Heritage Ability wins the Lottery

Heritage Ability celebrates its Lottery win

Posted on: 7 September 2018

Congratulations to Living Options, which has beaten off hundreds of competitors from across the country to win a prestigious National Lottery Award for their project Heritage Ability.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Heritage Ability is designed to improve the accessibility of over 20 South West heritage sites over a three-year span, so that more people can enjoy the region’s amazing legacy. It was the only project in the South West to make it to the final seven in the heritage category.

The products Heritage Ability puts in place are carefully chosen to benefit as many people as possible.  People can access far reaching walks through the Tramper – a self-propelled, multi-terrain mobility scooter, and enjoy their experiences with the whole family.

People with complex needs and learning disabilities can find out more about their surroundings through booklets that allow the information to be accessible to them.  Rather than complex mainstream the project creates accessible information so that people can engage with their heritage.  This not only benefits people with learning disabilities, but is also good for children, and great for international and group visits.

The programme will also be delivering tablets containing tours in British Sign Language to each of the sites, for people who rely on sign language as their first language.

Heritage Ability Project Manager, Maryann Soper, said:

“We’re absolutely thrilled – I think we’re still in shock.  It’s been such an emotional journey.  There were over 700 entries and we made the top seven of a really tough category.

“We know our work makes a difference and is crucial for people’s lives and wellbeing.  But now we know the general public feels the same, and this realisation gives us enormous heart.  We know that everyone feels the way we do – that accessibility does matter.  It’s something we should feel proud of, that people care about others having the same access to our heritage, even if it doesn’t affect them directly.

“This project will mean that the lovely selfies on the viewpoint at the edge of the heritage site can now include everyone.  We’re creating whole family experiences and memories by making access possible.”

Heritage Ability has adopted 20 sites across South West. One is Geevor Tin mine in Cornwall.  It’s a large open-air museum and was the last working tin mine in the county.  Because it is a very complex site to explain, it means that many people weren’t making or enjoying the visit.  However, products put in place through the project have unlocked the heritage of the site and the whole region.

Maryann continued:

“We’ve picked deliberately difficult sites so we can find appropriate solutions and show demonstrable results, including Devon’s remote Lundy Island.  The logistics seemed initially insurmountable but we’re working out how to get around them.  We’ve put one Tramper there already – and this is powerful enough to take you up steep hills and rocky or rooty terrain.  Lundy is an amazing flagship site for Devon and we’ll continue to work here to improve access for people.

Other sites include Killerton House, the Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Cockington Country Park, which was the scene of the filming for the finalist announcement on Wednesday 5th September, revealed by a plane towing a banner which said:  “Heritage Ability, you have won!”

“We have quite a small team, based in Exeter with a wide range of applicable skills,” said Maryann.  “It’s the only way we’re able to deliver it efficiently.

“Many of our team have lived experience of these difficulties, which has been core to the ethos of our work.  We need a range of people to create a dynamic, efficient team.

“Now we’re the winners I’m so proud.

“We can feel the energy with all 20 of our partner sites, who are working with us to make these changes.  Some are quite challenging, but I can really feel the difference.  They know the public appreciate what they’re doing.  What this award does is make everyone feel good about what they’re doing.”

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