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Heritage Ability

"Heritage Ability is a project working to improve accessibility at heritage sites in the South West."

Heritage Ability is a new project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, to support heritage sites in South West England to become more accessible.  

The project involves disabled people and Deaf people who use British Sign Language (BSL) in developing and piloting activities like BSL film clips, Easy Read versions of site leaflets and better access information on websites.  We are working with 20 heritage sites over the period 2017-2020 to give an amazing welcome to Deaf and disabled visitors.  

This work is part of our overall mission in Living Options Devon to give disabled and Deaf people the same life chances and opportunities to be active and equal members of society.  We aim to build a more inclusive culture in the heritage sector and help realise its potential to contribute to a better quality of life for all. 

The South West of England has an astounding variety of heritage ranging from iconic landscapes such as the Jurassic coast and the rugged beauty of Dartmoor to the Georgian grandeur of Bath and bustling coastal towns and villages. 

People visiting heritage sites come to relax and spend time together; to learn about wildlife; nature conservation; the environment; history and human stories that have shaped the landscape and built heritage over thousands of years. 

We believe this heritage should be accessible to everyone.  However, this is certainly not the case at the moment. Although there are many examples of good practice, for most disabled people and Deaf people, the heritage that the rest of the population takes for granted can be a struggle to access.

Changing cannot be done overnight.  The Heritage Ability project is helping at least 20 South West heritage destinations over the next three years become more accessible. These places will then become role models to show what can be done and the value of a community-led approach. 

By 2020, Heritage Ability will be a self-sustaining initiative, working with a new collection of sites to generate change even more widely.  

What are the accessible interventions we'll be helping our heritage places develop?

  • Improvements for limited mobility - mainly by providing all-terrain mobility scooters at sites. These will be delivered by Living Options Devon's existing Countryside Mobility Scheme
  • Films for British Sign Language (BSL) users about heritage - filmed by Deaf volunteers and available at the sites on tablets, or downloadable on your own device before you visit

  • Tours for BSL users - led by Deaf volunteers who have been trained in the site's heritage

  • Large-print versions of literature

  • Easy read versions of literature

  • Creation of a visual story for people with autism, helping them prepare for their visit before they reach one of our heritage destinations 

Can you help us?

We believe that disabled and Deaf people should lead the process of change and decide what improvements are needed.

We want to recruit disabled and Deaf people across the South West to volunteer and help us make these changes. Volunteers can take many roles, including:

  • Mystery visitors to assess heritage sites and advise on the improvements they can make
  • British Sign Language (BSL) film guides to learn about a site's heritage and create a film clip
  • BSL tour guides to learn about a site's heritage and lead guided tours for Deaf people
  • Heritage Ability Champions to support their local heritage places and help it on its journey to become more accessible, engaging with local disabled and Deaf people and groups
  • Joining a User-led panels, which meet occasionally to look at how the project is going and how well it is tackling specific disability and access needs
If you'd like to get involved, please do contact us at heritageability@livingoptions.org 

Opening Hours

  • Monday: 9:00 AM → 17:00 PM
  • Tuesday: 9:00 AM → 17:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 9:00 AM → 17:00 PM
  • Thursday: 9:00 AM → 17:00 PM
  • Friday: 9:00 AM → 16:00 PM

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Living Options Devon, Units 3-4 Cranmere Court, Lustleigh Close, Exeter, Devon, England EX2 8PW, United Kingdom