On Saturday 12 March, we're taking part in Disabled Access Day. Now in its second year, the national event aims to encourage disabled people, their friends and families to visit somewhere new. After the huge success of its first event last year - venues including Westminster Abbey, Tate Modern and The Scottish Parliament, have also signed up so we are in excellent company!

Seven Stories Access Champion Beth explained why she's excited about taking part...

As Seven Stories Access Champion I’m really excited that we’re taking part in Disabled Access Day this year! This is a brilliant national event that will give us a chance to share and celebrate everything we’ve achieved so far on our journey towards being an accessible venue. To me, access means...

  • making sure that everyone can enjoy the exciting things that happen here regardless of their individual abilities or needs.
  • It’s about making sure that all our visitors feel included in what we offer
  • That families know what to expect when they get here
  • Above all - I believe every family should benefit from the magic of books and reading.

Some of the reasons why disabilities might be a barrier to visiting Seven Stories seem obvious for example, a disability might make it more difficult to physically travel to a venue. But a large number of barriers are invisible and don’t involve mobility - for some families it’s more important to have the right information before visiting a venue to avoid potential embarrassment or sensory overload. Hearing and visual impairments can present communication issues and practical difficulties in a busy public building.  Autistic spectrum conditions, attention deficit disorders and other invisible conditions or needs can make days out difficult if a family aren’t sure whether there will be a quiet space, or whether other families will understand when their child finds it challenging to sit still or quietly during an event. Anecdotally we know that some visitors who have come to our specially programmed ‘Relaxed Santa’ events have never felt able to meet Santa before – imagine feeling left out from something special every Christmas!?

I’m really proud of what Seven Stories has put into place over the last few years. Since 2012 we’ve been working with St Oswald’s Hospice, the National Autistic Society, SEND schools and fantastically accessible venues such as Eureka! in Halifax to develop inclusive approaches and embed them into our creative sessions and programme.

As a result we’ve taken big leaps in how we design our exhibitions - trying out exciting elements like a tactile garden complete with jingling bluebells, bespoke sensory costumes, fluffy clouds and changing weather as well as integrating subtitled and BSL signed films as standard. Our Learning programme now offers story sessions that are fully inclusive for children with a wide range of complex additional needs.

These additions along with our sensory backpacks, social story, large print text copies, hearing loops, ear defenders and fully equipped Changing Place on level 1, are all really positive steps towards being somewhere that everyone feels confident and able to visit. However we know that there’s still plenty to do, and we’d love to hear from our visitors about how to do it!

I’m really looking forward to Disabled Access Day for many reasons, but especially because we’ll be offering a warm welcome to families who might be visiting for the first time - and who can help us break down even more barriers for future visitors. It’s a journey that we’re all on together.

I hope that soon every venue across the land will take it for granted that access and inclusion is part of everyday life.  After all, if we work together - staff and visitors – we can all be Access Champions!

For all the information about how you can take part in Disabled Access Day on Saturday 12 March and to sign up to Jungle Themed Super Sensory Story times, Early Bird Entry and much more - visit our website here.