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Bringing the Past to Life for the Blind and Partially Sighted

visual impairment training

14 March 2017

Glenis Williams, Audience Development Manager, gives us the rundown on how our recent accessibility training for our front line staff went.

It’s no secret that for the past year we’ve been trying to make our site more accessible to more people, no matter what challenges they face. Over the past few days, and in the run up to World Sight Day (Thurs 12 Oct), we’ve really been focusing on access for those who are blind and partially sighted.

Lots of our front line staff have spent two days completely getting to grips with what it really means to be blind or visually impaired on a day out and all of the challenges that this group can face. Of course the fact that a person is blind or partially sighted does not necessarily mean that they need help, but if they ask, we really want to be able to get it right. After all, the Black Country’s history is for everyone, and language is an extremely powerful tool in describing the rich environment here at the Museum that represents the region’s industrial past.

So our staff began their journey over the past few days and found that, with the best intentions, they had much to learn. They each brought in an object, which varied from lumps of coal to links of chain.

The group also ran through the general principles of conveying information to partially sighted or blind people – everything from dealing with guide dogs, to thinking about how they’ll know if we’re engaged in the conversation (after all, they may not be able to see your face – so you’ll need use verbal response signals such as ‘uh-huh’, ‘yes’ and ‘sure’). It’s quite phenomenal just how much we use visual language in our day-to-day life and how this can impact someone who is partially sighted or blind.

Daniel Williams, one of our front line members of staff and also an Area Lead, said that “it’s an eye-opening experience, and a little preparation and forethought can go a long way – I’m much more prepared now to give a more lucid and vivid description to bring objects and buildings to life. I’m more confident in dealing with those who are blind and partially sighted, and giving them a top notch experience. I’m confident in selecting an object for them to handle, as well as describing that item – imagining describing something over the phone to someone really switched my way of thinking, for example.”

Needless to say, our staff left their Vocal Eyes Training with a sense of confidence. I’ve worked here long enough to know that our front line staff are extremely passionate about Black Country history, and equally passionate about conveying this history to those from all walks of life. This training will mean they can do that for an even wider audience, and that gives them even more opportunity to do what they do best – creating magic moments for our visitors.

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