Santa learns Makaton

Phil M
3rd October 2017


Emery Gate’s resident Santa, Nigel Ingles, went back to school learn Makaton.

The Bristol-based course, run by Better Communication Bristol, taught Santas from throughout the region both a greater understanding of the communication challenges some children face in public situations, a bank of basic signs and symbols, and a set of Christmas-themed signs to make the grotto experience as enjoy as possible for all children.

Phil Maclean, Retail Marketing Manager at Emery Gate, said "Every child needs to tell Santa what they’d like in their stockings, learning some basic signs can transform a grotto experience for a child with communication difficulties and we hope this will go a small way to do that. We are so grateful to Nigel for making such an effort after all these years away from the classroom!”

The annual Emery Gate Christmas Grotto is set to start on 25th November with all profits donated to local causes. Last year Emery Gate used its profits to exclusively hire Europe’s largest trampoline park, Airhop in Bristol, for students from Poplar College, Chippenham to enjoy.

Retail & leisure property management company Eagle One Ltd is urging retail businesses to do more to think about how they can engage with disabled customers needs and their families. The group, whose portfolio comprises 190,000 sq. ft. of space in shopping centres and retail warehousing in Devon, Worcestershire, Bristol and Wiltshire, says that since it launched its disability marketing campaign, which has seen a number of outreach and CSR initiatives involving and aimed at those with disabilities, it has recorded a positive impact on footfall to its schemes.

Examples of projects in 2016 included a diverse modelling competition ‘Faces of Emery Gate’, which chose a disabled lead amateur model, ‘Styleability workshops’ which help young adults with disabilities find their own sense of style and develop body confidence, as well as how to alter clothes to suit individual needs. ‘Accessible Santas’, which trained its Christmas Grotto staff in Makaton, and inviting pupils from a local special needs school to turn on the Christmas lights.

Its Worcestershire Centre has also pioneered an Autism Awareness Initiative which has seen all staff complete a National Autistic Society accredited course to learn how they can play a part in improving the shopping experience for Autistic customers.

Discussing the initiatives, Phil Maclean, Retail Marketing Manager at Eagle One, said: “Our industry doesn’t have a great reputation amongst those with disabilities and their families. All too often, outlets will just ensure they don’t fall foul of the Disability Discrimination Act – and let’s face it, many don’t even do that – rather than think about how they can actively engage with the disabled community.

“Bricks and mortar retailers have a clear advantage over online stores by showing that they’re socially responsible, at the heart of their communities and able to provide a pleasurable experience in addition to just shifting stock.

“Disabled people and their families or carers are a group typically marginalised by our industry. Cramped layouts in shops for example, can make it difficult to use or push a wheelchair and sensory overload can make shopping extremely tough for those with autism.

“And yet this certainly isn’t an insignificant market. So it’s time we as an industry started addressing these issues. It’s working for us and there’s no reason it can’t work for others too. It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s good for business too.”

Do you know someone who would benefit from having a signing Santa?

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