For the first time ever, a cluster of tourist destinations in Devon have developed British Sign Language videos (BSL), enabling the Deaf community to have meaningful and engaging experiences with their heritage like never before.
Just in time for Deaf Awareness Week, Seaton Wetlands, Seaton Jurassic, Kents Cavern and National Trust Killerton are the four Devon locations that have so far created the videos in partnership with Heritage Ability.
Heritage Ability is a project helping over 20 heritage places across the South West become more accessible to disabled people and Deaf people. The project is being delivered by user-led disability charity Living Options Devon. Each of its projects is supported by people who have a first-hand understanding of the challenges faced by disabled people and Deaf people.
The BSL videos have been created and presented by volunteers from the Deaf community. Each volunteer has taken the time to learn about the heritage of each place and then interpret it in a way that is engaging and informative for other Deaf users. Over the next two years, visitors to all 20 Heritage Ability destinations will be able use tablets at the sites loaded with BSL videos.
Paul Valentine, a Deaf volunteer for Heritage Ability said: "I really enjoy going for days out to places like Kents Cavern and Killerton as I have a real passion for heritage, but often I can't fully understand any of the history or family stories when I get there. I really wanted to help make a difference to the Deaf community so they could enjoy these places like everyone else, which is why I got involved with Heritage Ability. It's been really fun to learn about these places and interpret their history for other BSL users. I really hope that over time other places in the country will be inspired by the work that we have done."
For many Deaf people, English is their second language. This means that simply providing written information or subtitles on videos is not always enough. The videos will be available to view online and can be viewed on a tablet at the site as they journey around the attraction.
Maryann Soper, Project Manager at Heritage Ability said: "Before working for this scheme I naively had no idea how inaccessible written information was for British Sign Language users. I'm now appreciating how visually led the Deaf community are, and how their culture is strong in story-telling and joke-telling. It's not enough to just provide interpretation in the English language, as the words don't always have a meaning or exist in BSL. It's really rewarding to be able to open up these heritage places for a new audience, so they can have engaging experiences like everyone else."
To find out which places in the South West will have BSL videos and the other accessible solutions that Heritage Ability are introducing to these places visit www.heritageability.org
For more information about the project, contact Jessica Holroyd, Engagement and Communications Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01392 459222.