In an effort to raise essential funds to continue to develop our growing programme, improve accessibility and enhance the visitor experience for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), we swapped our pages for paddles in July to take part in the second annual Dragon Boat Race at Hetton Lyons Country Park.

Braving the 250-metre course, our staff were joined by Chief Executive Kate Edwards and representatives from our corporate partners, First Class Supply and Unwritten Creative.

Over the past few years, we have pledged to enrich our visitor experience and provide the warmest of welcomes for children with additional needs and their families. 

The Dragon Boat Race coincided with the launch of our regular, monthly Early Bird Opening. The model was trialled with great success by the team in March as part of Disability Awareness Day. Every first Saturday of the month we will open our doors early between 9am-10am to allow families with children who have special educational needs and disabilities a chance to avoid the hustle and bustle which can often be overwhelming and enjoy a calmer, quieter arrival.

Families are encouraged to take part in story time as part of this regular Early Bird programme. These sessions offer accessible ways to spark imagination and allow families to share stories together.

To further enrich your Seven Stories experience, our amazing Sensory Backpacks are free to borrow from reception, with a returnable deposit. These innovative bags are crammed full of tactile props and activities to help you engage with our exhibitions and make the most of your visit.

“We had a lovely visit today. Especially loved the sensory backpack that we used provided by Seven Stories for my son who has autism. He generally struggles with imaginative play but took to it straight away, imagining he was the ‘Rainbow King’. Thank you Seven Stories!” Visitor.

Earlier in the year, Seven Stories staff took part in training sessions delivered by Leicester-based Bamboozle Theatre Company, who offer a programme of multi-sensory experiences for children and young people with learning and behavioural difficulties. We look forward to more training with them, to further develop our skills, in spring 2017.

Our ongoing commitment to developing our activities has already generated lots of wonderful feedback from families enjoying their time with us and we’re so pleased to hear that it’s enhancing the experience for everyone taking part.

“My daughter absolutely loves the early autism morning. She is normally mute when it's busy but she is coming out of her shell every session. She joins in really well with story time and the staff are all so lovely with us. Thank you for holding the sessions, it really makes a difference to us as a family” Visitor.

All of our staff are happy to talk through what to expect before you come to Seven Stories and, if you need any guidance or support whilst you’re with us, the team are always on hand to help you make the most of your visit. If you have a particular question or concern, please speak to our Access Champion, Beth Coverdale, on 0300 330 1095 ext. 220.

For more information on accessibility at Seven Stories and to prepare for your visit, click here: http://www.sevenstories.org.uk/visit/accessibility