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Dorset attractions ready to welcome more Deaf visitors

Dorset attractions ready to welcome more Deaf visitors - Moors Valley Country Park
Dorset attractions ready to welcome more Deaf visitors - Moors Valley Country Park

Three unique heritage attractions in Dorset are aiming to welcome more Deaf visitors than ever before this year, by introducing their first-ever British Sign Language (BSL) tours. 
Moors Valley Country Park, Lulworth Cove and RSPB Arne in Dorset, have all introduced new filmed BSL tours to their available accessibility guides. These tours help to welcome more BSL users to the sites, and ensure they receive information in a format that meets their needs.
According to the British Deaf Association, there are over 87,000 Deaf people in the UK using BSL as their preferred language. As English is their second, or even in some cases third language, they may not have the level of understanding expected. So just providing vast amounts of written interpretation on site will not solve this problem for them.
The tours developed by Heritage Ability, a project funded by the National Lottery Heritage fund, were created to break down the barriers faced by Deaf BSL users when visiting heritage attractions in the South West, helping them to relax and get more from their visit. 
The Heritage Ability team worked closely with all three heritage sites to ensure the tours produced included all the essential information while allowing Deaf BSL users to shape the process and the information signed.   
Each of the BSL tours was developed in collaboration with a volunteer Deaf BSL signer, who visited the sites to learn the unique history. Then the signer was filmed presenting the essential information in a way that would be both engaging and informative to other Deaf BSL users. Each of these filmed clips was then transferred onto a tablet, for visitors to use at their own pace around the sites.
Paul Valentine, the volunteer Deaf BSL signer, featured on all three Dorset attraction’s BSL tours, stated: “I’m so happy that more attractions are seeing the benefit of having signed BSL tours available for Deaf visitors. I got so much from visits; I really hope the new tours encourage more Deaf people to get out and enjoy what’s on their doorstep.”   
The new BSL tours are now available at each of the three Dorset attractions. The tablets can be booked in advance and collected from reception on arrival. The clips are also available on the Heritage Ability YouTube channel, for visitors to view on their own devices.
Eleanor Sunderland, Visitor Experience Manager for RSPB Arne, said “We’re really pleased that RSPB Arne has teamed up with Heritage Ability to offer a tablet showing a BSL tour of the site, with information on the reserve and its wildlife! The diversity of habitats, including the incredibly rare lowland heathland at RPSB Arne, has an array of rare wildlife that all find a home in this special place. Now visitors who use BSL can follow the trails around the reserve using the information on the video clips, which is fantastic!”
Jim Gale, Visitor Services Ranger at the Lulworth Estate, stated: “We are delighted to again work alongside Heritage Ability in this latest initiative to improve our sites accessibility. Building on an array of up and running provisions including deaf and disability training for our staff and Lulworth’s Tramper, a BSL tour will only add further value to our growing number of visitors”.
Heritage Ability is a project of Living Options Devon (LOD), a local user-led charity. All LOD projects are developed or supported by people who have a first-hand understanding of the challenges faced by disabled people and Deaf BSL users.
Heather Brown, Deputy CEO of Living Options Devon, said: “The inclusion of filmed BSL tours helps to open up heritage attractions for the Deaf community. Enabling them to visit and receive information in a format they feel most comfortable with, and a better understanding can be assured.

Dorset attractions ready to welcome more Deaf visitors - Arne

“Heritage Ability has now developed over 21 BSL tours for attractions across the South West. We look forward to working with many more sites, as they begin to see the benefit of making their sites more accessible.” 
Moors Valley Country Park, Lulworth Cove and the RSPB Arne are open throughout the winter season. For more information or to hire the tablet, contact the sites (websites and contact details shown below).

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