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April 2015

Claire Holland Head of Training

Claire Holland on… ETUK at the Specialist Skills Network

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This week I was very pleased to be invited to talk at the Specialist Skills Network which has been set up by the National Gallery and the Museum of London. On the day, a number of professionals from different galleries and museums situated around London came together to share experiences and expertises regarding planning events for children with Special Educational Needs.

The planned activities already being held sounded wonderful and the enthusiasm in the room for ensuring that disabled children and those with additional needs were able to access and experience the exhibitions fully was inspiring. I was there to fully support the scheme but also to add a note of caution as requested by Orlagh from the National Gallery.

As I am sure you are all aware, Enhance the UK is a charity which very much focuses on the perception of disability. Now the perception in the room was very positive as I had expected it to be. Those attending the network are there because they are already engaging with disabled children and young people. I wanted to stress the importance of ensuring that all staff working in a venue who interact with the public having Disability and Communication awareness. To do this I was able to highlight several times I have been unable to fully access museums and other heritage sites, simply because the frontline staff were unaware of what they have to offer. I have lost count the number of times I have been told that a loop system is not available for audio tours to find out at the end that this wasn’t true.

Worse still are the staff who won’t listen to my needs and insist they know better. I have frequently been told to try in the ear headphones as they are very loud, after I have told them I wear a cochlear implant and have no natural hearing and cannot use headphones. When I refuse this opportunity I am then given a look as if to say, ‘oh dear she’s trouble.’ Taking a hearing dog into a museum can also be a stressful experience. Constantly having to repeat that she is an assistance dog and is therefore allowed in becomes tiring after a while. As is the attitude of some staff who have to repeat themselves as you miss what they say when they are not looking at you. All the examples I have given are hearing related simply because these are my experiences, however I know from talking to other people that regardless of the disability there are barriers that need to be overcome.

If I am sounding very negative about staff then I must stress that I don’t mean to be. The majority of staff who work in museums and galleries are very helpful and will do everything they can to ensure that you can fully access the exhibitions. I believe that those staff that I have spoken about already who aren’t helpful are only like this because they do not have an understanding of disability and therefore simply do not know how to react.

Unfortunately negative experiences are likely to put people off attending heritage sites and that is a real shame. I was delighted to see that a key objective of the Specialist Skills Network was how to ensure that disability awareness and the good practices already developed are spread throughout all teams at the museums and galleries. This to me is a very positive step in the right direction.

Claire Holland Head of Training

10 Reasons you should book Enhance the UK’s Disability and Communication Awareness Training

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I was recently asked why service providers and businesses should book training with us and what sets us apart from other organisations offering training. I thought I would share my response with you.

1. Increased Confidence – Ask a disabled person about a ‘rabbit in a headlight’ moment and they can always recount several experiences when customer facing staff have not known what to say or do when realising the customer is disabled. Sometimes it’s funny, other times offensive, but either way it’s never good for business. You wouldn’t believe the number of times I haven’t had to pay for things or queue simply because the employer doesn’t know what to say or how to behave when finding out I am profoundly deaf. A memorable one was when I lost my car park ticket. After realising I was deaf the car park attendant rather than try and communicate with me, simply turned round to his colleague and said, ‘Do you know how to explain to her that she needs to pay for a full day parking? No me neither!’ Before proceeding to give me an exit ticket free of charge! Think of the lost revenue. Incidences like that simply wouldn’t happen if staff had received our training. On our feedback forms we are proud that we always have 100% agreement that the training gives increased confidence with interacting with disabled people.

2. Tips and Strategies – it’s all very well your staff having information about disabilities but unless this is applicable to everyday practice in your business it’s useless. We at Enhance the UK always offer tips and strategies to help your staff better engage with disabled people.

3. Fun and engaging sessions – There is nothing worse than being forced to sit through long boring training sessions. I myself have been to a few. Eventually you switch off and retain very little. This to me is a complete waste of your money. You obviously want your employees to retain information and utilise their knowledge. Training with Enhance the UK is fully interactive and PowerPoint presentations are banned! Attendees have fun and as a consequence remember what they learnt. Please see our testimonials!

4. Develop an understanding of barriers – It’s always better to pre-empt possible barriers that disabled people may face when accessing your venue/ service. It really doesn’t reflect well on you as a business when after being asked if the venue is accessible and a member of staff informs the customer it is to then find out it isn’t. This happened to a colleague of mine recently. We attended a venue together whilst working for Enhance the UK, having been told it was accessible to find out it really wasn’t. This resulted in my colleague having to crawl on her hands and knees into the toilet as it simply wasn’t big enough for her wheelchair. I am quite sure this is not an experience she is keen to repeat and was embarrassing to all concerned including the manager. Barriers aren’t simply physical barriers, I have lost count the number of times I have said that I am profoundly deaf to then be told to ring an accessibility line, err hello? Really?

5. Disabled trainers – Would you want your employees to learn about living in Paris from a person who has never lived in Paris? I suspect the answer is probably not. All of our trainers are disabled themselves and are therefore able to share their experiences with your staff. They are also all very welcoming of questions and provide honest and open responses.

6. Tailored training – we do not provide ‘cookie cutter’ training. We always ensure that we tailor our sessions as much as possible to the requirements of your business. This results in your employees benefiting more from the session and ultimately you as a business.

7. Show you’re a business that cares – Advertising that your staff have Disability and Awareness communication training just highlights that you are interested in more than simply turning a profit and hitting targets. This can be no bad thing for any business/ service.

8. We don’t hit you over the head – A friend who has her own business explained that at times she has been told what she must do in order to ensure that she provides an accessible service without any consideration of the feasibility of such things. This has put her off any further training. We at Enhance always offer advice in ways to ensure your business is accessible but not in a ‘bullying’ way.

9. Team building – Our training is so interactive that not only do participants walk away more confident and knowledgeable about disability but also they have also spent the day together in interactive situations having fun. This is always good for staff morale.

10. Learn about another language – We always ensure that we include a very basic British Sign Language session within our day.

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