University of East London student creates multi-media trail in Dover for people with learning disabilities
MA Heritage Studies student uses software pioneered by UEL’s RIX Research and Media
By Kiera Hay
A University of East London postgraduate student has opened up the history of the Dover coast to people with learning disabilities through a web-based heritage trail which can be accessed by mobile phone or tablet.
Participants of MA Heritage Studies student Sarah Mees’s ‘Channel Heritage Trail’ can receive audio and visual information as they visit landmarks such as the statue of Channel swimmer Matthew Webb, memorials to the merchant navy and the Second World War’s 'Channel Dash' and other highlights along the Dover seafront.
Sarah built the trail using pioneering software created by UEL’s RIX Research and Media. The software, which is aimed at people with learning disabilities, helps users create websites which incorporate photos, videos, sound clips and text.
“The trail takes in a selection of moments of history along the Dover sea front," Sarah said.
“I created an interactive Google map showing stopping points on the trail, coupled with photographs and information on each stop. Historical elements are supported by music and oral excerpts.
“You can read it all before you go or stop and read at each point. It's a tool for reference and encouragement."
The trail’s Matthew Webb stop, for instance, includes a song written about him, a link to a local pub where swimmers record their times on a wall and an invitation to look across the water to France.
Sarah’s trail also includes a sensory section on the sights and sounds of the beach itself, such as seagull noises.
Sarah built the trail after consultations with RIX Research and Media and the Tower Project in east London, which helps people with learning disabilities.
“It’s a pioneering multi-media trail that uses sound and senses rather than text in a web-based experience,” said UEL Senior Lecturer Toby Butler, who advised Sarah on the project.
A major trail highlight is a stop at the statue of Jamie Clark, who carried the Olympic torch in Dover in 2012.
Jamie, who has Down’s Syndrome, joined a group of young people with learning disabilities and others who participated in the trail in November.
The group, led by Sarah and Dr Butler, included visitors from the Tower Project, RIX Research and Media, the Open University and the University of Leeds.
Jamie spoke to the group and offered the young people a chance to hold a replica of the Olympic torch.
The Channel Heritage Trail can be accessed by contacting Sarah Mees at firstname.lastname@example.org.