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Life Reaches for the Stars with ongoing commitment to Accessibility

The festive season of events is in full swing for venues across the region, with visitors snapping up tickets to sell-out experiences. However, for 22% of the population that are disabled, the demand to be first in the queue for sought-after tickets is the least of their concerns, due to a lack of accessibility in venues. 


Life Science Centre, in Newcastle upon Tyne, which has been offering hands-on science inspired experiences for families since 2000, has recently been named top in the league of visitor attractions in England, ahead of destinations including the National Portrait Gallery, London Transport Museum and Bletchley Park. As the venue approaches a very busy season the team have sought the support of Tailored Leisure Company to ensure their accessible offer is ever evolving as part of their on-going commitment to put accessibility at the forefront of their operations. 


South Tyneside based Tailored Leisure Company (TLC) with founder Tara Mackings at the helm are renowned in the North East region for their ethos and vision to overcome the barriers and social exclusion faced by disabled people, specifically in terms of access to fitness and leisure activities. 


Tara, who was recently awarded a British Empire Medal for services to her community has been a key driving force in developing accessible projects in the local community since its inception and has the experience first-hand of disappointing trips and even cancelled plans entirely due to poor accessibility at venues across the UK when bringing up her young children. 


In their bid to prioritise accessibility and to support venues with what is vital for any venue looking to be entirely inclusive Tailored Leisure Company have launched The Access Audit. 


Life joins key venues across the region who have proactively sought the support of TLC to complete an Access Audit including Bamburgh Castle, Spanish City and Haystacks. The Access Audit takes an in depth look at both access to the venue and user experience to support the venues to identify opportunities for further development, and enhancement of a positive user experience. The Access Audit offers advice to businesses and employment settings on how to be more inclusive in many cases with quick wins for a range of disabilities bringing community groups together. 


Tara Johnson, Director of Tailored Leisure Company who set up the company due to her own experiences of living with cerebral palsy said: 


“We are delighted to have been commissioned by Life to undertake their Access Audit. The team at Life has earned an international reputation for its innovative approach to accessibility and inclusion. They are committed to ongoing improvement and change. 


Unfortunately, we are in a situation in 2023, where a high volume of venues are not proactive like Life, with many venues pledging they are fully accessible, when in fact they still don’t understand how to be accessible for disabled people. 


It’s vital that venues understand what accessibility means, it doesn’t just impact the disabled visitor it has a knock-on effect of their families too, a situation I experienced too many times when my children where younger. It’s heart-breaking as a parent to tell your children you have to leave or can’t participate, due to a lack of access.” 


Tara added: 


“In our past experience we’ve seen some venues approach accessibility (especially if they are listed buildings) with the mindset that they can’t make changes due to restrictions, but the audits take this into account. We work with venues to make sure that the accessible parts are the most positive experience possible for visitors, whilst at the same time managing visitor expectations, may that be through website communications ahead of attending to adapting resources on arrival. A lot of the time all that is needed is minor adjustments.” 


Life Chief Executive Linda Conlon said:  


“Life has been committed to creating a science centre for all to enjoy and in the past few years, we have increased our efforts enormously. As well as physical adaptations, we’ve introduced new events and activities for people with particular needs and we’ve seen a real culture shift in the organisation.  


“Of course, our work is never done and we have more exciting plans as we head towards our 25th birthday. We remain committed to providing the best experience possible for all our visitors, including those with specific needs.” 


The award-winning formula over the years at TLC has seen the team pick up an influx of award nominations and wins for their ground-breaking work and they have established a strong collaborative working approach to drive the development of accessible projects across the region. 


Tara added, 


“The development of the Access Audits are a poignant strand to our growth and service offer. It is an area we are looking to further grow in the coming months. With the volunteer audits and the support of Northumbria University Business clinic students we have plans to launch a one stop portal of reviewed premises taking the stress of barriers away from disabled visitors, which will have identified barriers to access by those with lived experience.” 


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