The RAF Museum London is Dementia Friendly
Dementia Friendly Venues Charter
In 2021 The Mayor of London launched the world’s first Dementia Friendly Venues Charter for cultural public spaces in a drive to ensure that every Londoner with dementia and their carers has a dementia-friendly cultural venue on their doorstep. There are around 72,000 people living with dementia in London. All of these people deserve easy and impactful access to culture, something we wholeheartedly believe at the Royal Air Force Museum. That is why we quickly signed up to begin our journey towards becoming accredited as a Dementia Friendly Venue. We worked hard, created new content and re-examined how we operate, so it was with great eagerness and excitement that we were officially accredited as a Dementia Friendly Venue in June 2022. Becoming accredited meant working towards five key principles.
Five Key Principles
- Knowledge – increasing understanding by making sure that the staff/volunteers can support people living with dementia by ensuring that they have the right training, knowledge and guidance. This includes ideas and examples of best practice to support people with dementia.
- Inclusivity – being inclusive by ensuring the environment is welcoming by having staff who are specifically trained and on hand to assist those visitors who may need extra help along with specific dementia-friendly/inclusive programming.
- Accessibility – being accessible by making sure that the physical space meets the needs of those who are affected by dementia by providing some examples of these potential barriers.
- Communication – communicating clearly by making sure that all marketing material/communications are all dementia-friendly. Meaning that wording and format can easily be understood.
- Sustainability – working together by enabling organisations to involve people living with dementia in their planning, programming, engagement, and evaluation.
What Did We Do?
We are lucky that the Museum has already worked hard on improving physical accessibility across our site. We have accessible seating, the majority of our flooring is even and we have wheelchairs and mobility scooters available to help people access our very large site. The Museum also has an access panel who are consulted on new exhibition layouts and features to ensure that they are as accessible as possible.
Although our physical spaces may not have undergone a huge transformation, we worked hard at changing attitudes and the way we work behind the scenes. We knew from the start that without the buy-in of all staff and having our Senior Leadership Team on board there was no way we would be able to implement meaningful change. Because of this, we started by speaking to our Senior Leadership Team about why we felt it was important to become accredited with the Charter and thankfully, but not surprisingly, received nothing but support to move the project forward.
We were really pleased to also recruit a trustee to champion the cause and raise dementia friendly matters at board level. Our next step was to let everyone who works and volunteers at the Museum know what being Dementia Friendly meant and how it would impact them and their work. We’re fortunate to have all-staff webinars regularly and were able to introduce the charter virtually to colleagues.
One of the key contributors to our success in becoming dementia friendly was the ability to provide Dementia Friends Information sessions in-house. By having two members of the Access and Learning Team trained as Dementia Friends Champions (now called Dementia Friends Ambassadors), we can implement a rolling training programme for Museum staff and volunteers. Around four times a year we offer Information sessions – creating Dementia Friends across all of our Museum’s departments. Running these sessions regularly means that we catch new members of staff; ensuring that as many people as possible are Dementia Friends and show their new status by wearing their lovely forget-me-not badge.
One fun project we undertook was to film and edit a pre-visit video which can be viewed on our website. This video explains what can be found in each hangar, practical information about arriving at and navigating the Museum and tips on when the best times might be to visit. It’s designed to familiarise visitors living with dementia with the Museum before they step foot on site. The film with enable them to plan their visit armed with far more knowledge and confidence.
Becoming a Dementia Friendly Venue is a process which doesn’t stop with accreditation. We are looking forward to the next year and the next steps that we can put in place to grow as an organisation and explore more ways that we can make visiting and accessing our collections as easy and enjoyable as possible for people living with Dementia. One of our short term projects is to research and create a new sensory map. This map will enable people living with dementia to better plan their visit. It will ensure that they can comfortably navigate our site, knowing which areas have things like low lighting or loud noises.
A longer-term goal is to include people with lived experience of dementia on our access panel. We want to embed dementia friendly practice across our Museum and we cannot do this without involving people living with dementia and their family and carers at all different stages of the Museum’s planning. As an accredited venue we are part of the London Arts & Culture Dementia-Friendly Network. This comprises a group of organisations and venues all on a dementia friendly journey. We’ve already been able to share our progress with the network and it will be invaluable moving forward as we pick up new ideas and best practice from the group. We’re also working with our local council on a bid for Barnet to become a Dementia Friendly Borough. As part of this we’re sharing our experiences and encouraging other arts and cultural venues to take the plunge and become Dementia Friendly venues.