Volunteers inspired by sensory disability training
Published by HearFirst for HearFirst in Health and also in Care and Support, Communities, Education
A volunteer from the Imperial War Museum talking to a young visitor
Volunteers from the IWM North, part of Imperial War Museums (Manchester) have been so inspired by a training course that they have developed a series of pledges to improve communication with visitors who are sight impaired or deaf.
The one-day interactive sensory awareness training course helped the volunteers to learn the fundamental aspects of deaf, visual and deaf blind awareness.
The course, which was called a ‘Sense Able’ visit, was delivered partly within the exhibition space to recreate an environment through the eyes and ears of someone who is deaf, blind or both.
The in-house course was delivered by award winning workplace training and consultancy company HearFirst and facilitated by two tutors who themselves have hearing and sight loss respectively, adding relevance and depth to the training.
The learning experience helped volunteers to identify barriers which deaf and blind people may face and also gave them the skills and confidence to know how to approach people with sensory disabilities.
The training was delivered as part of a volunteer and learning programme called ‘if: Volunteering for wellbeing’, for which IWM North and Manchester Museum successfully secured a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £528,700 last year.
The three year project is being delivered in partnership between IWM North and Manchester Museum, part of The University of Manchester, to provide people from a diverse range of backgrounds with the opportunity to attend training courses, work placements, volunteer-to-volunteer mentoring, as well as the chance to visit and learn from a range of national and local heritage venues.
Volunteer Programme Manager, Danielle Garcia from IWM North, said: “We really enjoyed the day, it was so inspiring that the facilitators themselves were hearing and visually impaired. The training was so informal we felt at ease and were able to ask challenging questions without fear of upsetting people. I would definitely recommend sense-able training to other organisations. As a result of the training our volunteers feel much more confident supporting hearing and visually impaired visitors.”
The group ended the day by developing a series of pledges from the training which they agreed to put into action within the museum.
In feedback one of the volunteers commented: “What I learnt on the course was very interesting and makes you aware how lucky you are to have the ability to see and hear. Sometimes we can take life for granted and not appreciate what is most important in our lives.
“Now I have an understanding what it must be like to experience? life with various types of vision impairment and how it must be quite difficult to focus, or not focus, on everyday things we see and that we should always remind ourselves that everyone needs help when and if they request assistance - that is most important part in our lives as volunteers.”
Julie Ryder, Director and Founder of HearFirst, said: “Using tutors who are deaf and blind themselves adds depth and relevance to this training. Some of the volunteers had disabilities themselves and our relaxed, inclusive training style helped the whole group flourish. The volunteers were keen to learn and we witnessed their confidence in the subject grow as the day unfolded.
“The skills and knowledge they gained during the course will not only be put to good use in the Museum but are also transferable to any customer facing role.”
HearFirst provides a full range of equality & diversity training courses to organisations across the UK. For more information on Deaf, disability awareness and BSL training, please contact Julie at HearFirst on 01706 872 816 or visit www.hearfirst.org.uk