In celebration of Deaf Awareness week (6-12 May), three local Cornish heritage attractions have introduced brand new guided tours aimed at attracting more visitors from the Deaf Community. The new British Sign Language (BSL) guides aim to help Deaf BSL users gain a better understanding of the history of each of the sites and get more from their visit.

Many within the Deaf Community use BSL as their first language and may not have the level of written English expected, so providing written information or using subtitles in films may not be enough to ensure understanding.

For this reason, the National Trust property of Godolphin House and Gardens in Helston, the National Maritime Museum Cornwall (NMMC) based in Falmouth, and Geevor Tin Mine in Pendeen; have worked closely with the Heritage Ability project, to develop unique BSL guided tours.

The new BSL tours consist of several short 60-90 second film clips, created and presented by a Heritage Ability volunteer BSL signer. The volunteer learns the important information about the site and then interprets it in a way that is engaging and informative for other Deaf users.

These are then downloaded onto a tablet so that the visitor can view them at their leisure while wandering around the site.

Jack Roberts, Head Guide at Geevor Tin Mine said: “The BSL tour is an excellent addition to our site and will help the Deaf community feel more connected to the visitor experience. Thank you to Heritage Ability for making it possible and we look forward to working together more in the future.”

Heritage Ability is a three-year initiative, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, created to support over 20 sites across the South West to become more accessible for people with disabilities and Deaf people using BSL.

Maryann Soper, Heritage Ability Manager, said: “We’re so pleased that the BSL guided tours are now in place, having worked closely with the staff at all three Cornish attractions. We now have delivered in total 12 BSL tours across the South West region, with another ten planned.”

Linda Frost, Human Resource Manager at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall (NMMC), said: ‘We are delighted that we can offer a BSL guided tour to our visitors, thanks to our partnership with Heritage Ability, whose help has been invaluable”.

To book the BSL guided tours in advance, contact the heritage site directly before your visit, and then pick the tablet up from reception on arrival.  

Heritage Ability is run by Living Options Devon, a local disability charity, where all of their initiatives are developed or supported by people who have lived experience of the challenges faced by disabled people and the Deaf community.