From British Sign Language interpreted children’s shows and signing Santa sessions to BSL training for staff – intu Metrocentre has demonstrated its on-going commitment to being a forward thinking, inclusive shopping and leisure centre, adapting to the needs of its visitors.
Following the success of signing Santa sessions over the festive season, intu Metrocentre was keen to include a signing element in other aspects of its free calendar of children’s entertainment.
For the past 20 years shows featuring the centre’s loveable mascots, the Metrognomes, have entertained tens of thousands of children from across the north east as part of a host of free family fun on offer during the school holidays.
This Easter one of Europe’s biggest shopping and leisure centres produced a day of British Sign Language interpreted shows for children with hearing impairments – the response was overwhelming and a signing day of shows looks set to be a regular feature. As well as an on-stage interpreter, the Metrognomes signed along to some of the songs in the show and there was even a section of the performance dedicated to teaching the audience some BSL.
Julie Muller, mum of Sadie-Grace, age 5, who watched and participated in the Metrognome show, said:
“The BSL interpreted Metrognome shows at intu Metrocentre are a fantastic idea that make all children feel included. It’s great to have somewhere to go in the holidays that accommodates children who are deaf or have hearing disabilities.
“The Metrognomes made my daughter’s day when they picked her to be the princess on the stage. The fact she’s deaf and had the confidence to go on stage is amazing and it’s great to see everyone in the audience learning British Sign Language. Thank you intu Metrocentre for putting on a fabulous Deaf-friendly show.”
British Sign Language training has also been made available to staff at intu Metrocentre and this year 16 staff members from departments across the centre, including security, customer services, marketing and business support, have signed up for the ten week course with Sign it Hear CIC.
As well as basic fingerspelling, numbers and general everyday conversation the team is learning how to answer customers queries, give directions, handle customer service issues, the appropriate signs for first aid and specific shops, as well as increasing their understanding of deaf awareness to enhance the shopping experience for those with hearing impairments.
Julie New, Director of Sign it Hear CIC, commented:
“It is important to businesses that BSL becomes more visible to the hearing community and to break down the barriers that deaf people come across in everyday life. It is estimated by 2035, a fifth of the population will suffer some form of hearing loss. More and more businesses should be training their staff at least in Deaf Awareness to make them understand deafness and to change the way they communicate with the deaf community.”
Helen Atkinson, marketing manager at intu Metrocentre, added:
“At intu Metrocentre we’re very proud of our of staff members who are trained in BSL. Whether they are helping with children’s activities or using sign language to assist visitors with any queries they have – their skills are invaluable and have generated incredibly positive feedback from our customers.”
As part of intu Metrocentre’s focus on inclusivity, the centre has also invested over half a million pounds in the refurbishment of their toilet and baby changing facilities – with an emphasis on improving accessibility for all.
The new accessible toilets benefit from electronically operated push pad doors, and contrasting support rails aid those with mobility and sight impairment, as well as facilitating transfer for wheelchair users.
Exhibition Square baby changing facilities are now accessed via an open chicane and doors to individual ‘Baby Calm Rooms’ have been made wide enough to accommodate not only wheelchairs but double buggies and prams. The baby change units have been specifically designed for use by someone in a wheelchair – making it as ergonomic as possible.
A family group with greater accessibility needs can utilise the accessible baby change room. This not only provides private baby changing facilities but also has an additional room with an accessible toilet and child specific toilet within the same space, allowing a family to visit one space which caters to their collective needs.
Gavin Prior, general manager at intu Metrocentre, said:
“At intu Metrocentre it’s so important for us to continue to invest in all aspects of our centre, from staff training to accessibility focused refurbishments. By listening and adapting to the needs of our local community we endeavour to ensure that every element of the centre contributes to delivering an enhanced, inclusive shopping experience.”