Access to Heritage

Scottish Civic Trust’s Jen Novotny welcomes all to the event
Scottish Civic Trust’s Jen Novotny welcomes all to the event

Virtual reality, mobility scooters for hire and better provision for deaf people were just three of the items discussed at the Scottish Civic Trust’s Improving Access to Heritage forum.

Held at St Matthew’s Church in Paisley, the open event attracted representation from a cross section of groups, all keen to hear more about projects which have provided accessible solutions.

The event was co-designed and delivered by the Scottish Civic Trust with historian and founder of Walking Tours on Wheels Les Fernie, whose tours of Paisley town centre from his own mobility scooter have blazed a trail for bringing heritage to all. Well-known in his hometown, it was Les’ own health issues which led him to pursue his goal to ensure that disability should not be a barrier to access, which has led to his hugely successful tours and campaigns.

Speakers from the Disability Resource Centre’s Movie Makers group demonstrated how film can be an important tool, not only in recording memories and sharing knowledge, but also in advocating for change.

Renfrewshire’s Roar: Connections for Life then shared its innovative VR Over the Doorstep project. Using 360 degree films and virtual reality technology, the charity has brought cultural events and places to housebound elderly individuals, allowing them to feel part of it all without leaving their home. Attendees were invited to try out one of the headsets, which proved popular.

Representatives from the deaf community asked that their needs be considered when developing  heritage and access projects, with the training of more British sign language tour guides, while Shopmobility Paisley explained that they can book mobility scooters and other accessibility equipment for those visiting Paisley.

Les Fernie speaks to the gathered crowd
Les Fernie speaks to the gathered crowd

Reasons for attending ranged from a love of ‘learning about the history of places’, looking for ‘information and advice on how to improve facilities at the venue I work at’, and ‘to ensure that deaf people’s access issues are not forgotten,’ to a chance ‘to get out of the house’ and ‘to meet people’. This highlights the fact that Scottish Civic Trust events are not just about inspiring learning and improving the heritage sector, but also have an important role to play in bringing people together and combating social isolation.