St Paul’s Cathedral Training

In the past, the Charity has helped to fund visits for vision-impaired visitors as part of the Open House weekend in the City of London, which happens each autumn. More recently, the Charity was approached by St Paul’s Cathedral, working with VocalEyes, to see if we could help with training for those conducting touch tours in the Cathedral.

St Paul’s had two objectives:

  • to have a qualified Guide on each weekday and each Saturday team who is a trained expert in visual impairment and able to deliver a competent Touch and Feel guided tour.
  • to further train a visual impairment champion on each of our key staff welcome teams (Visits, Admissions, Schools and Family Learning, Virgers and the Audio Guide team.)

These Champions would better understand the requirements of a visually impaired person and be confidently and appropriately pro-active in helping them get the most out of their visit, and would also be aware of the contents and resources of our touch tour.

The donation of £3,000 was invested in a three day course: a two-day programme delivered by two trainers from “Vocaleyes”, a half day pre-course preparation and a half day follow up consultancy. The course was attended by 6 Volunteer Guides and 8 members of staff.

Day one covered awareness and etiquette and introduced the concept of audio description; it included experiential learning and practice in description. Day two was focussed on practice, mostly in the Cathedral, followed by a session to agree next steps.

Feedback from the course was extremely positive with all participants agreeing that the course had fully exceeded their expectations. Guidance on approaching and assisting people with vision impairment was considered particularly valuable.

The members of the group agreed to continue working as a team and to be “champions” for blind and partially sighted people within their own teams – for example, spreading the message that there is an audio described tour on the St Paul’s audio guide. St Paul’s is also hoping to achieve a higher attendance by visitors with disabilities, including vision impairment.