Vocaleyes: Guidelines for Digital Accessibility


Guidelines for Digital Accessibility (including Audio Description on film): 

See also Stagetext guidelines for adding captions to increase further access: https://www.musedcn.org.uk/2017/11/19/captioning-your-films-and-videos-stagetext/


Changing Places toilets: The Art of exLOOsion by Alison Beevers – Retford Changing Places Campaign (facebook)

You visit an Art Gallery. You may visit the gallery café or the gallery shop. You may also visit the loos, after all you’ll be there for a while. In this time you may have spent a bob or two.

The problem for us is we are not able to ‘spend a penny’. My son has Cerebral Palsy, he has difficulties controlling his movements and cannot stand or sit unaided, because of his condition is unable to use a standard disabled toilet. Due to a woeful lack of toilet provision in the UK for people with profound disabilities or complex health needs, visiting many places for us is limited, time restricted or simply unachievable these days.

This situation gives us a feeling of increasing worthlessness, social exclusion and inability to participate in everyday activities that others take for granted. I don’t have a disability myself but I’ve come to learn what a barrier and disadvantage it is to have no access to a toilet, a basic human right. Often I’ve had to attend my son’s toileting needs in degrading, dangerous and unhygienic situations, a baby change, car boot, various floors. It is soul destroying.

This led me to the UK Changing Places campaign which seeks to highlight the need for accessible toilets with more space and extra assistive equipment including a bench and ceiling hoist. These toilets are specifically designed to assist multiple health needs and should be provided in addition to the full range of single sex and standard accessible WC’s and baby changing facilities. At present there are 1069 Changing Places facilities registered in the UK, not anywhere near enough to meet the needs for an estimated 250,000 + people in the UK.

While a growing number of visitor attractions, transport hubs, shopping centres and sport stadiums, already include Changing Places toilets , larger museums and galleries are lagging behind at just 14 toilets (Tate, Nottingham Contemporary, Eureka museum to name a few). Some of the reasons for this being a lack of knowledge and awareness and issues relating to ‘restricted’ funding. Onus is on individual venues to deliver and manage facilities. This is a particular problem for charity led and free for entry museums that rely on external funding to deliver their work.

What can we do to change this?

Awareness; some venues may have no previous knowledge of Changing Places toilets or the need despite being recommended in British Standard 8300. As a code of practice, this British Standard takes the form of guidance and recommends that Changing Places toilets should be provided in larger buildings and complexes.

Public venues must take positive steps to remove the barriers and have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments to ensure visitors and staff have the same services, as far a possible as someone who’s not disabled. It’s important to get in touch with a museum or gallery to raise your concerns. Although there may be no immediate solution, venues will be able to plan ahead and look at other funding opportunities.

Disabled people represent a massive untapped market for business with a collective spending power at £249 billion, which is why fully accessible toilets make excellent business sense! Venues can broaden their accessibility appeal and visitor audience by providing Changing Places toilets.

Find out more about Changing Places here and how they change lives.


Face book – @Changing_Places

Twitter @CP_Consortium

Alison Beevers – Retford Changing Places Campaign (facebook)


Changing Places toilets information for museums and heritage organisations

Changing Places

Out of 1069 Changing Places toilets in Britain. At time of writing, there are 16 available in Museums.

We have worked with families and the Changing Places Consortium to set up this section of the DCN website so museums and organisations can work collaboratively to increase the number of Changing Places toilets in their towns and cities, and in their heritage organisations. There are some suggestions below for positive action.

There are over 250,000 people with disabilities in Britain, yet accessible toilets and Changing Places toilets are still not available.

My organisation wants to know about this:
If you need further information in developing a Changing Places toilet: Go to Changing Places Toilets – information and advice for museums and Changing Places website http://www.changing-places.org/Default.aspx

We haven’t got the space:
The standard space required for a Changing Places toilet is 12 sqm. The Building Standard that relates to Changing Places toilets is BS8300.  The ideal solution for any newly built cultural venues is to have a 12 sqm Changing Places facility from the outset of planning.  Changing Places are able to offer advice and guidance regarding space requirements for installation and will advise the best solutions for the space that is available within venues.
They can be emailed or phoned via: http://www.changing-places.org/about_us/contact_us.aspx

So, you really haven’t got the space so whats next?
Often it can be due to limited space, therefore it is vital that museums find out where the nearest Changing Places toilet is to their organisation.  It is important that the location of the facility and how close it is to the organisation is on the museums website as part of their access statement. You can find your nearest Changing Places toilet via the Changing Places consortium website http://www.uktoiletmap.org/

If you don’t have one near you, speak to your local council, tourism officer for potential collaboration to place in the town centre.   There are statistics related to the tourism economy to towns and cities which value the purple pound at £12 Billion (source: Visit Britain). Lack of facilities mean people will actively seek and go to providers who have installed the toilets and other accessible facilities.

Check out how Chester became Europes most accessible city here: Guardian:  https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/sep/20/chester-europes-most-accessible-city

But, we are listed and in the middle of nowhere:
IHus offer free standing Changing Places toilets, at time of posting they offer free consultation: https://www.ihuschangingplaces.com/about/

Historic England guidelines for access for people with disabilities and their offices are available for advice. https://www.musedcn.org.uk/2017/01/12/physical-access-standards-consultancy-and-related-organisations/

We are holding an event, or need to pilot this:
There are portable Changing Places toilets that are available to hire called Mobiloo at a reasonable cost.
Link and information here: https://www.mobiloo.org.uk/

How does no changing places toilets impact on families and adults?
There a number of blog sites which parents of children with disabilities and adults write about the impact of changing their children and members of their families on wet tiled floors and car boots.

“This situation gives us a feeling of increasing worthlessness, social exclusion and inability to participate in everyday activities that others take for granted”.  Alison Beevers, Retford Changing Places Campaign.

Families can become champions to your organisations by inclusive practice.

“then to the Changing Places toilet, with adult changing bench and hoist, to get Flossie sorted. These type of facilities are extremely rare in our public places, but they are the only type of loo where Flossie can be sorted with dignity (so Thank You, Eureka, for including one).”  Lorna Fillingham, blogger

Check out the following blog sites:

‘The Art of Exloosion’ by Alison Beevers, Retford Changing Places Campaigner

Lorna Fillingham’s blog:  https://awheeliegreatadventure.wordpress.com/

Zack Kerr’s blog site: http://www.changing-places.org/get_involved/read_about_local_campaigns/blogs_by_campaigners/zack_kerr%E2%80%99s_blog-_campaigning_for_changing_places_.aspx

Oral History Training/Volunteering opportunity: History of Place Project

History of Place is offering a day of oral history training at M Shed Bristol on 30th January, followed by flexible opportunities to volunteer until April, taking oral histories of disabled people in Bristol.

Full details here:


Do pass this on to people who might like to take part – everyone is welcome, and we hope participants will pick up some useful transferable skills.

There’s also a HOP newsletter, which will carry events and further exhibition openings over the next few months – you can sign up at the top or bottom of the page here: http://historyof.place/events/

Signly – a great app for sign language


Signly is an app which displays pre-recorded sign language videos on a user’s mobile, enabling better access to written content for d/Deaf sign language users.  Signly can be used for trails, posters, leaflets and forms.

Information regarding the app and links are here

Signly Poster – Click to download PDF



Neurodiversity: Dyslexia – Resources for families and adults

Disability Co-operative Network

Neurodiversity: Dyslexia

Dyslexia is part of the neurodiversity spectrum which includes dyspraxia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, ADD, ASD (autism spectrum disorder) and tourettes. (Source: DANDA)

Up to 10% of the population are known to have dyslexic traits, however as knowledge and awareness increases more people, particularly adults are discovering that they are dyslexic.  This is something that is part of their lives and the strengths associated with dyslexia may be a hidden asset to the workplace.

Some people do not think that dyslexia is a disability, however it is recognised under the Equality Act 2010.  The issues a great deal of people experience are related to attitudinal discrimination in respect to lack of recognition, support and social barriers, not the dyslexic traits itself.

I think I might be dyslexic?

There are two options:  you can be screened for risk of dyslexic traits. There are indications (depending on method of high, moderate and low risk). Screening is economically good (costs from £30 onwards) and if you are not sure or need to know quickly for support.  Screenings are offered by local associations who have a great deal of experience in the field and can offer advice.

Diagnosis:  this needs to be done by an Educational Psychologist who is a specialist in Dyslexia or a specialist dyslexia teacher – these are assessors who must register with PATOSS (https://www.patoss-dyslexia.org/) and the British Dyslexia Association (http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/)  PATOSS and national charities can advise.
Be expected that diagnosis can cost from £200 upwards.  Some will charge about £500 for a formal diagnosis and report.

Suggested ways to find appropriate Educational Psychologists:

Whats next: How do my traits affect me?

In the past, some adults have been diagnosed with dyslexia but don’t know their strengths or how to manage their traits.  Others are very effective in planning, organisation, time management in respect to managing their dyslexic traits. They also recognise how their traits are effected under pressure.

If you don’t know how your dyslexia affects you?

There are a number of films available via You Tube which highlight the strengths of people with dyslexia.
Suggested ones would be:

Don’t Call Me Stupid by Kara Tointon BBC Productions
Kara has dyslexia and shows how recognising and managing traits can make the difference in a person’s life.  Also the effect of attitudinal discrimination and support can impact.

Dyslexia: A Hidden Disability
People in high finance, entertainment, medical and technology professions talk about the importance of recognition, diagnosis and support for children and adults.

The Usual Suspects:  West Midlands Fire Service
Members of the West Midlands Fire Service speak about their dyslexic traits and the workplace.

Training and expanding knowledge

British Dyslexia Association have launched an online course ‘How to Succeed at Home and Work as a Dyslexic Adult’.   It costs £12.99 for the module and is available via this link: http://www.bdaelearning.org.uk/enrol/index.php?id=86

Booklets and information

‘Employers Guide to Dyslexia’
A booklet full of resources and suggested strategies is available via the British Dyslexia Association.

Dyslexia: How to survive and succeed at Work by Dr Sylvia Moody
A fantastic resource of suggested strategies and knowledge regarding dyslexia and workplace.  It usually retails at £13.00 but worth looking out for second hand copies on Amazon for about half the price.

Access to Work:  Access to Work is a Government funded scheme to support people including neurodiverse people in the workplace.  For information in how to apply for funding please check out this film via our website:  https://www.musedcn.org.uk/2016/08/07/access-to-work-what-you-can-do/

I’ve got a problem at work and I don’t know what to do?

Dyslexia is protected under the Equality Act and if you feel concerned about any matter relating to workplace, the following numbers can be helpful.

Do check out each organisations websites for resources before you ring:

Equality and Human Rights Commission advice line: 0808 800 0082

ACAS Confidential Helpline:  0300 123 1100. It is available Monday 8am-8pm, Tuesday 8am-6pm, Wednesday to Thursday 8am-8pm and Friday 8am-6pm
ACAS website also has useful resources:  http://www.acas.org.uk/

British Dyslexia Association Helpline: 0333 405 4567
Helpline Opening Hours: Tuesday 10am – 1pm, Wednesday and Thursday 10am – 3pm.



Neurodiversity: Autism – resources for families and adults

Disability Co-operative Network

We have a number of twitter feeds about what neurodiversity is and how it is a positive asset to the workplace. There are a number of excellent organisations and associations, particularly local groups who have a great deal of experience. These organisations are happy to be contacted to raise awareness, inclusive practice and support.

Neurodiversity is Dyslexia, Dyspraxia,  Attention Deficit Disorder, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, ASD (autistic spectrum disorder) and Tourettes. Please see this diagram of profiles and how they relate to each other please see: http://www.achieveability.org.uk/files/1275491669/neuro-diversity-diagram.pdf

This page focuses on autism spectrum disorder and has a number of links and resources. This page sits alongside case studies and information available on this website. The aim for these resources is to support adults and families for inclusive practice in the workplace and service delivery of museums and cultural venues in the UK.

Training (including online training that can start as little as £25), awareness, guidance and workplace support go to the National Autistic Society http://www.autism.org.uk/

Access to Work: Central Government funded scheme for people who may need support in the workplace https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/access-to-work-factsheet/access-to-work-factsheet-for-customers

Commonwealth Youth Council Toolkit for autism http://bit.ly/2ojQnzY

Welcoming families and children with autism in museums via Kids in Museums  http://kidsinmuseums.org.uk/2016/04/04/welcoming-families-and-young-people-with-autism/

Autism in Museums (a blog site of articles by @TinctureofMuse)

Museum of Minds (a blog site by Jack Welch) http://museumofminds.wixsite.com/momcampaign

Museums and Autism (a tumblr site of articles and links by Sally Fort) http://museumsandautism.tumblr.com/

Autism in the Museum (U.S. site by Lisa Jo Rudy, consultant and writer) http://www.autisminthemuseum.org/

Remember to check this website and our twitter feed (@museumDCN) regularly for regular information, case studies and news.

Lingusio : the audio guide that removes barriers ~ Antonia Eggeling

Lingusio scarf

In future, museums will mainly be places of human encounters. Lingusio is more than just an audio guide. Inclusively created content and an unconventional design promote a lively interaction regardless of knowledge or skills. The guide not only recognizes the right of people with disabilities to equally take part with others in cultural activities, but it has a profound impact on the entire museum: Lingusio offers the possibility to see artworks from a whole new perspective to regular visitors, experts, as well as new audience groups.

The innovative audio guide was developed in cooperation with experts in the fields both of museums and people with learning difficulties in order to create a new way to experience a museum visit.



The project addresses the inclusion and accessibility of people with learning difficulties in Museums. As determined in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (United Nations), “States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to take part in an equal basis with others in cultural life”[1]. Likewise accessibility is a crucial part of the concept and also regularized by law. The regulations apply not only to physical barriers, but also to those with regard to content and mediation.

The project aims to make content more accessible for people with learning difficulties. Moreover, it opens it to a broader public and therefore provides future business ideas for museums in general.



Lingusio Scarf in use
Lingusio Scarf in use

Lingusio is a hardware device that enables the simple and understandable dissemination of content not only for people with learning difficulties but all visitors. The formal difference to an ordinary audio guide is obvious: it’s a scarf. The device features a barrier-free design and intuitive functions that represent a significant improvement over a regular audio guide. Formal and technical aspects of the product follow the principles of universal design.

Lingusio rests on the shoulders of the visitor like a scarf. One end of the device serves as a speaker, the other as volume control. A reader is located in the scarf and enables the automatic identification of the artwork within a certain radius. As soon as the speaker-part of the scarf is raised for listening, the corresponding track starts to play.

Above all, however, the design has a large impact on the handling and therefore also on the behaviour of users. Previously museum visitors were closed off permanently from their environment due to headphones. In contrast, the scarf enables an “open ear” and thus a more conscious perception of the environment.




People with learning difficulties not only have had direct input on the design of the device, but also on the content of the audio guides – making access to museum content simpler and easier for everyone.

In a co-creation workshop, people with learning difficulties and museum educators deal intensively with the artworks of a future exhibition. The aim is to gather three very different descriptions, opinions or ideas for each piece of art. These heterogeneous contents are then transferred to audio guides that are visually distinguished by three different colours.



Lingusio scarf
Lingusio scarf

The aim of the special design in the shape of a scarf is to share the content with visitors wearing another color. The awareness that he or she might be listening to something else arouses curiosity and encourages people to talk. Lingusio therefore not merely transmit information and broaden perspective, but function primarily as a basis for discussion and facilitate encounters with other visitors.



Lingusio scarf - interaction between visitors
Lingusio scarf – interaction between visitors

The goal of the project was to develop a product concept that introduces not only people with learning difficulties to the yet unknown and with numerous psychological barriers afflicted context of museums. The goal was to create something that promotes interaction between all visitors and therefore includes various people. Consequently, the information based on the research with a specific target group has a profound impact on the entire museum, including experts, regular visitors and new audience groups.

A significant personal development of the co-designers in the course of the project could be observed. The initial intimidation created by the museum halls disappeared. All participants were full of self-confidence, curiosity and drive. Having attended the workshop enabled them to move freely and express their opinion about the works in the exhibition.

The active involvement of people with learning difficulties in the development of contents, offers the opportunity to develop creative and intellectual potential – this encourages the participants and allows wide parts of society to partake in this project.

“The project proves that the removal of barriers for people with learning difficulties provides additional value for society as a whole. At the same time, is creates possibilities for innovative business ideas.”

(Tobias Marczinzik, PIKSL)

Antonia Eggeling
Designer of the Audio Scarf

In cooperation with the PISKL experts






[1] United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, article 30, see http://www.institut-fuer-menschenrechte.de/fileadmin/user_upload/PDF-Dateien/Pakte_Konventionen/CRPD_behindertenrechtskonvention/crpd_en.pdf


Makaton Training – The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum

An exciting opportunity is coming up at The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in March. We are going to be running the two day Makaton Foundation Course at a significantly reduced rate compared to booking it elsewhere. For just £85 (usual price up to £225) you can learn the signs and symbols of the core vocabulary stages 1-4. Makaton is a language used to support children who have limited or no-speech. This course is ideal for those looking to work with SEN groups, early years audiences and for those who wish to make their settings more inclusive.

This course is an essential part of entry criteria for Makaton Regional Tutor training, should you wish to become a Makaton trainer in the future.

To read up on how Makaton has been incorporated into other cultural venues please follow this link:https://www.makaton.org/blog/out-and-about/coventry-transport-museum

To find out more and to book your place please visit our Eventbrite page: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/professional-makaton-training-foundation-course-tickets-31754165564?aff=es2

Please do circulate this to any contacts that you think would be interested in booking onto this training.

Arts Organisations

Shape Arts 

https://www.shapearts.org.uk/about-shape- arts

DASH Arts 


Disability Arts Online 


Arts Council: Creative Case for Diversity

http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/how-we- make-impact/diversity- and-equality

GLOBI Inclusion: #Draw Disability 


Dialogue Beyond Sight




Changing Places Toilets – information and advice for museums

The Campaign

The Changing Places Consortium launched its campaign in 2006 on behalf of the over 1/4 of a million people who cannot use standard accessible toilets. This includes people with profound and multiple learning disabilities, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, as well as older people.
To use the toilet in safety and comfort, many people need to be able to access a Changing Places, which have more space and the right equipment, including a height adjustable changing bench and a hoist.

Changing Places facilities need to meet a certain standard to be registered on our website. www.changing-places.org This is to ensure that any facility advertised as a Changing Places toilet meets the needs and expectations of the people who use them. To be registered on the national government funded website, the facilities must be open to the public. Changing Places toilets should be installed in addition to, not in replacement of, standard accessible toilets for independent use.


Example Changing Places Toliet (C) Changing Places
Example Changing Places Toliet (C) Changing Places


We recommend that the dimensions of the room are a minimum of 12 square metres (3m x 4m), with a ceiling height of 2.4m. Examples can be found from page 32 of our Practical Guide.
Some facilities listed on the website as Changing Places will be smaller than 12 square metres. This reflects the standards of Changing Places toilets when the campaign was launched in 2006.
The Changing Places Consortium appreciates that meeting the 12 square metres (3m x 4m) size criteria of the British Standard may be difficult in, for example, a listed building that cannot be altered. We would recommend that you consult with us at the Changing Places Consortium before you start planning any renovations or adaptations in buildings such as these.

Toilets may continue to be identified as Changing Places toilets where the minimum room dimensions are 7 square metres or above. We do recommend that providers and installers do their best to meet the 12 square metre British Standard current guidelines as smaller facilities may exclude many users who need the full space.

Facilities which do not provide the features in the Changing Places Standard section below, or alternative layouts, may not be identified as a Changing Places toilet on our website. However, they may still be of benefit to disabled people and their carers, and as such information regarding these facilities may be included on the website.

Changing Places – mandatory size for new build, complies with space and equipment fit out standards set out in BS8300 (shower optional) –
Facilities with a peninsular toilet, full 12 sqm space, ceiling tracking hoist, adult sized height adjustable bench (wall mounted or free standing), public access. (Picture below)
Changing Places (U) – undersized unit that does not fully meet BS8300, when the only option in an existing building
Peninsular toilet (or corner toilet if only option available), smaller than recommended 12 sqm, ceiling tracking hoist or mobile hoist, adult sized height adjustable bench (wall mounted or free standing), public access. (Picture below)


Good signage is vital to help users of Changing Places toilets. The Changing Places symbol is increasingly recognised and should always be displayed at a Changing Places venue. Signs with the Changing Places symbol should be at the entrance to the toilet, inside the venue and on other appropriate signage.

If the Changing Places toilet is located by other toilets, then the Changing Places symbol should be displayed alongside all the usual toilet symbols, including that of standard accessible (disabled) toilets.
Door signage is essential. We recommend that the Changing Places symbol is displayed on the door of the toilet.

As the symbol is not always recognised by everyone, venues may want to add the words “Changing Places Toilet” underneath.
Additional information stating what a Changing Places toilet is and how you can gain access, could also be provided.

Signs inside the venue should give directions to all toilets, including the Changing Places toilet. Larger venues with greater numbers of visitors should locate signage overhead too so that it is visible when crowds fill the area.

Health and Safety information in the Changing Places toilet
We recommend that “Guidance for Use” is displayed on the wall in the Changing Places toilet. You should state the manufacturer’s maximum weight limit for the hoist and changing bench, as well as instructions on how to use the hoist and height adjustable equipment.

Any museums considering installing a Changing Places toilet should get in touch with the Changing Places consortium via email on ChangingPlaces@mencap.org.uk or call 020 7696 6019

Sensory Backpacks at the V&A with Abigail Hirsch ~ Claire Madge, V&A

Curious Ceramics bag

Launched in August 2015, the Curious Ceramics backpack is the V&A’s first backpack aimed at children with visual impairments. The V&A offer a number of backpacks for families, but for this special sensory version they worked in close collaboration with Sense, the national deafblind charity, and Abigail Hirsch an artist and an educator with experience and expertise in multisensory art engagement.

I first met Abigail at the Royal Academy – Why and How Conference back in 2015, her interactive gallery session on Rubens was a standout memory of the day. In February 2016 she invited me to visit the V&A with her to talk through the backpack, it was her first visit to see the final version actually in use in the gallery and we spent over an hour having fun with it.

Abigail told me the first challenge was finding an object to begin the journey with. The V&A had chosen the Ceramics Gallery for the backpack and it was important to tell the story of the gallery, not just of an individual object displayed in it. The Ceramics Gallery worked well as it was fairly quiet space that was not too crowded so that families felt comfortable and had room to work with the backpack.

Ceramics Gallery - lots to touch
Ceramics Gallery – lots to touch

The Ceramics Gallery was chosen and although it already had a lot to get hands on with and places to sit, it also proved a challenge as a lot of the displays were behind glass. Many objects are also not clearly displayed for someone with a visual impairment and it could be hard to distinguish between different objects in the cases. Abigail decided to tell the story of the journey of porcelain from China to the Netherlands, finally focusing on a large Dutch flower pyramid. She wanted to use objects, textures, sounds and smells to tell the story and include movement around the gallery.

Crowded display
Crowded display

It can be hard to pick out individual shapes on display if a visitor has visual impairment.

We picked up the bright yellow backpack from the education desk, inside were a collection of numbered bags containing a variety of items and a guide to explain how to use the bag. The guide takes the form of a story that provides active instructions to get families moving around the two ceramics galleries and questions are open-ended with no right or wrong answers.

Bag with guide
Bag with guide

It was important that the guide used contrast colours to make it easier for visually impaired visitors to use, and Abigail mentioned the problems of using laminated sheets where reflections on the shiny surface can cause difficulties. It was a requirement for all the bags to have exactly the same inside, it was also important to be able to easily source replacement items if anything became worn or damaged.

Block pyramid
Block pyramid

Items were road tested for durability, which led to for example a change in the selection of musical rainstick. Health and safety was a key issue too, the bags were aimed at families, with an awareness that there maybe younger ones in the group. The smallest cube from the box pyramid was removed as they felt it was too small and could easily be swallowed. Abigail also initially wanted an ocarina (a small musical instrument) included but the implications of spreading germs and the impractical requirement to clean after every use meant they were left out.

Flower pyramid
Flower pyramid

I thoroughly enjoyed working through the bags and the story they told in the gallery space. It was refreshing to have activities that did not require a pencil and paper and I thought the magnetic drawing board in particular a great idea. I felt the guide was a really useful tool, giving visitors the confidence to talk about objects and enjoy the galleries, it became a facilitator rather than a set of instructions.

Magnetic drawing board
Magnetic drawing board

There was a lot to touch, feel, smell and listen to, my favourite items were the clogs which provoked a surprising ‘ahh’ when they came out of the bag as they were very unexpected. The noise of wood and the encouragement they give children to make noise in the gallery are a welcome challenge to the stereotype of quiet traditional museums.


Points to consider when designing sensory backpacks –

  1. Budget – what is your budget? Can you apply to an external funder? The V&A backpacks were supported by Lord Leonard and Lady Estelle Wolfson.
  2. Backpacks work better if they are aimed at the whole family, not just children. What activities draw adults in too
  3. Backpacks need to tell a story, not just contain objects.
  4. How can the backpack facilitate movement around the gallery or museum? Are there also places to sit and feel comfortable, to have time to go through the backpack.
  5. Make sure you advertise and promote the backpacks on the website and in the gallery. Do front of house staff know about them and can suggest them to a visiting family?
  6. Where are the bags kept? The only downside at the V&A is the bags were kept on the education desk on the 3rd floor, you had to find your way there and then go on to the 6th floor to find the Ceramics Gallery. Do families need to know about the backpacks before they come?
  7. Do visitors need to leave a deposit or just a form of ID? Are there forms to fill out? Will this put families off taking out a bag?
  8. Think about the health and safety aspects, are objects robust and can be used without staff supervision? Are their musical instruments that are blown? Can they be cleaned after each use?
  9. Where do you want families to use the backpack? Is there a particular gallery or space that would work well with a visually impaired audience?
  10. Feedback and evaluation is crucial, it can be hard to get families to fill out evaluation forms under their own steam. Do staff need to prompt feedback when a backpack is returned? Can in-gallery staff give verbal feedback from observations on how the backpack is used?


Claire Madge
Victoria and Albert Museum

Hearing Loops: Assistive Listening Technology ~ Dee Bolemon

Hearing Loop Logo

“Oh, my goodness!” I said out loud. The sound startled me. And then I smiled. I had just experienced an induction hearing loop for the first time.  Wow!

This was an emotional moment, as most of my life I’ve struggled to understand presenters in public venues or meeting halls.

But with the hearing loop installed in the room, I could understand every word.

Such clarity of speech moved me to tears.

Side note:  In 2013, I was diagnosed with hearing loss in both ears. My pursuit to understand hearing loss began with a road trip to attend an HLAA seminar by well-known audiologist, Dr. Juliette Sterkens.

Dr. Juliette Sterkens, National Advocate for Hearing Loops (sponsored by the Hearing Loss Association of America) travels far and wide to raise awareness of this assistive listening technology.

When Dr. Sterkens spoke into the microphone, her words traveled through the sound system into the copper wire installed on the perimeter of the meeting hall.  She loaned me a loop listener receiver so I could hear the clear, crisp words of the presentation. (After that event, my hearing aids were programmed to use hearing loops!)

Since that day, I advocate and share my experience so that people with hearing loss may have equal access to hear and understand presentations, seminars and sermons.

In the United States, hearing loops have been installed in the U.S. Supreme Court, churches, museums, theaters, universities, taxi cabs, subway stations and private homes.

In Europe, thousands of hearing loops are in use, including one at Westminster Abbey.

For more information on hearing loops, please see the following resources:

http://www.listentech.com/blog/induction-loops-in-museums/   (ListenTech)

https://youtu.be/hlnx3ZImTw0  (Otojoy video)

http://www.univox.eu/hearing-loops-for-museums-and-exhibitions   (Museums)

www.loopwisconsin.com    (Dr. Juliette Sterkens’ web site)


Dee Bolemon @LoopAdvocate
Orlando, Florida USA

A journey through local wildlife like you’ve never seen before in unique interactive exhibition at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry

Interactive Fox

Have you ever stroked a fox, heard a polecat chatter, smelt otter dung or seen a stoat in ermine? Now you can experience the natural world like never before in an exciting new interactive exhibition at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum. Delve into the Herbert’s collections and uncover the brilliance of the natural world through the changing seasons in a creative and imaginative new look at local wildlife.

Nature Notes was created by the Herbert’s team using local natural history and art collections. The exhibition includes a range of accessibility options to bring nature to life for the widest possible audience.

Interactive Table
Interactive Table

Central to the exhibition are four interactive tables – one for each season. Each table has a specially commissioned piece of taxidermy for visitors to touch, push buttons with animal sounds and smelly jars. Visitors are guided round the tables with high contrast text, Makaton and Braille.

Explore local wildlife through real specimens of animals, insects, plants and fungi. Marvel at fox cubs playing together, get nose-to-nose with a badger and discover what a robin’s pincushion is. Stunning artworks showcase the inspiration that the natural world can offer us and the variety of ways we can record our discoveries.

A vinyl stem guides visitors around the exhibition and there are ear defenders, torches, magnifying glasses and sheets to use in the space. An audio description tour and other features will be added soon. We would love to have feedback of any kind from visitors, particularly those who have used the additional features so we can improve in future.

Nature Notes is open 1 July to 20 November 2016 at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry.

Supported by

Bill Petit Memorial Fund, NatSCA
Mander Hadley

Additional loans from

Heritage and Culture Warwickshire
Adie Blundell
Stewart Francis Easton
Michala Gyetvai
Douglas Hatfield
Gillian Irving
Chelsea Meadow
Margaret Taylor

Disabled People and Terminology ~ Michèle Taylor

Terminology is important, because words reflect our attitudes and beliefs. However, some of the terms we tend to use may not reflect how some disabled people see themselves. Using the right words matters.

This is not about ‘political correctness’ but using wording and language which disabled people and disabled people’s organisations working to promote the social model of disability find acceptable.

Some negative terminology to be avoided includes the following examples

  • Afflicted with This conveys a tragic or negative view about disability.
  • Suffering from This confuses disability with illness and also implies that a disability may be a personal burden. Increasingly, disabled people view their disability as a positive rather that negative experience
  • The blind Lumping everyone together in this way is felt by many to take away their individuality. The most appropriate term to use here is ‘people with visual impairments’, or ‘blind people’
  • Victim of This again plays to a sense that disability is somehow a tragedy
  • Cripple or crippled by Use the term ‘the person has …’
  • Wheelchair bound Disabled people are not tied into their wheelchairs. People are wheelchair users or someone who uses a wheelchair. A wheelchair offers the freedom to move around and is a valuable tool
  • Deaf and dumb This phrase is demeaning and inaccurate. Many deaf people use sign language to communicate and dumb implies that someone is stupid. Use ‘a person with a hearing impairment’, or ‘a deaf person’, or ‘sign language user’
  • The disabled There is no such thing as the disabled. Use the term ‘disabled people’
  • People with disabilities The term ‘disabled people’ is the preferred term within the social model of disability. ‘People with disabilities’ suggests that the disability ‘belongs’ to the disabled person, rather than ‘disabled person’ which accurately infers that society disables the individual, thus adopting the social model of disability
  • Handicapped This term is inappropriate, with images of begging and disabled people being cap in hand
  • Invalid The term literally means not valid
  • Able bodied The preferred term is ‘non-disabled’. ‘Able -bodied’ suggests that all disabilities are physical and ignores unseen disabilities, and that disabled people are not able

Some phrases are perfectly acceptable. People who use wheelchairs do ‘go for a walk’. It is perfectly acceptable to say to a person with a visual impairment ‘I will see you later’. Deaf people are unlikely to take offence at ‘Did you hear about…’ Common everyday phrases of this kind are unlikely to cause offence.


Michèle Taylor,
Disability and Equality Consultant and Trainer

Adapted from Manchester City Council’s website: www.manchester.gov.uk/disability/language/