It’s been a while since I’ve been high up in a forest scrambling through an obstacle course like some budding adventurer. So, when the team at Go Ape got in touch asking if I’d like to see how deaf friendly their activity is, (and bring some friends along too) of course I said yes, ready to relive some nostalgia that the experience may bring.
For those who don’t know, Go Ape! is a high-wire treetop course full of fun obstacles and challenges, swings, zipwires, and more soggy bottoms than an episode of The Great British Bake Off (let’s just say that some of my zip wire landings were far from graceful or heroic).
As well as knowing that it would be a grand day out, I was intrigued to see what changes Go Ape had made to make the activity more accessible to deaf people. I remembered reading an article about some deaf customers being refused entry to Go Ape last year, and so was curious to see what new procedures were now in place.
Even before I set foot on the site, I was sent some videos of the training that’s given to customers, with a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter in the corner of the screen. Granted, whilst I only know a little bit of BSL and am certainly not fluent, one imagines that the videos are quite a useful resource for profoundly deaf visitors. I definitely felt a reassuring sense of déja vu when I was shown the ropes – quite literally, in fact – in person when I went to the Woburn site on Monday.
So, after going through a brief training course – with instructions given by a nice chap named Adam – myself and my friend Josh were ready to do the real thing. At this point, I should mention just how great a job the instructors do at making sure the rules are clear and that everyone is confident with what they are doing. Again, after watching the videos I mentioned and going through it in person, it’s likely that fellow deaf people will feel pretty confident about things when they take on the course for themselves.
This brings me on to a discussion I was having with another member of staff whilst we were putting our stuff in a locker. I had seen that there is a whistle available on the belts we have to wear, but I saw that if you needed help and assistance, you could also shout down to people on patrol below you. However, for deaf people who are unable to speak, I was interested in finding out what exactly happens when they find themselves in a pickle.
It turns out there were a few cases where people had come to the course in advance to get a sense of things, or had an instructor follow them around the obstacles. Whilst it may be worth Go Ape having a think about a go-to policy for this, as mentioned above, all the extensive training beforehand does a good job of making people comfortable and confident – thus reducing the chances of any mishaps.
Also, a quick thank you must go to Kieran, another staff member at the Woburn site that let us skip ahead one course so we didn’t have to wait behind some slower customers. We blazed through the course like the true adventurers we are, and it certainly didn’t feel like an hour and a half since we were putting on our harnesses. Time flies!
Speaking of the course, I’ll keep my description vague (so that there’s still that sense of surprise should you wish to go yourself, and because it’s far better to describe these things in video form instead), but the pictures with clear instructions certainly help participants get to grips with each activity/obstacle, which is fantastic. Highlights included the zipwires, pulling several muscles whilst trying to conquer the stirrups, and The Tarzan Swing – where for a brief second, you can experience a sense of freefall which is incredible.
Myself and a plus one were invited to visit Go Ape in exchange for me writing a review of the experience. I did not receive payment and the opinions in this piece are honest and my own.