Aug 17, 2023
Our Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Susi Farnworth, explains some of the many steps we take to make The Big Bang Fair an accessible event.
We are committed to making EngineeringUK’s programmes accessible to all young people. Our Big Bang Fair attracts tens of thousands of young people from around the UK every year. We know this event is an opportunity to inspire all young people into a career in STEM, so we have an ongoing ambition to make this highly inclusive and accessible to all young people. Here, we share some of the ways in which we did this at The Big Bang Fair 2023.
We promoted The Big Bang Fair widely, including highlighting that it would be highly accessible. As a result, 26 special educational needs schools attended, and over 15% of the students who attended The Fair were disabled or had special educational needs. We also ran an unlocked session for families, which was very popular with families bringing disabled children.
We provided a detailed accessibility guide in advance to schools, outlining all accessibility aspects that were on offer. We also provided large print and dyslexia friendly resources available for all visitors.
"The kids were enthralled and got involved with everything"
A teacher at The Big Bang Fair
We provided a visual story for young people in advance of attending. Visual stories are a useful tool to support learning for autistic young people, and our guide outlined what would happen at The Big Bang Fair, step–by-step to help the young people attending to manage their anxiety and know what to expect.
Sunflower lanyards were available for disabled young people and volunteers. Sunflower lanyards are now a fairly widely recognised approach in the UK – they can be worn by anyone with a disability, illness and/or chronic condition who feels they may benefit from it and the aim is to indicate to others that the individual might need a little extra help, patience or understanding. Young people who wore a sunflower lanyard at The Big Bang Fair were able to access the calm zone (alongside others who needed this) and were also supported to fast track queues as needed. This was well-received and many people took up the offer to wear these.
Physically accessible space
We wanted to ensure the space was highly accessible to those using wheelchairs, so we provided all exhibitors with a stand design guide about how to ensure the stand is constructed in a way that is accessible to all. The stages were also made accessible using ramps.
We were aware that The Big Bang Fair is a very engaging, but also stimulating environment, which whilst exciting, can also be overwhelming for some young people. We provided a ‘calm zone’ for young people with additional needs which included cushions, calming lighting and fidget toys.
“Our students absolutely loved The Big Bang Fair! They loved the science show and the stick insect stand! The Fair was big enough to be exciting, but small enough for them to feel comfortable. The detailed information provided in advance, such as the map was particularly important for our students, as we were able to spend a lot of time preparing them for what to expect, which is so important for students like ours. The calm zone provided was invaluable and very high proportion of our students used the calm zone to be able to reset. We also loved the Sunflower lanyards!”
Teacher from Avon Park Special Educational Needs School
All our stages and panel discussions were interpreted by British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters and had AI generated subtitles.
Communication tips for volunteers and exhibitors
We are fortunate that The Big Bang Fair is supported by hundreds of committed volunteers and exhibitors – we provided tips and information to them about how to communicate inclusively and accessibly such a using plain English, avoiding jargon, using gender neutral language, facing young people and keeping face and mouth uncovered for those lipreading.
We provided all gender toilets and our name badges were also designed to have space to include pronouns, and visitors and exhibitors were informed of the opportunity to provide these on their name badges.
Our panelists and speakers at The Big Bang Fair represented a wide diversity of STEM professionals, including many disabled professionals. We hope that this enabled disabled young people and those with special educational needs to identify with these professionals and to be able to see themselves as future scientists and engineers.
Our Big Bang Fair 2023 was designed to be highly inclusive and accessible and we've been delighted with the feedback from teachers and young people so far. We feel confident this has enabled many young people with additional needs to fully participate in activities which will inspire them to pursue a STEM career.
“Seeing our children get involved [was something I liked about the Fair]. I liked the fact they had a quiet area - it’s inclusive for our children especially those with Special Educational Needs”
A teacher at The Big Bang Fair< Back to Blog