For the last 19 years I have been coming as a visitor to the Victoria Theatre together with my 6 children including my disabled daughter. Sometimes to watch my own children performing!
They have had fun appearing in dance school shows, the annual pantomime, the Fashion Show of the Year, musical theatre productions, the Dream Girls as well as the National Youth Ballet. I have been at the Theatre for awards evenings and was extremely proud when my disabled daughter won an award for her volunteering during her college years.
Sometimes I have chaperoned and been behind the scenes with Whiteley’s Academy, running up and down the steps to the changing rooms!
In between getting to know many of the staff over the years I have seen the Theatre grow and develop. It’s more than just a Theatre – it is a local community and extremely well resourced asset to Calderdale. We are a small local authority with a big heart and a place like Victoria Theatre is at the centre.
Since setting up Visits Unlimited I have travelled all over the country training venues, attractions, other theatres, historic houses and hotels. We were Visits England’s leading training provider a couple of years ago and trained 9 Accessible Destinations. More recently we have been working closer to home and have been delighted to have been part of the Flood redevelopment in Hebden Bridge and worked in partnership with the Community Foundation and local businesses to raise awareness of access issues and make improvements for disabled local people and visitors.
We have delivered training to Victoria Theatre twice before and it felt like coming home when we returned there on Wednesday 23rd August to deliver another session together with Chris our access auditor. The session was in the evening and although the staff were not working over the summer holidays there was a full house!
Twenty seven staff attended and we sat in the stalls together whilst Chris delivered a session about the social model of disability v the medical model; attitudes; behaviour and what to do and what not to do when meeting people with a wide range of impairments. Chris’s sessions are not dull by any means! He tells stories of his own experiences that always send a chuckle around the room. His honesty, his view of his own disability and his knowledge make all his sessions fun, enjoyable, educational and build confidence with everyone who attends.
By the end of the session we had got together a long list of what’s good about Victoria Theatre. So much so that Chris and I agreed that the Theatre goes the extra mile to make sure that everyone is included. The staff not only have a “can-do” attitude but a “we will do” attitude.
Some of the things on their list of what’s good included:
- Open to changing and improving; if we are aware of an issue we will do something about it.
- We meet and greet, we are helpful and available. We make ourselves known.
- We offer excellent customer care to all our visitors
- We offer assistance, explain the route and offer alternative routes if anyone needs
- We are warm and welcoming
- In the intermission we will offer help to anyone that needs it and who may not be able to get to the bar. We can bring drinks into the auditorium without anyone who needs assistance leaving their seats
- There is a ramp onto the stage that is inclusive and used at events
- We try and make sure that friends and family all sit together – we have 8 chairs for wheelchair users and people have a choice of where they sit
- We have an induction loop for hearing impaired visitors, signed and integrated performances, surtitles, relaxed performances, touch performances
- The group agreed there is always room for improvement and the suggestions were audio description for performances, a mirror in the easy access toilet, and a seating plan to include the toilets. All seemed to be very do-able to us!
- The feedback from the training included:
“The quality of the trainer – he was explicit, and very good at explaining the best approaches to looking after all issues that may occur”
“New ideas and a greater understanding of the issues involved”
“Thank you very much for an enlightening and informative session”
“Well paced and found it interesting as well as informative”
“This kind of continuous learning is very beneficial”
“I now have more confidence when dealing with people with disabilities”
We really enjoyed working with Victoria Theatre staff – it was a pleasure to be with you all! Looking forward to returning as a spectator and have my tickets booked for this year’s pantomime – even though my daughters won’t be part of it!
For more information on Victoria Theatre click on this link.