View of Castell Coch (the ‘Red Castle’) in the ancient beech woods of Fforest Fawr

Digital volunteers set to make big impact for VocalEyes thanks to National Lottery funding

VocalEyes has been awarded £99,814 of National Lottery funding to launch a digital volunteering initiative and break down barriers to heritage.

Today’s funding is part of The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Digital Skills for Heritage initiative, which aims to raise digital skills and confidence across the whole UK heritage sector.

Seventeen projects have been awarded funding to create digital volunteering opportunities, supporting volunteers to develop and contribute their digital skills. Some opportunities will be offered online – removing barriers such as place, mobility, time commitments and confidence in returning to in-person activities due to the pandemic.

In turn, heritage organisations will gain the perspectives and skills of ‘at distance’ and on-site digital volunteers including many who may not have had the chance to volunteer before. The impact of the new volunteering opportunities and ways of working will be shared across the heritage sector.

“Volunteers play a crucial role in supporting and sharing the UK’s heritage. Thanks to National Lottery players we are delighted to support these trailblazing projects, including Heritage Access 2022, as they create exciting new digital volunteering opportunities, helping to break down barriers and inspire the sector to get even more people involved in the heritage they love.”

Ros Kerslake, CEO at The National Lottery Heritage Fund

VocalEyes’ project Museum and Heritage Access 2022, delivered in partnership with Autism in Museums, Centre for Accessible Environments and Stagetext, will:

  1. Build a team of digital volunteer researchers recruited primarily from the deaf, disabled and neurodivergent community;
  2. Grow their digital skills and confidence, through expert training, collaborative networking and peer-mentoring;
  3. Create a scalable and re-usable framework of recruitment, training and collaboration to support this and future digital volunteering projects.
  4. Demonstrate, identify and champion best practice in heritage access and inclusion across the UK.

In spring and early summer 2022, the volunteers will visit the websites of over 3,000 heritage venues across the UK and assess the access information provided that supports visitors to that venue, and check the accessibility of that information. The collated data will be used as the basis for a report – the latest in our annual series of sector access reports and audience surveys –  including benchmarking and guidelines for best practice, followed by a series of dissemination workshops run by the project team, expert advisors and volunteer researchers.

“We are thrilled to receive this support thanks to National Lottery players which means D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent people will have the opportunity to gain heritage volunteering experience and contribute to vital access and inclusion work in the sector.”

Joanna Wood, VocalEyes chair

“We are delighted that VocalEyes have been funded to deliver this much needed project to enable more disabled people to volunteer and improve their digital skills at the same time.  Our consultation with disabled people during the planning for our project Curating for Change, highlighted the wide-ranging barriers that restricted disabled people’s opportunities within heritage.  Lack of volunteering opportunities and support to develop new skills were often mentioned, so we are delighted this project aims to start to address this.”

Esther Fox, Head of the Accentuate Programme

Notes to Editors

Read the National Lottery Heritage Fund press release

Heritage Access 2022

Museum and Heritage Access 2022 will take place from January to December 2022. We will be advertising for a Project and Volunteer Engagement Manager to start as soon as possible in January 2022. We will be recruiting for volunteers to start in March 2022. Volunteering will be part-time, flexible and can be done online from home. Volunteers will also receive a tailored training programme. We are particularly keen to recruit volunteers from  deaf, disabled and neurodivergent communities, who bring their own personal experiences of access barriers to heritage and digital media to the project.

For all enquiries , please contact Matthew Cock, Chief Executive, VocalEyes.

Follow @VocalEyesAD on Twitter and Facebook and use #HeritageAccess2022.

About The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Using money raised by the National Lottery, we Inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future.

Follow @HeritageFundUK on TwitterFacebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund and #HereForDigital.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s  2020 Digital Attitudes and Skills for Heritage (DASH) survey and report identified an appetite to develop digital skills across the sector and informed the £3.5million Digital Skills for Heritage programme.

IMAGE: View of Castell Coch (the ‘Red Castle’) in the ancient beech woods of Fforest Fawr, looked after by CADW (a Welsh word meaning “keeping/preserving”), the historic environment service of the Welsh Government. Castell Coch will be one of the many heritage sites in the UK covered by the Museum and Heritage Access 2022 project.

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