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Access

photo of Jo Verrent

Jo Verrent and Sarah Pickthall started Sync. Jo does the project management side - working out the money and dates and stuff.

Jo also has her own work called ADA inc. She works as a trainer and consultant on disability and diversity in the arts.

Jo spoke about access and Sync at the Sync Thinking event which was on the 9th March, 2011 at the Wellcome Collection in London.

The following is from her speech on the day.

Back at the beginning

a cartoon of sync thinking about access

One of the most important thing for Sync is access.

When we got the money to do Sync we said we can't plan access until we know who we are working with.

We think access should come from what people need.

We can't guess that in advance - we have to ask people.

We also think access changes.

Sometimes you don't know what you need at the beginning.

When I went to college I didn't think I had any access needs. I thought it made me weak to say I needed help. I don't think that any more.

Now I know what I need and I am happy to tell people.

It's just part of who I am.

Access - it's always changing

a cartoon showing learning disabled people part of the sync mix

At the beginning people might say:

"I don't need any help".

When we have worked with them for a while they might say:

"actually I can sit down for 20 minutes and I need a stretch", "actually if you bring a pillow I can lay down during the break", "actually the heat, the temperature in a room is really important to me.""

This is great - people are getting the confidence to tell us what they need and those kind of things are just as important as ramps or interpreters.

It's also important to us to include all disabled people.

That includes people with learning disabilities.

Some people don't think people with learning disabilities can lead. We think that's rubbish.

Sarah and I have worked with people with learning disabilities a lot and we have learnt loads from them. We know they can lead and that they can show and teach other people a lot about leading too.

We knew Sync had to include people with learning disabilities.

We have standard information and easy read information. Easy read material is shorter, has shorter words, and shorter sentences.

A lot of people in a hurry read the easy read information first, and then go on to read through the other material.

Although we make them for our learning disabled members, they are not just used by them - other people like them too.

We’ve found this often to be true - when you provide support in one way to one person it ends up helping many more people.

Making things accessible

a photo of Susan Austin

When we planned our event Sync Thinking we had people present in pairs.

This meant if someone was ill, the other person could speak.

We think that is good planning. We don't think you have to be well all the time to lead.

Leadership is not about working from 8 in the morning until 7 in the evening.

Another example is when we write articles. Last month we had one from Susan Austin.

Susan has less energy than some people, she gets tired quickly. So she emailed over some ideas for an article she wanted to write and I said okay I will shape those ideas, and put them together. That way Susan was able to use her energy on making sure that it said what she wanted it to say and making it right.

I was able to use her words and help her. It took her less time and energy, but it still her article, what she want to say. I was just able to provide a few short cuts.

We think that is about access.

Bending the way we work

photo of a slinky - a metal coil that has great flexibility

Sarah and I bend the way we work - she does what she is good at and I do what I am good at. We support each other. It's like being part of a family.

When we have sign interpreters working with us, they have to bend too - they may be trying to help 2 or 3 people. Everyone has to bend, to be flexible, to help that happen.

When you have lots of disabled people together, different people are always going to want different things. We have to work together.

Last time we were at the Wellcome Centre, one person couldn't use the room because of the lights. So we made another group in the foyer. You can make things work, but everyone has to be flexible.

If access is important to people they will understand.

We would like everyone to think like this - to think access is this important. That is one thing that Sync is trying to do.