Shelleven Guest House in Bangor has become the first venue in Northern Ireland to be given a ‘Deafblind Friendly’ award by the charity Deafblind UK. This means that the establishment is deemed suitably accessible to host guests who have sight and hearing loss.
Norman McCudden from Deafblind UK, said: “There are over 11,000 people in Northern Ireland who are deafblind and face physical and emotional battles every day. For them to know that there is a comfortable and welcoming guest house where they can easily access all the facilities, is fantastic. It’s been a pleasure to work with Sue and the team at Shelleven Guest House, and I’m delighted that this is the first venue to receive our Deafblind Friendly status.”
The Deafblind Friendly program is open to all businesses and public facing organisations in Northern Ireland. It involves working with the experts at Deafblind UK to ensure that venues are inclusive and accessible to people with sight and hearing loss.
Norman worked with staff at the guest house to review the venue and advise them of small practical changes they could make, to make it more accessible for people with sight and hearing loss.
Staff training is also included in the Deafblind Friendly program. Norman said: “Making physical improvements is great, but its equally important for staff to really understand what being deafblind means and how it affects people, so they can give deafblind visitors the best possible experience.”
Sue Toner from Shelleven House said: “We strive to be the best we can, so that deafblind guests feel at home in the comfortable surroundings at Shelleven House. We have made improvements that everyone benefits from, with and without a disability. We already offer a very personal service to all our guests which compliments the enhancements we have made; we assess everyone on their needs and try to ensure everyone’s stay is comfortable and memorable. All our staff are trained on the different demands and needs from guests with all types of disabilities.
“We were really pleased to hear that we already had ramps and handrails and the correct furnishings and lighting in place, as well as the correct signage for sight impaired guests. We plan to purchase a hearing loop for our deaf guests arriving at our accommodation. We are about to build a new outdoor seating area, which we have consulted with Norman over to ensure we have the correct coloured contrasting steps and sensory plants in place.”
Deafblind UK’s Deafblind Friendly program is supported by the National Lottery Community Fund. It is available free of charge to businesses and organisations across Northern Ireland.