Here are some practical ideas and suggestions which will support U3As in making sure that all their members can access the informal learning and activities on offer. We aim to keep this regularly updated with the latest ideas and advice so keep checking the site!
Things to consider
- Think about appointing a committee member, or a non-committee member who is responsible for giving and advice and help to those with impairment. Call them what you will – A Helping Hand, Disability Officer, Accessibility Member. You choose. But make it known to your members that there is someone there to help. If all U3As did that – it would help so many of our members.
- When guiding someone do mention ‘ a step up – or a step down’, the directional detail is important.
- Some local councils offer a free assessment of driving ability – to those over a certain age.
- Venues with easy access for those with mobility problems, including wheelchair users can be found in libraries, cafes and pubs. Make enquiries. Be creative. One U3A meets in a fire station!
- Look for venues with good public transport links – not all members drive.
- U3APlus has received the suggestion that local companies may have a meeting room that is available on certain occasions. Try approaching them for a free venue.
- When displaying venues in use by your U3A, make a few simple notes about its accessibility for all impairments.
Please note that Carers are always welcomed to meetings, they are covered by the U3A insurance (unless they are paid carers) and are not charged for the meeting.
Check your loop systems – do they work? If not get the owner to sort.
At an open meeting, get the speaker to repeat the question (from the floor) so everybody can hear it (Congleton U3A).
Dulwich and District U3A have had 2 information sessions for members on hearing difficulties and hearing aids. They also reserve the front 2 rows of every open meeting for those with sight and hearing issues.
Provide visual aids in the form of pictures or a simple PowerPoint as visual clues for those with reduced sight.
Offer large print newsletters.
Large print cards available for Bridge or Whist.
Large print Scrabble boards and tiles.
Produce a spoken newsletter – Cheddar Valley U3A converts text to speech.
There is a text version of Third Age Matters on the National website, for those with sight problems.
Open meeting speaker’s talk videoed and put on youtube, accessible via U3As website, password protected.
Do an audit of the premises you use – for ramps, handrails, accessible parking and toilets for the disabled – Barnsley U3A.
Some County Councils have lists of accessible venues.
Link on own U3A website to local bus timetables.
Ensure parking places are reserved close to the hall, not just for those with a blue badge (Congleton U3A).
Sharing Best Practice
“There are some legal obligations concerning inclusivity, but surely we should all be concerned to make all members welcome, regardless of their health. We should want them to enjoy all the benefits and pleasures of belonging to this great organisation” Beryl, U3A member.
U3As around the country are using simple and practical ways to make their learning inclusive and accessible to all. Here are some of their suggestions:
- Some U3As alter the time of starting their Open meetings to fit with public bus times.
- A Vice chairman who ‘signs’ at their open meeting. A great skill.
- A deafened member of Three Brethren U3A asked for Conversation Courtesy. One person speaking at a time and no chatting in the audience while a speaker is doing a presentation.
- Barnsley U3A offer an ‘associate’ level of membership for those who can no longer attend their activities but who want to continue with a level of interaction such as receiving newsletters and emails. Also remaining in their U3As closed Facebook Group.
- Causeway U3A offers transport to and from activities/meetings.
- Beeston U3A has Guidance for Speakers and Briefing Notes for Meeters and Greeters and an events checklist.
- Aberystwyth U3A record their Open meeting speaker and put the audio on Soundcloud available for everyone under download control.
- Notes about accessibility for Speakers at monthly meetings
- A buddy system for those without email or internet
- Clitheroe U3A has asked their members if they need any assistance in accessing meetings and activities. They mention this in their newsletters and on the rolling Power Point shown before their open meetings; and ask members to contact the chairman. Good to encourage members to ask for help.
- When Selby U3A goes on a visit, all the members who go, are told about the access and any wheelchairs or mobility scooters available for people to use at the venue.
- Burton Joyce and District U3A have a member who has suffered a stroke resulting in speech aphasia and walking difficulties. With the member’s own determination combined with the support, acceptance and encouragement of her group members, she has made great progress and contributes to her interest groups.
- Click here to view Todmorden U3A‘s accessibility policy.
- Click here to view Beeston U3A‘s accessibility policy.
- A draft letter that could be sent to a member asking for confidential info in order to ensure they can be helped where needed from Stafford U3A.
Please note that the Equalities Agency Support Service state that despite U3A being a member-led organisation we still are viewed as a service provider in terms of being required to make reasonable adaptations so all members can be included.