History buffs with hearing disabilities will now have access to British Sign Language (BSL) videos at heritage sites across North Wales.
Centre of Sign Sight Sound (COS) has already installed waterproof QR code stickers at 20 sites in Conwy, including Conwy Castle and the Smallest House in Great Britain, linking people who are deaf, non-verbal or blind to online educational content, reported North Wales Pioneer.
The Colwyn Bay organisation has been awarded almost £250,000 following a bid submitted to the National Lottery to extend the project to more than 40 sites in North Wales – at least six in each county in the region – including Cadw and National Trust locations.
It will also provide online training for businesses, organisations and the third sector on how they can support tourists with all types of disabilities who visit their sites.
Dr John Evans, head of media and communications for COS, and who is responsible for the project, said it will provide “a legacy” as the historical content will remain relevant for years to come. It will also spread the message of inclusivity in the heritage sector. Lastly, it could boost the ‘purple pound’ – the spending power of households with disabilities which often face a lack of appropriate services.
“We wanted to take what we know into the community and make sites that rely on being able to read more accessible using tech and media,” said Dr. Evans.
“We decided to support sites right across North Wales, in a long-term legacy for access for local residents or tourists that come in that never been able to find out about local sites.
“A lot of deaf people are unable to read or cannot read well enough to understand information displayed at these sites, while sites where you need a tour guide may not have a BSL interpreter.
“We are also making businesses and organisations more aware of the potential of the purple pound – during the pandemic, the tourist industry has suffered a lot and there is a need to open up to a wider number of people.”
Visitors can access the video content by scanning the QR codes, which are located alongside existing information signs, and include pre-recorded videos of a BSL interpreter and audio descriptions in Welsh and English.
“We are talking to the wider disability community on where they would like to be able to go, times when they have gone to places with limited access, and what they would like us to do,” said Dr. Evans. “We will then work through that list and speak to organisations such as Cadw and the National Trust to see what is practical for us to do.
“Sometimes it might just be a QR code that will allow a person with information access needs to learn about it including three languages: Welsh, English and BSL. The project will also highlight this diversity of language, adding to the flavour what makes North Wales different
“The sites we have visited so far have worked well and demonstrated this can be a success.
“A lot of places are huge heritage sites where you can’t make a lot of structural changes, so QR codes alongside other information notices are a lot more accessible.
“The project will be spread equally across North Wales and each county will get fair share of project to reflect diversity of North Wales community and things you can do there.
“This will be a legacy project that lasts long into the future – historical information will rarely change – and hopefully other sites will be encouraged to invest in similar things too.”