A part of the Anderton Centre’s mission statement is ‘to provide meaningful outdoor learning to everyone’. We take the everyone part very seriously and the Lancashire Tourism Awards body clearly agrees. We are finalists for the accessibility and inclusivity category and our team is immensely proud.
In Lancashire, we are very lucky to have Rivington, which effectively sells itself. It is the best place to learn outside of a classroom and thanks to United Utilities, the Anderton Centre has the privilege of using the natural splendour of Rivington and the reservoir to fulfil our mission statement.
One of many ways we accommodate for wheelchair users is our Wheelyboat. The Wheelyboat is a blessing not even in disguise. It is an out and proud blessing, allowing anyone to get out on the water, regardless of their accessibility needs. You may recall national news coverage of local legend Peter Kay cutting a ribbon to the launch of a new Wheelyboat. That was us! What an absolute legend. We even had some garlic bread and cheesecake to celebrate the occasion. Note: common PK joke
Lower Rivington Reservoir is an experience, and we want everyone to see it for themselves. Encouraging people to get stuck in is what Lancashire Outdoors Activities Initiative is all about. We enjoy the outdoors so much that we want other people to experience it for themselves. It’s a bit like having a cake that’s so delicious that you want everyone to have a slice. Our activities are a lot like that, but much healthier and a lot less icing. We have made all footpaths wheelchair friendly, so if you want to wander around the Centre on your own, or with friends, then that is a possibility for everyone.
At the Anderton Centre, we are proud of our incredibly neurodiverse team. A lot of our instructors and staff are dyslexic or have ADHD, and we also have staff who are autistic too. Neurodivergent people are especially helpful to have in a workplace as dynamic as our Centre. We always have different groups visiting with all manner of needs. We always accommodate to them and prepare a set of activities that will be best suited to them. There are some very shocking statistics that suggest that only 1 in 5 autistic people are employed. Since the pandemic, employment of disabled people has dropped from 80 percent to 50 percent. This is such a shame. Neurodivergent and disabled employees are as dedicated to their jobs as their able-bodied counterparts. The Anderton Centre is a disability-confident employer and appreciates how their experiences can help us create even better experiences for people who may experience similar difficulties to themselves.
Despite being nominated for an accessibility award, we will never become complacent. We are continually finding new ways to make our Centre even more inclusive and accessible. In October 2022 we were granted planning permission for an extension to the Anderton Centre. The extension will primarily include accessible changing and shower facilities, which will improve the experience for all our participants.
Disability comes in many shapes and forms, so we work with the Prince’s Trust which represents children with complex needs and behavioural difficulties, and Thomas Memorial School, a school for deaf children.
We are looking forward to making our Centre even better than it already is. One of our instructors is working on adapting Mountain Leader courses to be inclusive of people with mobility issues. Another instructor is working with an autism specialist to make the Centre more autism-friendly and organising staff training so we can better understand the needs of autistic children.
The Anderton Centre is in many ways like an organism; it is constantly growing and adapting to the world around it. It is living and breathing, but well and truly it is our customers who are our life force and the proverbial air that fills our lungs.