Originally published Thursday, November 10, 2011, uploaded again due to server issues

Hi everyone,

Regular readers will be aware of the difficulties I had accessing the Doctor Who Experience in April of this year, and the BBC’s commitment to act on this feedback.

In September, I received an email detailing all of the improvments they’d made, and inviting me back to experience and feedback on the changes. On Halloween weekend, I returned to the Doctor Who Experience as their guest, with my carer and Alison (@peskypeople herself!).

The TARDIS with the blue swirling vortex in the background. Samantha in dalek outfit standing in the open door









We were given a fantastic reception and guided tour from Philip Fleming (Head of Communications, Brands, Consumers and New Ventures for BBC Worldwide) and Courtney Lewis (Event Manager for DWE). We were all very impressed with the improvments that have been made, the handling of the feedback and the commitment of both DWE and BBC Worldwide to improving accessibility and making visitors with disabilities feel welcome. It was a great day out, as well as very empowering and satisfying to see the changes in action.

The Experience have acted on every point of feedback I gave:

  • Improvements to website and contact details. The accessibility page of the DWE website has been improved, it gives far more detailed information now, and gives contact details to contact staff at the experience to discuss access needs, rather than battling with SeeTickets.
  • It appears from the website information that free carer/PA tickets will now be sent out with paid tickets for disabled visitors; this is much more sensitive. The visitor may have to provide proof of eligibity onsite- this is appropriate to prevent abuse of the free ticket system.
  • All onsite staff have had disability awareness training. And boy, was this evident. The staff were so much more communicative, aware, informed and sensitive, even checking with the queue to establish if anyone had any needs, before entering the interactive element. The guide as we went through was careful to keep an eye on any visitors with disabilities, ensuring that were okay and accessing the experience.
  • An audio description track has been recorded for the interactive adventure section, produced by Red Bee Media, the company who do the audio descriptions for the Doctor Who DVDs, even using the same describer. This was just wonderful, really really helpful in getting the atmosphere provided by visual elements, reducing confusion and orienting you to each new location you entered. With the aid of the description and my low vision aids, I was able to see so much more of the various locations, and felt part of the adventure, rather than a frustrated outsider. I was focussed on the adventure, rather than just on trying to see something and figure out what was supposed to be going on. DWE provide ipods to play the audio description on, and time was taken to explain to me how to work the device.
  • If a visually impaired visitor does not have a carer with them, DWE will provide a staff member to go through the adventure with the visitor, to provide assistance and ensure the audio description is working correctly. This is above and beyond what I suggested and a great idea on the part of DWE.
  • Visually impaired visitors are welcome to go through the interactive adventure element a second time. I took advantage of this offer, and again, it really helped in getting the atmosphere and context of the adventure, and not feeling like I’d missed important elements.
  • Large print, handheld copies of all signage have been produced for the use of visually impaired visitors.

I was really impressed with all the hard work gone in to making the improvements, and the willingness to listen to feedback showed by Philip and Courtney, who were very keen to hear my impressions of the changes and any suggestions for further improvements.

Hats off to DWE and BBC Worldwide for responding so thoroughly to the feedback, and commitment to improving access.

It just goes to show the power of social media, and that giving feedback really can result in fantastic changes to accessibility. The original blog post was widely shared on both Facebook and Twitter. Thank you to everyone who commented and shared the original blog. Do me a big favour, and share the happy ending too!?

P.S. Since it was Halloween (nearly), and I’ll take any excuse to dress up, I took the opportunity to dust off my Dalek outfit for the visit. The picture above shows me invading the TARDIS, via the magic of green screen!