Friday, November 16, 2007

Blind Ambition

Earlier this week I went on a training course, where I learned all about the various aspects and issues pertaining to disability.

In our organisation we pride ourselves on making every effort to provide as enjoyable an experience as possible for all our visitors. If people are unable to access rooms upstairs, for example, we provide a virtual tour instead (or, in my smaller, less affluent property, a photograph album depicting the the rest of the house). For the visually impaired visitor, properties are encouraged to compile a sensory list of items which can be touched, or plants that have a particular scent, or sounds to listen out for, like the chiming of certain clocks, and so on.

Our trainer on the course was blind himself, and had a wonderful tale to tell of a visit to one of our properties (thankfully not mine) where he was relentlessly persued by a room steward who could not fathom why he didn't want to touch Winston Churchill's walking stick. He personally does not get a great deal out of handling items, but the fact that properties have items specifically for handling by the visually impaired, or have constructed a "feely box", has led to some volunteers believing these have to be utilised. In our trainer's case, having politely declined the offer of a feel of Winston Churchill's walking stick, he was then followed through three further rooms by a mystified volunteer, urging him to "go on, just touch it!"

I did have to point out that this was not discrimination due to him being disabled, but that our room stewards will cheerfully pursue anyone. "They were taught that on a different course," I said. "They must engage our visitors at every opportunity. If you don't want to be engaged they're at a bit of a loss."

Mind you, I wouldn't stick my hand in an anoymously presented "feely box" either, if I couldn't see. Actually, I wouldn't even though I can see.

8 comments:

Betty said...

I'm not sure that I would like to have a feel of Winston Churchill's walking stick either. Shudder.

cogidubnus said...

Especially if the feely-box contained.... erm... snails ...

hmmm...yes... um does it somehow feel like we've been here before sometime?

Geoff said...

I am so disappointed I didn't see the walking stick when we went to Churchill's house. I would not only have touched it, I would have performed a Charlie Chaplin walk with it.

Doris said...

Betty - especially when being urged to by an unseen stranger.

Cogidubnus - I must stress that I have never actually felt the snails in the donations box to which you refer. I have only had them described to me. The worst box is the mail box, which is full of creepy crawlies, Bush Tucker Trial style.

Geoff - next time keep your sunglasses on.

Reg Pither said...

If I was followed around ANYWHERE by someone who just kept saying "Go on, just touch it" I think I would find a use for Winston's walking stick.

Doris said...

Reg - I just know there has to be an exception to that rule...

stitchwort said...

Difficult to see (sorry about that) what a blind person might get out of a Historic House visit really. An interesting thought.

Boz said...

Surely Winston had more than one, anyway?