Bellyflop helps charity showcase technology for disabled people

The beautiful grounds of Arley Hall in Cheshire were transported to residents at Hill House after coronavirus restrictions meant their annual visit could not take place.

The team at Bellyflop were approached to help with the task of enabling residents at the Leonard Cheshire care home, to enjoy what would usually be one of the highlights of the year.

Working closely together with Leonard Cheshire charity utilising their new Clevertouch interactive display units and some virtual reality headsets, residents were able to take in the sights of Arley Hall’s vast grounds and stunning gardens.

At a private tea party the 24 residents were treated to the debut of a personal video tour of the gardens led by Lord and Lady Ashbrook, who own Arley Hall. 

Joining them was BBC TV gardener and Leonard Cheshire ambassador, Mark Lane, who spoke to the Ashbrooks in detail about the gardens and the work they do to make their grounds accessible for disabled people.

Lord Ashbrook commented: "I know that disabled people can benefit greatly from horticulture, so it is a particular pleasure this year, when an actual visit has not been possible, to have been able to take part in this film. I hope it will be greatly enjoyed by the residents and others who see it.”

Following the debut video, residents were also able to take in 360’ panoramic views of the gardens using virtual reality headsets, followed by a special question and answer session with Lord and Lady Ashbrook and Mark Lane, who joined the tea party via Zoom. 

Mark, who has just released his latest book, ‘Royal Gardens of the World’, is a passionate advocate for inclusive gardening and designs. Speaking about the day, he said:

“Lockdown has meant that many of us have not been able to visit gardens or spend time outside together and enjoy being surrounded by nature and flowers. We were so pleased to be able to put together this very special film to bring the beautiful gardens of Arley Hall to the residents at Hill House.” 

Resident Keith, who has met Lord Ashbrook on a number of occasions said: “He really enjoyed the day.” Whilst for Janice, the tour brought back memories of when her sister used to live in the Red Lodge on the estate and horse riding when she was younger. 

Speaking about the project with Mark Robinson of Bellyflop he said: “It has been an absolute pleasure to work with Leonard Cheshire on this project. Although Covid19 brought additional challenges in trying to create an engaging and interesting film, whilst maintaining social distance and protecting vulnerable adults, it has been a joy to know that this short film has had such a positive impact in the short term. It is also nice to know that it will continue to bring pleasure for many more years for those who may not be able to visit Arley Hall.

Hill House is home to 24 residents with a range of disabilities and communication needs. The care home is currently the focus of an exciting assistive technology project. The programme will see residents and staff engaging with new technologies and devices to help increase independence and widen the range of social interaction opportunities for residents. 

“Throughout the pandemic we’ve been busy introducing new devices and activities to tackle loneliness, keep our residents connected and offer access to brand new experiences, all within the four walls of Hill House,” explained David Hursthouse, Assistive Technology Project Manager.

“We were so thrilled to be able to able to bring this virtual tour to our residents, who have always loved their visits to Arley Hall. Assistive technology really offers a wide range of opportunities for disabled people and has been instrumental in improving the social wellbeing of our residents during a very testing time.” 

Following the event, resident Chris used his Augmentative and Alternative Communication device to describe the day as “great!”