Emma Birks, Volunteer and Community Outreach Officer for the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT):
"We are an independent charity that cares for the world’s greatest Shakespeare heritage sites in Stratford-upon-Avon, and promotes the enjoyment and understanding of his works, life and times all over the world. Celebrating Shakespeare is at the heart of everything we do.
We welcome visitors from all over the world and therefore English may be their second language.
We also welcome large groups and schools to our five historic properties however some people may experience difficulty in accessing our texts and interpretation.
In 2016 the Trust transformed New Place, the site of Shakespeare's final home where he spent the remaining 19 years of his life into a contemporary space where visitors can discover more about Shakespeare's life in Stratford-upon-Avon.
This project was the perfect opportunity to introduce new methods of interpretation as we had the ambition of making New Place the most accessible of all our properties. For example, we have installed a lift so visitors with pushchairs or wheelchair users can now access the exhibition centre upstairs and the viewing platform to enjoy views of the garden.
We also introduced a method of non-verbal communication in the form of BlueAssist cards, again, to ensure that the site is accessible to people with a range of needs.
The SBT chose symbolised guides as we felt that many audiences with different needs would be able to access the interpretation and site information. For example, we have a good relationship with the local SEN school and wanted to ensure that they would be able to enjoy the site to its full potential. Because these symbols can be universally understood, means that our international audiences would have an additional layer of understanding when visiting our flagship properties, namely Shakespeare’s Birthplace and Shakespeare’s New Place.
Initially we wanted to create resources for Shakespeare’s New Place. Widgit developed the pre-visit information booklet, as well as the main exhibition guide for visitors to use while they are on site.
The Trust will develop one guide per year, over five years. We have just launched resources for Shakespeare’s Birthplace and we are excited to see how popular they are!
They have so far been easy to explain to our staff and volunteers to ensure that we offer accessible information to all who visit the sites.
We have also given the guides to our Access Panel who represent different organisations from MENCAP to Accessible Stratford and BlueAssist.
We found working with Widgit to be very easy. They have been extremely flexible in making the changes to the documents during the development stage. As this was a new resource to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, we found that no question was too large or too small to ask!
The quality of the product has been fantastic, and we have been extremely pleased with the result. Widgit have been supportive throughout the process and we are looking forward to working with them on resources for our other properties in the near future."