Awakening Senses: young people with disabilities review the visitor experience at the Eden Project

Awakening Senses was a collaborative project between the Sensory Trust, Devon and Cornwall Constabulary Inclusion officers and the Eden Project in Cornwall, UK. It was designed to give young disabled people the chance to share their opinions on the exhibits, facilities and experience of the Eden Project. Their feedback was also used to help ensure future young visitors and their carers and families could enjoy an exciting and inclusive experience at the Eden Project.

disabled children reviewing the Eden Project

Key benefits of the project

The project engaged young people with sensory and mobility impairments, learning disabilities, mental health issues, lack of esteem and challenging behaviour. It was designed to deliver the following benefits:

  • Building confidence, advocacy and self-esteem through the opportunity for the young people to have a voice and share ideas on how to influence the nature of the visitor experience at places like Eden Project (something they do not often get the chance to do).
  • Helping Eden Project enhance the visitor experience for young visitors with disabilities, their cares and families, through feedback from the consultation.

About the project

The project was supported by Youth Intervention Officers from Devon and Cornwall Constabulary who worked with the Schools Inclusion Co-ordinators and Special Education Needs Co-ordinators to identify the young people who would benefit most from getting involved.

We used a combination of structured activities and consultation techniques we've designed to make it easy for children to use to communicate their ideas. This included Widgit symbols to enable children with learning disabilities to independently express their ideas. We put an emphasis on being able to touch different materials and exhibits as we went around the Eden site, this was especially valuable to share the experience with children with visual impairments, but also to enrich the experience for everyone.

We focused attention on a whole series of sensory interactions - feeling textures, smelling things, looking up close at detail - from Wild Cornwall to the steamy jungle, a balmy South Africa to a Mediterranean vegetable plot all. Individuals were invited to highlight the experiences they most enjoyed, and to highlight any issues that limited their access - for example, the 'wow' of seeing the biomes for the first time was only available to those tall enough to see over the railings of the viewing platform. This feedback subsequently prompted the Eden team to make viewing holes lower down in the rails so smaller children and wheelchair users could share the view too. It also focused attention on the need to enhance interest through other sensory stimuli so visitors with visual impairments can have an equally fulfilling visit.

An important aspect of the review was how much everyone enjoyed it; in our view an essential ingredient of any community consultation is that it inspires people's interest.

Project support

The project was funded by Cornwall Children’s Fund Sensory Trust and we were delighted to win the Most Innovative Award at the CSV National Awards.

Critical inputs