportunities for working as a volunteer. Ensuring that local disability groups are invited to such open days, that accessible services are offered alongside accessible transport. 28 5. The visitor experience: getting to the site Getting to an outdoor site can be a huge barrier for a blind or partially sighted visitor if the site is not easily reached by public transport. This chapter details the approach taken at some of the sites and makes recommendations. 5.1 The frustrations of getting to a site Quote from auditor: “It can also be very difficult to get to places in the countryside by public transport. You often have to get someone to drive you or you need to pay for a taxi.” Many blind and partially sighted people use public transport to get around. Several of the auditors cited the problem of physically getting to an outdoor heritage site as a deterrent. Whilst some people with sight loss may choose to visit an outdoor heritage site in the company of sighted family or friends, it is important to consider those who either wish to visit independently or in the company of family or friends who are also blind or partially sighted. Whilst the National Trust is not responsible for public transport it is important to consider what interventions could be made to make the experience easier for those who use public transport to get to sites. Both the Netherlands and France have examples of how the nature sites led on improvements to the local tourist infrastructure in terms of transport, accommodation and restaurants. Making National Trust properties easier to access by pubic transport is also part of the Trust‟s commitment to reducing the size of car parks, whilst ensuring provision of parking for disabled visitors. Getting to Texel Texel is extremely easy to access by public transport. What is especially impressive for a British visitor is the way in which each 29 stage of the journey interconnects exactly on time – from train, to bus, to ferry, and then to bus again. The improvements for access for disabled people to the national park have been seen as part of the whole visitor experience to the island. Therefore, the Texel ferry company have been an important partner in ensuring that disabled people can get to the island in the first place. The ferry service has audible announcements and clear signage as well as being accessible to wheelchair users. Staatsbosbeheer have worked with the tourist information service (VVV) to ensure that other tourist facilities and services are accessible. The partners have worked to ensure that there are a sufficient number of taxis that are accessible to wheelchairs and that there is accessible holiday accommodation. There are other facilities accessible for disabled people on the island, for example, one of the shrimping boats takes visitors to the island on fishing trips. All of the facilities for disabled people are detailed in a booklet produced by the VVV tourist information service. Quote from auditor: It was so easy to reach Texel by public transport, it was so different from my experience in the British countryside. Image five: The ferry port at Texel. The ferry boats are accessible to wheelchair users and the port has a ramp up to the boat as is shown in this image. Getting to Shorne Wood Shorne Wood is in a countryside location and although most visitors drive to the site, it is accessible by public transport by a bus route with stops at the three local train stations. Information on how to reach the site by public transport was promoted on visitor information including details such as bus numbers and frequency of service. 30 Image six: Jill and Aidan at Meopham railway station on the way to visit Shorne Wood. Information on the park gave details on the nearest railway stations, bus services and taxi numbers Getting to Brownsea Island Although the town of Poole is well connected by public transport, getting to Brownsea Island can be a barrier for some visitors. The privately-run ferry boats which go to the island are not accessible to wheelchair users and can only take those with mobility problems if they can transfer onto the boat themselves. This situation is being addressed and the Trust is assessing whether it might purchase an accessible ferry to be used until the private companies themselves have wheelchair accessible ferries. The return ferry journey to Poole Harbour also gives an audio commentary with some information on the island which could be promoted to blind and partially sighted visitors. Although this commentary is not particularly descriptive it does give lots of useful information on the Harbour, its history and use in a way that is accessible to most people with sight loss. Quote from auditor: “The commentary on the boat round the islands was great, although the man spoke quite quickly so I couldn‟t catch everything he said” Image seven: Isabella on the top deck of the ferry listening to the commentary given on the harbour and its islands. Brownsea Island can be seen in the background. Getting to Chirk Chirk Castle is situated in North Wales between Oswestry and Wrexham. The Castle provides information on public transport to the village of Chirk including the bus service between Wrexham and Oswestry, and train services to Chirk. The train station is however, as publicity material details, a quarter of a mile to gates and two miles to castle. This means that a visitor who arrives by train may need to 31 ensure that a taxi can meet them to take them from the station to the castle. There is a minibus service that runs from the car park to the castle as this is a rather steep walk. Recommendations to National Trust Unfortunately the National Trust cannot rely on the fantastic Dutch transport system. However, working in partnership with community transport services, local societies for blind and partially sighted people and other local groups could help a property offer a solution. Some approaches to consider could be: Liaising with community transport services and other transport providers to establish whether a service could be run in partnership. Contacting the local volunteer bureau or local societies of blind and partially sighted people to discuss the possibility of volunteer drivers. Some National Trust members who have access to a car might be interested in a buddying scheme for those with similar interests, such as that run by Shape Ticketing Scheme or the RNIB Leisure Link project. „Easy Access to Historic Landscapes‟ also offers some suggestions (page 37) of good practice in terms of enabling disabled people to get to and from an outdoor site. 32 6. The visitor experience: getting around the site This chapter describes some of the innovative methods of way- finding and orientation that have been developed in France and the Netherlands 6.1 Introduction It is perhaps in the area of way-finding around natural environments that the sites in France and the Netherlands most differ from those of the National Trust. Both Luc Barbier and Erik van Spek have worked with the principle that a blind or partially sighted visitor may want to navigate a site independently. Particularly at Romelaëre, much work had been undertaken to realise this aim. 6.2 Orientation and way-finding at Romelaëre Luc Barbier and his team started the process of developing the site with the aim of being able to offer all visitors an equitable experience at the site, and for all disabled people to be able to visit independently. In terms of orientation for blind and partially sighted people, Luc and his team were working towards the aim that a blind visitor should be able to visit Romelaëre autonomously and be able to orientate themselves round the site. The orientation system starts in the car park at Romelaëre. A first information point gives a tactile map of the site and explains how the way-finding system works, as is described in image nine. The system is quite simple. A visitor with sight loss who uses a long cane follows a tapping rail along the right hand side of the path. A break in the tapping rail indicates a potential hazard or point of interest. Immediately at the break in the rail is an information post to the immediate right of the visitor. This information post has a tactile panel on top which gives information in braille and through a simple tactile map to indicate the location of a hazard or information point. 33 Image nine: Wayne at the first information point in the car park at Romelaëre. This information point gives information on the site and a tactile map of the site. From this point onwards a long cane user can follow the tapping rail towards the site. Image eight: Wayne and Luc following the path from the car park to the Nature Barn. Wayne is using the tapping rail along the right hand side of the path. Using this system, a blind or partially sighed visitor follows the path from the car park along a path into the Nature Barn itself. The Nature Barn covers an area of marshland. A boardwalk around the site has been constructed from untreated wood. Tapping rails are given on both sides of the path to orientate a blind visitor, and again the visitor follows the right hand path. Here, instead of using a break in the rail to indicate an information post on the right hand side, tactile bumps constructed from wood under foot indicate that an information post is just to the right hand side (image eight). Each information post again has a small tactile map on the top of the post that indicates if there is a divide in the path or if there is an information station nearby and its location (image nine). This orientation system offers a blind visitor, particularly those who use a long cane and read braille, an excellent way to move independently around the site. Those who are guide dog owners, who work their dog on the right, may miss the tactile bumps and certainly the break in the tapping line, and those who cannot read braille may not find the directional information as useful as those who do. However, for those it is aimed at, this system provides the opportunity to move independently and confidently around the site. Quote from auditor: “For me as a long cane user and braille reader Romelaëre was an amazing dream come true. Before my visit, I had never known of any nature reserves where information about the surrounding area was presented in such an accessible way both from the point of view of navigation and quality of detail. 34 I quickly realised that I needed to adapt my mobility technique to the system at Romelaëre in order to follow the shoreline. At first when I was walking along, and at the same time in conversation, I found myself occasionally inclined to lose concentration and thus not pick up the clues from under my feet or from my cane. Yet by the end of the visit, once I had learnt the system and got used to it, I could be completely independent. As there were no barriers to navigation or access to knowledge about the area, I felt for the first time in my life that a whole new window to accessibility to nature had been opened.” Image nine: Tactile flooring in the form of raised wooden bumps on the wood floor indicate that an information post is on the right hand side of the visitor Image ten: The information posts that are indicated by the tactile flooring are always given on the right hand side of the visitor. The small panel is placed alongside the handrail and tells the visitor if there is a junction or an information station Image eleven: Wayne is reading the tactile information post that he located using the tactile flooring under foot. Image twelve: The boardwalk around Romelaëre is accessible to wheelchairs and wide enough to let two electric wheelchairs pass. Where the boardwalk has to narrow due to the natural environment, there are frequent passing points wide enough for two electric wheelchair users to pass. There are also frequent resting places. Image thirteen: A family, one member of whom is a wheelchair user, looking out at the marsh land from one of the viewing points 6.3 Orientation and way-finding at Wavrans sur L’Aa A similar but not identical orientation system was used at Wavrans sur L‟Aa. Whilst the path again started with an accessible map, at Wavrans sur L‟Aa, this was actually a tactile model of the site. Although these models are aimed at being accessible to blind and partially sighted people and include large print and braille labelling, 35 they are obviously accessible to all and used by many. As they give a „birds-eye‟ perspective of the whole site they allow all visitors to gain an understanding of the natural environment, in an interactive way. Some tapping rails were used alongside the path at points that were considered to be a potential danger to blind and partially sighted visitors, but not the whole way as at Romelaëre. Hand rails are used around the rest of the path. Image fourteen: Wayne and Luc discuss the tactile model at Wavrans sur L’Aa that is situated at the start of the path around the site 6.4 Orientation and way-finding at Het Alloo Nature Path Het Alloo Nature Path was opened in 2003. It has been made accessible for wheelchair users and also for blind and partially sighted people. Image fifteen: Yvonne and Erik at the start of the Nature Path. The start of the path is indicated by tactile paving and an information post in large print and braille which gives information to the visitor on the layout of the start of the path The path is reasonably level throughout and is made from a mixture of clay and broken shell. This material was selected as it is firm and has a distinctive texture, colour and sound that is different from the other surfaces alongside the path. The Nature Path consists of two looped paths, one that covers 4.8 km and a shorter walk. Information is made available to all visitors about the rout of the path as well as about the natural environment it passes. Animals graze on the land that the path traverses and so at certain points around the path visitors need to pass through gates. After consultation, Erik and the team at Staatsbosbeheer decided to use metal „kissing gates‟. It was decided that these gates when made 36 from metal were relatively light and easy for people to open. They could be made wide enough for a wheelchair user to comfortably pass through and, when adapted with a large handle, would be easy for all visitors to operate and for blind and partially sighted visitors to locate. Image sixteen: The ‘kissing gate’ at the start of the Nature Path. The path to and through the gate is marked with tactile paving. Image seventeen: The large handle on the top of the kissing gate has received favourable feedback from wheelchair users and blind and partially sighted visitors2. At the beginning of the nature path there is an accessible map. This map is tactile and well colour-contrasted and has information in large print and braille. It explains to visitors the orientation system for the path and the purpose of the information panels situated along it. Image eighteen: Yvonne uses the accessible map at the start of the Nature Path. This gives information on the route the path takes through the surrounding natural environment. The entire information panel is about one and a half metres across and a metre tall. It is supported by two wooden posts and is almost parallel to the ground, but sloped slightly higher – about 80 degrees from the visitor reading the map. Yvonne found this to be a comfortable angle for reading the map and braille information. Image nineteen: Yvonne uses the braille key on the left-hand side of the map. A large print key is given down the right-hand side. 2 It is worth noting that metal handles are not recommended for people with sensitive hands. This is detailed in „The Building Regulations 2000 Approved Document Part M; Access to and use of buildings (England and Wales)‟, e.g. section 1.37f about handrails and 2.17d about door handles. Greater detail is given in „BS8300:2001 Design of buildings and their approaches to meet the needs of disabled people – Code of practice.‟ 37 The nature path has a series of orientation and information posts throughout that are indicated to blind and partially sighted visitors with tactile paving. This paving lies to the right hand side of the path; this system is explained to the visitor in the information given on the initial information panel on map. Alongside the tactile paving is a short guiding rail that will lead a visitor using a long cane to the information post. Image twenty: One of the information posts alongside the path. The post has an area of tactile paving in front of it. Each information post consists of a wooden post topped with a sloping „roof‟ with large print information on one side and braille on the other. Image twenty-one: Large print information on one of the information posts. The lettering is in yellow on a dark brown background. Image twenty-two: The braille information given on the panel is on the side away from the path and is read from the bottom up towards the visitor, like reading braille resting over your knee. Image twenty-three: Yvonne standing on the tactile paving and reading the braille information on one of the posts. Yvonne is resting her wrists on the top of the slopping roof in order to read the braille. The information post gives details on orientation rather than on interpretation of the nature environment. The posts indicate, for example, a choice of two paths, e.g. when the shorter loop of the walk splits from the longer loop or a hazard such as a road crossing or bridle way crossing. There are 48 posts around the path due to the fact that there are many paths and roads that cross the nature path. Image twenty-four: One of the potential obstacles indicated by an information post. The post gives information on the gate up ahead and how it is opened 38 The nature path also has other accessible features. All benches along the path have space for a wheelchair user to sit alongside the bench and are indicated by tactile paving. Image twenty-five: Yvonne standing by one of the benches alongside the nature path. The bench is indicated to blind and partially sighted visitors with tactile paving In addition the picnic benches have space for wheelchair users. A barbeque area has also been made accessible to wheelchair users. A visitor centre, EcoMar, close to the Alloo site is also accessible to wheelchair users, as is the café. What was very striking when Yvonne and I visited the site was the number of wheelchair users at the centre and using the café. Quote from auditor: “The nature path was really well designed. Although I have no vision I could walk around it without being guided which was really liberating.” Some very interesting work has been done at the Slufter to improve access over sand dunes. This is more about physical access rather than interpretation for blind and partially sighted people and so has been included in Appendix Six. 6.5 A note on accessible maps Although the examples of accessible maps given in this report are in France and the Netherlands, there are obviously many examples in the UK. At Rutland Water Park, for example, „maps for all‟ produced by Sue King at RNIB have been installed. These maps give information in large print, raised lettering, braille and using large clear well colour contrasted symbols. Image twenty-six: A map for all overlooking grassland and a lake at Rutland Water Park 39 6.6 Getting around Brownsea Island Currently the orientation information offered to all visitors to Brownsea Island is in the form of a print map. All visitors are given a map of the island and volunteers often discuss routes and walks round the island with visitors and mark them on this map. The map is not currently available in large print or other formats although a described walk is offered (see chapter seven). Paths around Brownsea Island vary a lot in terms of gradient and surface. There are some areas that are steep and others where the path is quite loose. A programme to improve the surface of the pathways around the ferry port has begun and will continue to develop the new surface path. Although there are currently no circular routes round the island that do not contain some stretches with a steep gradient, the property manager is interested in developing a route accessible to those with a reduced level of mobility. Using an orientation system, such as that at Texel, the accessible route could be linked to the interpretative information developed at the island, such as an audio guide. Brownsea could also develop a map similar to that at Shorne Wood and Texel that give visitors information on gradients and surface types around a route so that the visitor can make an informed choice as to whether they wish to undertake that route. Image twenty-seven: some areas of the island are large expanses of grass or heathland, such as the church grass area that Isabella is approaching from the main path. In 2005, the Island started to run „trailer trails‟ around the island for people with a reduced level of mobility and their companions. Tours are operated twice daily on Tuesdays and Fridays and last about 1 hour 15 minutes. There are places for eight seated visitors and 4 wheelchair users. A volunteer gives a commentary on the route and points out places of interest. This service has proved very popular and may be extended in the future. The possibility of promoting this service to blind and partially sighted visitors was discussed. 40 Consultation with local blind and partially sighted people and with someone experienced in describing to people with sight loss, perhaps with a theatre or museum background, could give volunteers and staff some pointers concerning descriptions that could be incorporated into the tour. This would give blind and partially sighted visitors some extra information on their surroundings. Image twenty-eight: Isabella standing by the large tractor trailer which can take up to eight visitors on a tour of the island. 6.7 Getting around Chirk Again, information offered to all visitors to Chirk Castle is in the form of a print map. This is a bi-lingual map and therefore with more print to fit on the page is not very accessible for those with sight loss. The possibility of producing large clear print maps separately in English and Welsh was discussed. In terms of moving around the outdoor areas at Chirk, Bev and Chris found the paths around the formal gardens fairly easy to navigate; often the paths were very distinct from bordering areas in colour, texture and sometimes height. Image twenty-nine: Bev walks along one of the paths in the formal gardens followed by Chris who is being guided by Elizabeth. The path at this point is bordered by lawns on both sides. The main problem was felt to be the lack of markings on the steps in the gardens. Whilst it was recognised that it may be difficult for the property to make any alterations to these historic steps, nevertheless, it was felt that they were not very user-friendly for all visitors. Image thirty: Chris walks down a set of unmarked steps in the formal gardens using his long cane as Bev looks on. The Woodland Walk at Chirk had been created this year with funding from Council for Countryside in Wales. It is still in the development phase and is not officially yet open. Although visitors over the summer months have been encouraged to use the path, they were 41 warned that it was not yet complete and were asked for their feedback on the walk and what improvements they would like in the future. At the time of writing, a new path has been constructed through the woodland. Bev, Chris and I spent some time at the woodland walk discussing its accessibility. When we visited the walk, the main issue was the steep slope downwards at the start. Whilst some people who are wheelchair users have used this path, it may cause problems for others. Working with the Trust‟s access specialist, the property may find a way of regarding the access to this part of the path. In order to improve access for blind and partially sighted people along this section of the path, a handrail could be added at least to this part of the route. As the woodland walk is not yet complete, there is no mark at the start of the walk. The auditors felt that this signage needs to be as accessible as possible and that a handrail could potentially lead from the main road in order to guide people into the walk. Image thirty-one: Bev stands at the start of the woodland walk, looking down the slope into the woodland area. Image thirty-two: Chris and Elizabeth walking back up the slope at the beginning of the woodland path to the main road. 6.8 What orientation information does the National Trust currently provide? Obviously approaches to providing orientation information vary greatly between sites. Whilst the sites visited did not provide maps in accessible formats, other National Trust sites such as Nymans Gardens have maps produced by the National Centre for Tactile Diagrams and described walks. All sites have a “Welcome to…” leaflet. Offering large clear print versions of this leaflet could be easily achieved. 42 6.9 Recommendations for the Trust The orientation systems at Romelaëre and Texel were designed to give blind and partially sighted people as much independence as possible. Whilst these systems are particular to the sites at which they were developed and certainly won‟t be suitable for all National Trust sites, there is much the Trust could learn from these systems. Most of the auditors said that they were likely to visit a property in the company of sighted companions, friends or family although all were keen to point out that they may also visit with other blind or partially sighted companions. All wanted to have as much independence as possible, even if they were with sighted companions. Providing accessible information on the physical layout of a site and giving people with sight loss some orientation clues enables people the opportunity to be as independent as possible. Some recommendations would be: to offer large, clear print maps at all sites. to provide maps and textual information which give details on the paths around an outdoor heritage site including types of path, gradient and accessible features along route. to provide visual awareness and guiding training to all staff and volunteers to increase their confidence in offering assistance to blind and partially sighted visitors. to examine how maps that meet the needs of as many visitors as possible can be incorporated into sites to give visitors an overview of the site and potential routes around. to consider points in a site where some form of tactile surfacing could be sympathetically used to enable blind and partially sighted visitors to be more independen 43 7. The visitor experience: access to interpretative information on site This chapter highlights examples of best practice in terms of interpreting outdoor sites for blind and partially sighted visitors. 7.1 What forms of interpretation should be offered to blind and partially sighted people? Outdoor heritage sites can be interpreted in many different ways that are accessible to blind and partially sighted people. What works in one site might not be appropriate in another and it is important for a site to consider different approaches creatively. Firstly, a site needs to consider how it will ensure that the information it offers all visitors is accessible to blind and partially sighted people. It is important, furthermore, to consider what extra description and multi-sensory opportunities might further enhance a visit for a blind or partially sighted visitor, particularly bearing in mind that all visitors will enjoy and benefit from a diverse range of interactive interpretation. A site might consider the following: Providing information in accessible formats such as clear print, large print, audio and braille. Providing additional descriptive information using the principles of picture and object description (see the RNIB Talking Images publication for more information.) Creating an audio guide for all visitors that includes extra descriptive or way-finding information for blind and partially sighted visitors. Incorporating points of sensory interest into all visitor information highlighting listening-points, places of tactile or scented interest. 63 Creating tactile information for all visitors through tactile models, images, sculpture or other touch points. Offering one-to-one guided tours or group tours that incorporate description and points of sensory interest. The following chapter explains what interpretative information is offered at the European and National Trust case studies and then offers recommendations. 7.2 Interpretative information at the Aloo Nature Path All visitors to Het Aloo Nature Path at Texel can access information about the nature path and the natural environments it passes through. At the start of the nature path there is a wooden box from which visitors can take clear print information. Image thirty-three: The wooden box attached to a post that contains the clear print leaflets. The box has a plastic lid to protect the leaflets in wet weather. The same information is available in large-print, braille and on audio CD at the visitor centre. The centre has CD-players that visitors can borrow, or they can bring their own player. The information can also be downloaded in advance from the Texel website as mentioned in chapter four. As the size of font of the large print booklet does not suit everyone, the information in now held in electronic format at the reception desk of the visitor centre so that a visitor can request the information to be printed in their preferred size of font. In this manner, the information is as accessible to as many people as possible. The interpretative information is thus provided on the natural environment, its landscape, wildlife, plant life and particular points of interest along the path. Some of the orientation posts described in chapter six are also used to tell the visitor which point of interest they are at. The posts give a number in braille and large print to indicate which text a visitor should listen to or read at that point. This means 64 that a blind or partially sighted person can listen to or read the appropriate part of the interpretative information without having to rely on sighted assistance. This system gets round the problem that a lot of indoor heritage sites have indicating to a blind or partially sighted visitor what number they need to key into an audio guide or to read from a guide book. Image thirty-four: Information for the nature path is provided in large print, audio, braille and electronically. Covers of the braille and large print versions have a simple tactile map. Quote from auditor: “The whole experience at Texel really made me want to go back and visit again. The staff were so helpful. I can‟t really see how they could have improved the nature trail. There was lots of information in all different formats, they really seemed to be aiming to make things accessible for all visitors. The information posts were really useful and helpful but seemed to be incorporated really well into the natural environment. I really liked having the braille on the sloping panels; it was really comfortable to read.” 7.3 Interpretative information at Romelaëre The path around Romelaëre has a number of interpretative information panels which give detail on the environment of Romelaëre, its natural history, agricultural use, bird, plant and wildlife at various points of interest around the site. The information panels are for everyone, and combine print, braille and tactile images. These images are designed to be accessed by both sight and touch and therefore to be used by all. The information panels are identified to blind and partially sighted people by the tactile information posts described in chapter six. Some information posts provide information about which sounds can be heard in the natural environment at that particular point, for example particular species of birds. 65 Quote from auditor: “It's great to have so much information about the bird and plantlife that I can read. I can find out lots of background and discuss it with others - it gives me independence. The tactile representations as well as the braille text also adds to the experience.“ Image thirty-five: Wayne reading braille on an information post and discussing the information with Luc. This particular panel gives Information about the the cultivation of cauliflowers which the area is renowned for. Image thirty-six: One of the tactile information panel that includes a tactile image of a swan A few lessons were learnt during the development of the information panels at Romelaëre that led to improved information panels at Wavrans sur L‟Aa. The lettering on the panels at Romelaëre had faded on some of the panels, particularly on those that were under trees. A different method of production was used for the information panels at Wavrans sur L‟Aa so that the white lettering would remain more pronounced against the brass background and so would be easier for people to read and would weather better outdoors. Based on feedback from users, the tactile images were also simplified slightly on these panels, and were raised more distinctly. Image thirty-seven: one of the information panels at Wavrans sur L’Aa, which has clearer print information Image thirty-eight: Wayne using one of the tactile models of the site. These give orientation information as well as explaining about the physical nature of the site. 7.4 Access to interpretative information at Utrecht Botanical Gardens The Botanical Gardens in Utrecht have information panels in large print and braille that give information on the gardens. These are not in all parts of the gardens, only the „thematic‟ section, which has plants, grouped according to themes such as „scent and taste‟, „plants 66 in religion and magic‟ and „medicinal plants‟. The panels use the same principle as those at Texel, but Yvonne found them more difficult due to their height and position. Image thirty-nine: Yvonne stands on tiptoes and reaches over the information panel in order to read the braille on the other side of the panel The gardens also used some tactile images to interpret works of art that are placed within the gardens and also have a number of touchable sculptures positioned within the gardens. Quote from auditor: “I had some difficulty reading the braille in the gardens because of the angle it was at and in some places dymo tape had been used and this was peeling off. Also, I was disappointed that the information was only in one area of the garden and not all – I don‟t like somebody deciding what I will be interested in. However, it was great to be able to touch the sculptures” Image forty: Yvonne reads a tactile image of a piece of art work that has been put in the garden as part of an exhibition Image forty-one: Yvonne explores a wooden sculpture, one of a series that line the path through the gardens. 7.5 Access to interpretative information at Shorne Wood Current services and interpretation at Shorne Wood have been developed in consultation with local groups, including the Kent Association for the Blind. Several workshops were held with local people to help develop the sensory garden and the incorporation of a number of artworks within the garden. Local artists developed these artworks in order to convey local people‟s sense of the place what it meant to them. An audio guide that described a route around the park had been developed some years ago. When we visited the park however, it was not available as it had been put away for the move to the new 67 visitor centre. The disability forum working on future developments have suggested that the audio guide be replaced by a series of audio listening-posts that could be operated by turning a handle. Interactive panels and labels were originally placed in the sensory garden but unfortunately all these signs had been stolen over the years (alongside an oak bench!) This highlights the serious issue of vandalism that some outdoor sites suffer. Shorne Wood is in the process of a new accessible and environmentally friendly visitor centre in consultation with a disability forum that meets quarterly. The new centre will provide information facilities, an indoor and outdoor café, and environmental and education resources. Shorne Wood is one of the sites involved in Kent County Council‟s action research project to improve access for disabled people. „By All Means‟ is a three-year action research project run by the County Council in partnership with a local information service for disabled people. This project hopes to increase the number of disabled people visiting Kent countryside through eight projects monitored and evaluated by disabled people. Image forty-two: Images of Aidan touching the two sculptures in the sensory garden. The top picture is of Aidan touching a stone sculpture. The bottom picture is of Aidan and the ‘Green Man’ sculpture, the green man is said to represent the spirit of the trees. 7.6 Access to interpretative information at Brownsea Island Currently, when arriving at the island, all visitors to the island pass through a reception area where they buy tickets or show their membership cards. The information in the reception area is not currently in accessible formats and in general is not felt to be user-friendly for all visitors but it is intended that this whole area will be altered as the interpretation 68 here is not currently accessed by many visitors at all. The interpretation information displayed here is likely to be moved to another visitor centre, which would provide an opportunity to reconsider the accessibility of its design and content. All visitors receive the „Welcome to Brownsea Island‟ leaflet. Visitors can purchase a guide book and a book on the natural history of the island. Currently the text information from the guide book and nature book is not available in other formats. Blind and partially sighted people can take information on a suggested walk around the island in either braille or large print. Isabella and I found this route quite difficult to follow. Direct translation of printed text into braille can work well but when describing maps, a reference to numbers on the printed map within the braille can make the information difficult to follow. An alternative description should be discussed with blind and partially sighted people or a tactile map should be produced to accompany the braille information. There is also an „audio guide‟ which is in fact a direct reading of the general visitor information and beginning with the address of the island and following straight through the print leaflet. This information has not been updated since 1998 and so has been removed from public use. Isabella and I agreed that having general visitor information in tape format could be very useful to have but should be sent out in advance as pre-visit information. As mentioned earlier, this information could also be presented in a more engaging radio format as pre-visit information. Isabella and I discussed with Simon the possibility of providing more interpretative audio information on the island, it history and wildlife for all visitors. Although visitors will want to be able to listen to the natural environment, there could also be certain listening points where visitors, not only blind and partially sighted visitors might like to listen to more information about the island. Quote from auditor: “Brownsea Island is an idyllic haven; I loved it. I‟d like to find out more about the island – its history, the wildlife and the birds. I would say the current audio information could be sent out as pre-visit information to listen to in the home. It would help you 69 decide whether you would want to visit or not. The braille guide refers to numbers on a printed map which wasn‟t useful at all! Having been to visit Brownsea Island once I think it would be a perfect place to go back to as a family. With some clear information I would love to go round and explain everything to my child. I think the island is fantastic and with some more information on the history, layout and wildlife, it would be a fantastic day out. Image forty-three: Isabella touches the sculpture of Baden- Powell, founder of the Scouts. Points of interest in relation to history and nature could be incorporated into a tour of the island Image forty-four: Isabella sits on a bench and reads the braille information on the walks. This is also provided in large print. 7.7 Access to interpretative information at Chirk Castle Currently at Chirk, all visitors receive the “Welcome to Chirk” leaflet and can purchase a guidebook, which has detailed information on the castle and grounds. There are some text panels in the formal gardens and print information sheets in the rooms of the castle. There is no interpretative information for blind and partially sighted people other than a short braille guide. We discussed with Emma Hegarty the possibility of providing large print copies of the guide book and the information on the gardens and grounds at the reception and ticket desk, and in providing large print versions of the information sheets in the rooms in the Castle itself. A relatively cheap and easy solution for providing accessible interpretation for blind and partially sighted visitors would be a guide service. Staff and volunteers could be trained in visual awareness, guiding techniques and description and could accompany visors with sight loss around the castle and formal gardens. Bev, Chris and I discussed how interpretative information could be incorporated into the woodland walk, which would allow visitors to discover more about the woodland area, its history, plant and wildlife. 70 This information needs to complement the environment without intruding too much into it. Bev and Chris felt there was a need to have information that all visitors could access on the walk. We discussed ways in which information could be developed. Although information on the woodland walks could be given at the entrance to Chirk Castle, we also discussed ways in which it could be incorporated. As benches are going to be placed along the walk, these were seen as a natural point at which to stop and digest information. Both Bev and Chris were keen on the idea of having information points at the benches, where a visitor could sit and read or listen to information interpreting the space. It was felt that pockets attached to the benches could provide information in large and standard print, as well as potentially in audio. Benches could be identified to blind and partially sighed visitors with a small section of tactile paving as is done in Texel. Chris has attended several walks that Colin Entwis at Fieldsman Trails has undertaken of local areas in North Wales and the North West. Colin combines tactile images, sounds, smells and description to give people information on the natural environment. It was felt that such a tour along the woodland path, led by a freelance tour leader or a member of the Chirk staff or volunteer team, would be very interesting and could lead to further suggestions of how information could be provided along the walk. Image forty-five: Bev by one of the information panels at the entrance to the formal gardens. This information panel is a movable plinth on the ground that is about half a meter tall, with the writing going right to the ground. Although Bev reads large print, she was not able to read this sign. 71 Image forty-six: Another sign in the garden, giving information about topiary. The background is a grey colour, the Welsh text is in a very light grey font and the English text is in white. Below is an image of Bev looking at and touching the topiary, something she would like to have found out more about. 7.8 Recommendations for the Trust Whilst many outdoor sites do provide fantastic sensory opportunities for all visitors, it is essential that information on these is provided in formats that blind and partially sighted people can access. The sites in France addressed this with accessible and touchable information and in the Netherlands, it was addressed with descriptive information in many formats. Texel is a very impressive example of providing accessible information: information on the nature park was made available in clear print, large print, audio, braille, via an accessible website in advance of a visit or could be printed on demand at any font size at the site. This ensures that all visitors can access the information in the format they require and gives the visitor choice. Although not a difficult or expensive service to provide, this example of best practice is unfortunately achieved by very few sites. The two sites in France also provide information on the natural environment, plant, bird, insect and wildlife in touchable images and models – not specifically for blind and partially sighted people but for all visitors to enjoy. This gives information on the natural environment in an engaging and accessible way. The information panels do require a visitor to either be able to read the print (which wasn‟t always distinct at Romelaëre) or braille. Extra interpretation can also be provided by tours that are designed to be accessible for all. Fieldsman Trails, for example, organise tours that give visitors description, opportunities to touch, smell and use all their senses as well as providing information packs in advance for blind and partially sighted people to study before a visit. Such tours could be fairly easily organised in addition to permanent interpretative 72 information, and indeed offer a way of discussing with users what interpretative information there should be at each site. Involving users in development and evaluation is essential to ensure not only that services are accessible but also useful and usable. Both the sites in France and the Netherlands had developed services through consultation. Therefore, recommendations for the Trust include: Ensuring that information on a site, its history, development and on the natural environment through the seasons is provided in accessible formats and promoted in publicity material and at the site itself. This information must be developed with blind and partially sighted users to make sure that it is useful as well as accessible, for example extra description or accessible maps may be required as well as direct transcription of information. Ensure that interpretative panels are designed to be accessible to as many people as possible, both in terms of sensory and intellectual access. Training staff and volunteers in visual awareness and description so that they can facilitate one-on-one or group tours that are accessible to all. Using audio information for all, which can include description and way-finding information for blind and partially sighted visitors. Highlight interesting sensory features to all visitors in an accessible manner. Consider where developing tactile models of landscape or natural features might be sympathetic to the surroundings and benefit all visitors. 73 8. The development process This chapter highlights examples of best practice in terms of service development from the European sites visited. 8.1 Introduction: the development process Whilst earlier chapters have examined the experience for the visitor, this chapter looks more at the processes the European case studies have undertaken in order to achieve better access for disabled visitors. 8.2 The development process at Parc Naturel Régional des Caps et Marais d’Opale Luc Barbier led the development at Romelaëre and Wavrans sur L‟Aa. Both sites were developed by a technical committee of experts that comprised of the architects, designers and surveyors, alongside disabled people as experts in access. What was interesting in this process was that there was not a separate access group, but that the access group was part of the design team. This meant that disabled people were involved in decisions at every stage and were part of the process rather than an „add-on‟. Romelaëre took eight months to complete, over 20,000 hours of planning and work and cost around €7,757,500. Funding came from a number of sources including the government of Pas-de- Calais, the European Union, EDF (Electricité De France), the Reserves naturelles de France (the national body for nature reserves), France Telecom, the Parc itself and others. 8.3 The development process at Texel The improvements at Texel have been made with the input of a number of different disabled advisors. The first nature path for blind and partially sighted people was developed in 1975. A holiday home for blind and partially sighted people was established on the island and a trail with information in large print and braille 74 was developed for visitors to the holiday home and other blind and partially sighted visitors. Staatsbosbeheer have been working to make more and more of the facilities in the national park accessible. Four look out points, a barbeque site and many picnic spots have also been made accessible for wheelchair users. In 2003, the original path for blind and partially sighted people was replaced with a new integrated nature path. This path was designed to be as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. This was not seen as being a path for blind and partially sighted people, or one for disabled people but as an inclusive path for all. This distinction is seen in the ways in which the path is promoted. The path around Alloo is described as a path for all and internal access symbols such as that of the wheelchair user and the eye symbol are used to inform visitors of the accessibility of the route. Improvements at Texel for disabled visitors have been financed by a variety of different funders. Some of the costs have been met by the National Park and by Staatsbosbeheer. The county council has also contributed to the improvements, as has the Texel ferry service. The nature path cost approximately €200,000, most of this expense involved making adjustments to the road. Again funding was supported by a number of partners including local government bodies, Staatsbosbeheer, charitable trusts and the local ferry service. The development of an accessible bird observation hut in 2001 is an interesting example of how including access for all principles in planned developments can secure funding. The original viewing hut needed to be replaced and so Staatsbosbeheer researched ways to rebuild this hut. With inclusive principles a fundamental part of the design, Staatsbosbeheer were able to apply for funds from the county council and various charitable trusts and funds. This meant that the development of the accessible hut cost the organisation less than if they had tried to fund the development of the hut themselves and had maybe had to leave out some of the accessibility features. 75 8.4 Current practice in the National Trust The Trust recognises the importance of consulting with visitors and members of staff and volunteers and the Head of Access for All has recently produced a guidance document about effective consultation with disabled people. Regional teams are currently working on a guidance document to assess how properties can work effectively with consultation groups. The value of consultation has been proved in the project focusing on garden interpretation referred to earlier in the report which was itself developed in response to visitor comment. The regional members of staff who co-ordinate access provisions in their particular properties are working with the Head of Access for All to improve the levels of consultation with disabled groups and individuals. This will happen at regional and property level to ensure access opportunities are developed with direct involvement from those who specifically use them, as well as making sure they are of benefit to a wider audience. 8.5 Recommendations for the National Trust properties Although none of the features at Texel and Caps et Marais d‟Opale may be new to the Trust, what was very impressive was the way that they were executed so that the sites provide an inclusive experience for all. There are some general principles that are useful to reflect on: Whilst recognising that many blind and partially sighted people may visit the sites in the company of sighted friends, partners, family members or companions, both sites aimed to provide as independent a visit as possible. Both sites started from the principle – that a blind or partially sighted visitor may want to navigate the site and enjoy the experience autonomously. Although many of the auditors commented that they were unlikely to visit a site alone, each felt that being enabled to enjoy the experience alongside sighted companions without relying on them for information and interpretation was key. 76 Access at both sites was very much integrated into everything done at the sites; both had an inclusive approach. It was not a case of there being a „route for blind people‟, a „wheelchair accessible route‟ or a special tour. Both sites developed routes around their sites for all, and incorporated features that would enable a visit for disabled people into these routes. This was also demonstrated in their publicity. Particularly at Texel, there was a commitment to providing information in many different formats, allowing the visitor to choose what was most useful and accessible to them. The development of the site at Romelaëre was very interesting in that disabled advisors were members of the technical committee overseeing the development of the project alongside the architect and surveyor, rather than as part of a separate access group. Both sites use simple, creative solutions. None of the solutions implemented at Texel and Caps et Marais d‟Opale are particularly complicated but they have been designed to be usable as well as accessible. Both sites worked with other local providers to ensure that the whole visitor experience, including transport, accommodation and restaurants are accessible and promoted to all. 77 9. Overall conclusions and recommendations for the Trust 9.1 Overall recommendations for the Trust Many of the recommendations in this section may not seem revolutionary, but the implication of these recommendations would benefit many National Trust properties. Whilst there was no startling new ideas in the sites in Parc Naturel Régional Pas-de Calais and Texel, what was impressive was the way that they had been realised. Sharing best practice and ideas at a local, regional and national level is vital. Properties can learn a lot from what has and hasn‟t worked elsewhere. Ultimately, providing an accessible site is about customer service. None of these recommendations for development will result in a better service unless: all staff and volunteers know what services are available (e.g. what accessible information is there and where is it kept?) all staff and volunteers know how services can be used (e.g. can staff and volunteers explain how the tactile images should be used or how to operate the audio guide?) services are in working order and kept up-to-date (e.g. accessible information is updated when print information is updated and the audio guide has batteries.) all staff and volunteers are confident in meeting and greeting blind and partially sighted people, and in offering sighted assistance as required. The following recommendations summarise those suggested in the report for each of the issues examined. Promoting the site: pre-visit information Individual sites could develop their own concise access guides to complement that offered in „Information for Visitors with Disabilities‟ and promote these to local groups. 78 This information could be presented in an engaging radio style audio format perhaps in partnership with a local Talking Newspaper or a local college and would be a useful marketing as well as information tool. Sending out pre-visit information to visitors via Articles for the Blind. Hosting open days at the site for local people to discuss services available, promote the site and promote opportunities for working as a volunteer. Ensuring that local disability groups are invited to such open days and offered transport. 9.1.1 Getting to the site Sites should liaise with local providers such as community transport services and other transport providers to establish whether a service could be run in partnership. Sites could consider contacting local volunteer bureaux or local societies of blind and partially sighted people to discuss the possibility of volunteer drivers. Some National Trust members who have access to a car might be interested in a Trust buddying scheme for those with similar interests, such as that run by Shape Ticketing Scheme or the RNIB Leisure Link project. 9.1.2 Getting around the site Properties should offer large, clear print maps and should work to provide details on the paths around an outdoor heritage site including types of path, gradient and accessible features along route. All staff and volunteers should receive visual awareness and guiding training to increase their confidence in offering assistance to blind and partially sighted visitors. Sites should consider how maps that meet the needs of as many visitors as possible (such as the Map for All described in chapter six) can be incorporated into sites to give all visitors an overview of the site and potential routes around. 79 There may be places in some sites where tactile surfacing could be used in a way that is sympathetic to the environment, to allow blind and partially sighted people to be more independent. 9.1.3 Access to interpretative information Properties should ensure that information on a site, its history and natural environment through the seasons is provided in accessible formats and promoted in publicity material and at the site itself. Interpretative panels should be designed to be accessible to as many people as possible, both in terms of sensory and intellectual access. All staff and volunteers should receive description training in addition to visual awareness training to increase their confidence in offering assistance to blind and partially sighted visitors. Audio information can be developed for all, and can include description and way-finding information for blind and partially sighted visitors. Interesting sensory features should be promoted to all visitors in an accessible manner. Sites could consider where developing tactile models of landscape or natural features might be sympathetic to the surroundings and benefit all visitors. 9.2 Specific recommendations for Brownsea Island There are a number of easily achievable short-term improvements that could be made at Brownsea and Chirk as well as some longer term improvements that could be assessed and perhaps implemented if there is available funding. 80 9.1.4 Short term Contact could be made again with Dorset Blind Association to begin a programme of consultation on how services should be developed in the future. A large print version of the guide book and information on the nature of the island could be made available. In fact, the information could be kept electronically in the reception area, and theoretically printed off at the font size required by the visitor. If consultation revealed that people were interested in this information in other formats, it could be provided as part of a mail service in advance of a visit. A large clear print sign saying that large print information is available could be displayed in the reception area to advertise the information to all. There are many people, particularly older people, who do not consider themselves to have a visual impairment but who find larger print easier to read. Trailer tours could be promoted to blind and partially sighted people as a way of receiving information on the whole island. Those volunteers who might lead the trailer tour could be given description training perhaps through someone who describes in theatres or museums in the South West. A list of services available for blind and partially sighted people could be compiled and promoted to the Dorset Blind Association and via the „What‟s on in the South West‟ tape magazine run by Mike Holroyd as well as by other methods. A „Welcome to Brownsea Island‟ tape could be made and promoted to local societies, local talking newspapers and other agencies 9.1.5 Longer term Consultation should take place with users and advisors on the best way to provide accessible interpretative information on the 81 island. Brownsea Island might be interested in the inclusive nature path developed on Texel, and in the way in which information at that site is given to visitors through a range of different formats. Consulting with local disabled people, the Head of Access for All and other experts, the Island could look to develop accessible routes round the island. Information on these routes such as types of path, gradient, accessible features etc. should be promoted to all visitors. Audio information could be developed for all visitors on the Island to provide extra interpretative information on the history of the island and its natural environment. A system such as that developed at Texel could provide interpretative information for all as well as orientation information for blind and partially sighted people. 9.3 Specific recommendations for Chirk Castle 9.1.1 Short term Make contact with local groups such as North Wales Society for the Blind, Wrexham Vision Support and Mold Vision Support to begin a programme of consultation on how services might be developed. Provide two large print versions of „Welcome to Chirk Castle‟ leaflet, one in English and one in Welsh. Have a sign to let all visitors know that large print information is available. Produce a large print version of the guide book. As part of this guide, a large clear print map of the site should be provided. Continue to evaluate the woodland walkway and consider future developments in consultation with blind and partially sighted people, e.g. how to develop interpretative information along the walk and the possibility of adding a handrail to at least the beginning of the walk. 82 Train all staff and volunteers in visual awareness, guiding and description and then offer a guide service for blind and partially sighted visitors. A concise access guide could outline these services and could be promoted to local agencies and groups as well as being promoted to local talking newspapers, local radio and other media. 9.1.2 Longer-term Organise open days for consultation and promotion to further engage with local blind and partially sighted people. Consider developing a radio style audio version of pre-visit information that could be promoted to all visitors and particularly blind and partially sighted people. As interpretative information is developed for the Woodland Walk‟, ensure through consultation that the information is accessible and useful to blind and partially sighted people and that large, clear print versions are developed. Explore the idea of using benches along the walkway as an information point for visitors to stop and read accessible information on the woodland through the seasons. Along the woodland walkway, consider developing tactile sculptures or models that give information on the natural environment through the year that are accessible to all visitors. 83 Appendix one: Bibliography ‘Access Plans’, Heritage Lottery Fund, 2003 ‘BT Countryside for All’, Fieldfare Trust, 1997 ‘By all reasonable means: inclusive access to the outdoors for disabled people’ The Countryside Agency, 2005 ‘Code of Practice: Rights of Access, Goods, Facilities, Services and Premises’, Disability Rights Commission, 2002 ‘Easy Access to Historic Buildings’, English Heritage, 2004 ‘Easy Access to Historic Landscapes’, English Heritage, 2005 ‘Improving Your Project for Disabled People’, Heritage Lottery Fund, 2004 ‘L’accessibilite des Site Naturels au Public Handicape’, Claire Terrier, Parc Naturel Regional des Caps at Marais d‟Opale, 2000 ‘Making connections: a guide to accessible greenspace’ Sensory Trust, 2001 ‘See it Right’, RNIB, 2001 ‘Sign Design Guide’, Sign Design Society and JMU Access Partnership, 2000 ‘Talking Images Guide and Research’, RNIB, 2003 ‘Thinking about Access’, Heritage Lottery Fund, 2004 ‘Tourisme et Handicaps’, Agence Francaise de L‟ingenierie Touristique, 2000 84 Appendix two: Facts about sight loss3 People with sight problems come from all sorts of backgrounds and lead all sorts of lives. Each person is affected in a way that is individual to them - it is not the same experience for everyone. Many people with sight problems lead full and independent lives. Some may need assistance with certain tasks and may have to adapt their daily lives, but this is possible and very often achieved with success. There is also help available from organisations such as Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB). What does "sight problems" mean? When we say "people with sight problems", we are describing the full range of people who have uncorrectable sight loss. Sight loss is one of the commonest causes of disability in the UK, and is associated with old age more than any other disability. The older you become, the more likely you are to have a sight problem. The most severe sight problems can lead to someone being "blind" or "partially sighted". Specialist eye doctors (ophthalmologists) decide if someone can be registered as blind or partially sighted with their local social services department. A person can register as blind if they can only read the top letter of the optician's eye chart from three metres or less. A person can register as partially sighted if they can only read the top letter of the chart from six metres or less. There are benefits of registering as blind or partially sighted. Yet many people who are eligible do not register, either because they are unaware of the benefits or because they don't want to. There are around two million people in the UK with a sight problem. This means that while wearing glasses they are still unable to 3 Taken from the RNIB publication, „Sight Problems‟. 85 recognise someone across the road or have difficulty reading newsprint. Among these two million people, around one million are registered or eligible to be registered as blind or partially sighted. What are the common causes of sight problems? Some people are born with sight problems whilst others may inherit an eye condition that gets gradually worse as they get older. Some people may lose their sight as the result of an accident, whilst illness can lead to conditions such as diabetic retinopathy. Age related eye conditions are the most common cause of sight loss in the UK. Eighty per cent of people with sight problems in the UK are 65 or over. Their eyesight effected by conditions such as macular degeneration or cataracts. What can people with sight problems see? Being blind does not always mean that a person is living in total darkness. Forty-nine per cent of blind and eighty per cent of partially sighted people can recognise a friend at arms length. Other people will be affected by eye conditions in different ways: some will have no central vision or no vision to the sides; others may see a patchwork of blank and defined areas, or else everything may be seen as a vague blur. However, people are affected by eye conditions in different ways. You should not assume that you know what someone can see just because you know what eye condition they have. Being blind does not mean total darkness. You might think that if you shut your eyes you are temporarily blind. However, if with your eyes shut you were to turn your head towards a window, you would detect a minimal perception of light. Around one fifth of people who are blind have this level of vision or lower. The rest will have some useful sight. Can it be difficult getting around? 86 Many people with sight problems get around independently. They may use their remaining vision and/or a mobility aid, such as a white cane or a guide dog. Other people may need the assistance of someone with sight. Some people could also have additional disabilities, which make it difficult to get around. In the UK there are around 170,000 people who use a white cane. If someone wishes to use a long, or guide cane, training is available to teach them how to use it and also to help them learn journeys and routes that they often take. Around 5,000 people use guide dogs. Guide dogs are trained to lead their owners around obstructions and stop at hazards such as kerbs. Contrary to what some people think, guide dogs cannot read street signs and they do not know when to get off the bus. Guide dog users will receive training from the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association. Canes are an essential mobility aid for many blind and partially sighted people. Long canes are moved from side to side to identify obstacles in a person's path. Symbol canes are used purely to identify someone as having a sight problem. What can help people to get around safely? In a familiar place, a person with sight problems will often be able to get around safely by using their memory of the surroundings and any remaining sight they have. The way public areas, buildings and public transport are planned is also very important. Certain design features can help enormously such as: well-positioned, easy to read signage, ideally with a tactile or braille element tactile paving - paving slabs with raised bumps - which warns people of hazards, such as road crossings clear reliable announcements of stops on public transport. Badly parked cars; wheelie bins in the middle of the pavement; bicycles lying outside shops and trees and plants overhanging the 87 pavement are examples of easily avoidable potential hazards to someone with a sight problem. How do people with sight problems read? The ability to read written information is crucial to our independence and ability to do everyday things such as shop or travel. However, often information is not available to people with sight problems in a way that they can read it. Many blind and partially sighted people can read ordinary, printed information if it is well designed. Text of a good size (such as 14 point print, as in this guide), and good contrast between the colour of the text and the background can help. Some people use what is known as large print, which can be any size from 16 point upwards. There are systems of reading by touch such as braille. There are 20,000-25,000 people who use braille regularly, and many more make use of braille labelling on signs, in lifts and on packaging. However, it is unusual for people losing their sight in later life to learn the system. Audio-tape is a popular method of accessing information, used mostly for leisure, and CD-Roms are being used more frequently by those with the ability to use a computer. How can computers help? An increasing number of blind and partially sighted people have access to computers either in the workplace or at home. People with sight problems can obtain information from a computer in different ways: closed circuit televisions (CCTVs) enlarge the text on screen until it is large enough to read computerised speech systems read text from the screen to the user text on screen can be converted into braille that is displayed directly onto a specially adapted keyboard and read by touch. 88 These methods can be used to access the huge amount of information available on the internet. If a web page is well designed, people with sight problems can read them. For example, images or pictures should have a text description attached. Information on how a web page should be designed is available on the RNIB website at www.rnib.org.uk Audio description can help people with sight problems enjoy television, videos, DVDs or the theatre. Visual information such as scenery and body language is described aurally to complement the usual programme sounds. Should I offer help? If you see somebody with a sight problem who you think may need help, then ask. Let them tell you what kind of help they need. It may be that they need help crossing the road or finding the train station. If your help is needed, keep a few common sense things in mind: introduce yourself and make sure the person knows you are speaking to them. talk directly to them and not through a third party. if you are going to guide them, let them take your arm, don't grab theirs. point out kerbs and steps as you approach them and say whether they go up or down. mention any potential hazards that lie ahead and say where they are. if you are guiding someone into a seat, place their hand on the back of the seat before they sit down, so they can orientate themselves. don't walk away without saying you are leaving. Many people with sight problems leave their home rarely, if at all. One of the main reasons for this is fear of crossing the road. Good design features such as tactile paving at crossings and visual, audible and tactile signals telling you when to cross, are all helpful but are not always available. If you see somebody looking as if they could use a little assistance crossing the road, why not ask if you can help? 89 Appendix three: The legal framework The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) makes it unlawful to discriminate against disabled people. It requires service providers to change the way in which they deliver services to ensure that they are accessible to disabled people. For service providers, such as heritage sites, it is unlawful to: refuse to serve a disabled person for a reason which relates to their disability offer a sub-standard service provide a service on different terms. There is also a duty to make changes (called "reasonable adjustments") to the service provided enabling easier access for disabled people. There are four types of changes that service providers must consider: changes to any practices, policies or procedures that make it impossible or unreasonably difficult for a disabled person to use a service the provision of auxiliary aids and services that provide additional help or assistance to disabled customers making physically inaccessible services available by another means making buildings where services are provided more accessible. The Act itself does not state what adjustments might be reasonable, but cites information on audio tape or the provision of a sign language interpreter as examples of such adjustments. The Disability Rights Commission (DRC) has produced a Code of Practice for Rights of Access to Goods, Facilities, Services and Premises on this part of the Act. Although this code is not the law itself, it has to be taken into account by the courts where relevant. It provides very detailed information about what the law means and how organisations can comply with it. It is available from Her Majesty‟s Stationary Office or can be downloaded free of charge from the DRC website.(www.drc.org.uk). 90 What will be considered reasonable in terms of adjustments under the DDA depends on a number of factors, such as human and financial resources. Whatever an organisation‟s circumstances, it is extremely unlikely that there is not something which could be done make services more accessible. It is important for an organisation to review their current situation and to create a prioritised plan for improvements. User consultation and progress monitoring should be used to ensure on-going improvement. In 2005, The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 has been amended by the Disability Discrimination Bill 2005. The new Act introduces many amendments to the original legislation. One key feature is the Disability Equality Duty which places a duty on all public sector authorities to promote disability equality. This duty will have a significant impact on the way in which all public services are run and on improving the lives of disabled people. It is part of a new breed of legislation that will serve to ensure that all public bodies build disability equality into the way in which they carry out their business. This new legislation means that public sector bodies will have a duty to promote disability equality in all aspects of their work – similar to the Race Relations Amendment Act. From the police to health services, schools, local authorities, NHS trusts, central government, the entire public sector will have a duty to promote the equalisation of opportunities for disabled people. Those organisations who are not covered by the scope of the Bill may still chose to follow the Duty. 91 Appendix four: Accessible information Blind and partially sighted people read information in different ways, including standard print, large print, tape, braille, computer disk or over the internet. Different people have different preferences and one format will not suit everyone. This is why it is crucial to produce information in a range of accessible formats. Making information accessible is often cheaper and easier than many people think. When compared with how much is spent on standard print information, the cost can be very small. RNIB produce clear print guidelines to help publishers make their information accessible to as many people as possible. The guidelines encourage publishers and designers to: use a minimum font size of 14 point. make sure there is a strong contrast between text and background colour (black on white and black on yellow are among the strongest contrasts but there is a range of options). not to run text over pictures or diagrams. use paper that minimises show through and glare. Adopting RNIB's clear print guidelines can be done immediately and at virtually no cost. If you produce all your visitor and collection information using clear print guidelines and a 14 point font, you will be maximising the number of people who can access it. Large print Large print is considered to be anything that is in a 16 point font or above. Large print users will each have their own requirements in terms of text size and you cannot produce information in one size that will satisfy all those who read large print. Therefore, processes are required that enable individual responses to individual requests. This can be as simple as having an electronic text file where the font size can be adjusted on request and printed immediately for the customer. The guidelines for the production of clear print, mentioned previously, need to be followed when producing large print 92 Braille Braille is a system of raised dots which are read by touch. It can be produced in-house with the right software, training and an embosser (braille printer), although it is more common for it to be produced through a transcription agency. Audio tape Audio tapes can be produced in-house or by a transcription agency, or with the help of a local talking newspaper, or local radio station. An agency would give a more professional feel to standard literature, and make longer documents easier to listen to, whilst the in-house approach would be well suited to material aimed at individual customers. Electronic text This can be a cheap and easy way of producing information and distributing it, by email or computer disk, to the growing number of blind and partially sighted people that have access to computers. The information can be accessed through the use of large screens or access technology such as programmes that enlarge the text on the screen, or screen readers that read what is on the screen and convey the information to the user via speech or braille. Individuals may also be able to create their own large print or braille documents using the electronic file. Information will not always be available concerning what software customers are using. As a basic rule simple text files will work well for all forms of access technology. Providing a range of formats It must be remembered that many people with sight problems use different forms of information in different situations and it is important to check with the visitor. For example, it should not be assumed that if someone requests information prior to their visit to be prepared in braille or tape, that they would want information that they use during the visit in the same format. 93 On-line information The growth of the internet means that people with sight problems now have the opportunity to enjoy a wealth of information and services independently in a way not previously available. As with the production of electronic text, web pages must be appropriately designed. If certain guidelines aren‟t followed, sites cannot be used by blind and partially sighted people. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are published by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) and should be used in the development of all websites. 94 Appendix five: Physical access at The Slufter: making sand dunes accessible to all Images forty-seven: View of The Slufter flood plain taken from the plain and looking back over the fresh water streams back to the large sand dunes which separate the plain from the road. The Slufter is a very popular nature area on the island. This is where water form the North Sea penetrates a large plain through an opening in the outer row of dunes. Low and high dune tide effect he area and influence the plant and animal live. The site receives around one million visits a year. The Slufter is reached by crossing a large dune, which until recently could only by crossed by steps. This year, however, after many years of planning and consultation, an accessible path has been created which allows wheelchair users, those with mobility problems, those with young children and anyone who wishes to take the path a route over the dune. As the sand dune is the protection from flooding, the path had to be developed so as not to damage the dune in any way. Image forty-eight: The flights of step that until recently needed to be crossed in order to enter the flood plain of the Slufter. The large ‘kissing-gate’ that is large enough to accommodate a beach wheelchair in the right of the picture shows the beginning of the accessible path over the dune. Image forty-nine and fifty views of the accessible path over the sand dune. The path incorporates passing points large enough for two beach wheelchairs to pass Image fifty-one: Two visitors, one of whom is a wheelchair user, on the flood plain at The Slufter. Image fifty-two: There are parking spaces reserved for disabled visitors at the entrance to The Slufter. 95 Appendix six: useful contacts National Trust Heelis Kemble Drive Swindon SN2 2NA Telephone 01793 817400 www.nationaltrust.org.uk Royal National Institute of the Blind 105 Judd Street London WC1H 9NE Telephone 020 7388 1266 Other organisations in alphabetical order Action for Blind People 14-16 Verney Road London SE16 3DZ Telephone 020 7635 4800 www.afbp.org Audio Description Association Adrienne Pye, Membership Secretary c/o Arts Marketing Hampshire Mottisfont Court Tower Street Winchester SO23 8ND Telephone 01962 84 69 60 Cadw – Welsh Historic Monuments National Assembly for Wales Cathays Park Cardiff CF10 3NQ Telephone 029 2050 0200 www.cadw.wales.gov.uk 96 Centre for Accessible Environments Nutmeg House 60 Gainsford Street London SE1 2NY Telephone 020 7357 8182 Minicom 020 7357 8182 www.cae.org.uk Confederation of Transcribed Information Services (COTIS) 67 High Street Tarporley Cheshire CW6 0DP Telephone 01829 73 33 51 www.cotis.org.uk Countryside Council for Wales Maes-y-Ffynnon Penrhosgarnedd Bangor Gwynedd LL57 2DW 08451 306 229 www.ccw.gov.uk Department for Culture, Media and Sport 2-4 Cockspur Street London SW1Y 5DH Telephone 020 7211 6200 E Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org www.culture.gov.uk Disability Rights Commission DRC Helpline FREEPOST MID02164 Stratford upon Avon CV37 9BR Telephone 08457 622 633 Textphone 08457 622 644 www.drc.org.uk 97 English Heritage Customer Services Department PO Box 569 Swindon SN2 2YP Telephone 0870 333 1181 www.english-heritage.org.uk Fieldfare Trust 7 volunteer House 69 Crossgate Cupar Fife KY15 5AS Telephone 01334 657708 www.fieldfaretrust.org.uk Fieldsman Trails Colin Antwis Fron Deg Clayton Road Mold Flintshire CH7 1SU UK Telephone 01352 75 62 02 www.dialspace.dial.pipex.com/town/parade/ni30/fieldsman/ Guide Dogs for the Blind Burghfield Common Reading RG7 3YG Telephone 0870 600 2323 www.guidedogs.co.uk Heritage Lottery Fund 7 Holbein Place London SW1W 8NR Telephone: 020 7591 6000 www.hlf.org.uk JMU Access Partnership 105 Judd Street 98 London WC1H 9NE Telephone 020 7391 2002 www.jmuaccess.org.uk National Register for Access Consultants www.nrac.org.uk RNID 19-23 Featherstone Street London EC1Y 8SL Telephone 0808 808 0123 (freephone) Textphone 0808 808 9000 (freephone) www.rnid.org.uk RNIB Tactile Images and plans RNIB Peterborough PO Box 173 Peterborough PE2 6WS Telephone 01733 37 07 77 Scottish Natural Heritage 12 Hope Terrace Edinburgh EH9 2AS Telephone 0131 447 4784 www.snh.org.uk Sense 11-13 Clifton Terrace Finsbury Park London N4 3SR Telephone 020 7272 7774 Textphone 020 7272 9648 www.sense.org.uk Sensory Trust Watering lane Nursery St Austell Cornwall PL26 6BE Telephone 01726 222900 99 www.sensorytrust.org.uk Talking Newspapers Association of the UK National Recording Centre Heathefield East Sussex TN21 8DB Telephone 01435 86 27 37 www.tnel.co.uk or www.tnauk.org.uk The Dog Rose Trust 83 Greenacres Ludlow Shropshire SY8 1LZ Telephone 01584 87 45 67 E Mail: email@example.com www.dogrose-trust.org.uk Vocaleyes (Nationwide audio description producers) 25 Short Street London SE1 8LJ Telephone 020 7261 9199 www.vocaleyes.co.uk 100