Who are we?
Victoria Reid graduated from the with a degree in archaeology from the University of Aberdeen in 2014 and has been working with people with disabilities since. She recognised that there was a need to provide inclusive opportunities for them to access archaeology, in 2015 Access to Archaeology the concept was born, Victoria started with workshops with the visually impaired and then extended out to Cubs groups. Through her research for the workshop Victoria was horrified to see that it was hard to find inclusive workshops and excavations. Victoria prepared a paper on the vision impairment workshop for the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists 2015 conference and was very fortunate to be accepted. Victoria formalised Access to Archaeology as a business in April 2016 more as a way of supporting their activities than to make money. Since then they have worked with Lindengate a Mental Health Charity, providing a six-week excavation session. They have contributed to an outdoor learning resource for the Scottish Forestry Commission and run workshops for the PACE Centre.
James Goldsworthy is an exceptional coach with courage, impact, leadership experience and highly tuned listening skills. He lost his sight in 2005 and has subsequently qualified as an executive coach, become a certified trainer on no fewer than four assistive technology platforms for the visually impaired, started his own successful business and become a specialist in the field of visual impairment. He’s also trekked across the Sahara, driven a tank, flown a microlight and holds multiple bronze and silver medals at British National level in blind acoustic shooting. James has worked with the visually impaired since 2006, serving as a Director of a county wide charity for the visually impaired where he worked closely with the visually impaired as well as their families. He has extensive experience in the creation and implementation of training and development programmes for the confidence building, up-skilling and personal growth of visually impaired individuals wishing to gain meaningful employment, return to work after losing their sight or make a transition from one career to another. He also plays bass guitar in a rock band, a band with whom he’s played at the 2015 Rugby World Cup as well as the 2016 Formula One British Grand Prix and British Moto GP.
Our conference session 2017.
Back in April we were fortunate enough to be able to present a paper at the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists’ Annual Conference. Our session focused on providing practical solutions to making excavations more accessible to people with vision loss. One of the key points that we identified was that it needn’t mean a lot of extra work or extensive adaptations. Simply talking to the individual can go a long way to reassuring an employer that it’s perfectly possible and indeed relatively easy to make archaeology accessible to the sight impaired.
Our Excavation case study at Lindengate, a mental health charity, proves just that. Victoria invited James to attend the dig to give his insight. It’s worth mentioning here that James has no vision at all so was giving his input from a position of experience and practicality. James was very keen to get involved so we arranged that he’d attend a dig to see what happened.
We spent the whole day working through potential issues and practical challenges as well as discussing solutions and establishing some “best practice” steps. Here’s the highlights of what we found.
We highlighted the importance of making information accessible by producing it in formats such as large print hard copy or electronic documents to be read by the individual with their own magnification or screenreading software. We also identified that it’s essential to talk to the individual and let them know what to expect as well as allowing them to ask questions.
We found that spending time with the individual and giving practical instruction on trowel technique is vitally important. Giving this instruction not only helps maintain the integrity of any items found but also gives the individual a chance to properly understand how correct technique works. An important discovery regarding trowel technique is that by far the best type to use are wooden handled trowels as wooden handles allow feedback to travel up the shaft of the trowel. This feedback is then transferred through the wood to the hand of the user giving them a greater degree of control over the tool and better sensitivity to the information fed back through it.
We also discussed the importance of describing the ground conditions of the dig site. Different areas such as marshy ground, scrubland, firm or hard packed earth etc should be communicated to the individual to improve their awareness; it also aids guiding. This also raises a key point. It’s absolutely essential when working with people with sight loss to have at least one person on site who is sighted guide trained. They should have attended a training course where sighted guide training and interaction with people with sight loss is the focus.
Placement really is important. Ideally the person’s excavation area should be close to the entrance/exit to minimise the risks of lengthy and potentially hazardous navigation around the site. It’s also a great idea to have a brightly coloured flag (James recommends bright orange for contrast) with a small bell from a cat’s collar attached to it located at the entrance/exit of the site. This enables both visually impaired and blind people to orientate themselves whilst in their trench.
We also found that it minimises the risk of accidents if the spoil bucket and tools are handed to the person once they are in their trench as the person can put them where they want them. We learned this the hard way as James had no idea that his bucket had been placed behind him in his trench and promptly fell backwards over it.
This gives you some insight into the sorts of easy adjustments that can be made to make digs accessible to those with sight loss. We hope you’ve found the blog interesting and useful. If you’d like to watch our CIFA session you can check it out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GjXfMCoys8s&feature=youtu.be
Please get in touch with either of us if you have any questions or if you’d like to enquire about our training opportunities.
Victoria and James.
Find out more.
If you would like to chat to Victoria or James more about any of the issues spoken about in this blog then please feel free to get in touch with them using the details below. They are happy to help and to support.
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