EACH year, the Devon County Show welcomes well over 1,000 visitors with accessibility issues through its gates and this number is increasing year-on-year. 

Recognising the importance of creating an inclusive experience for all, Show Manager, Lisa Moore has announced the introduction of several new initiatives for the 2024 Show.

These have come about as a result of a site audit carried out at the 2023 Show by Chloe Hammond, a wheelchair user, and her assistance dog, Ocho. 

The new initiatives recommended by Chloe, and which are to be implemented, include:

• A “High Dependency Mobile Disabled Toilet Unit” equipped with a hoist.

• A call out to traders with raised stands to bring ramps in order to facilitate accessibility for wheelchair users and those with limited mobility.

• Dedicated “Accessibility” stewards.

• A ban on retractable dog leads.

• On site signing students from the Deaf Academy for the deaf community.

• Chairs placed outside all accessible toilet facilities.

• Signing by a BSL interpreter in the “Accessible Viewing Area” which is located alongside the public grandstand next to the main arena, on at least one day of the show.

• A new award for the best “accessible” trade stand.

• Disability awareness training for all Devon County Show staff, volunteers and stewards.

In line with its commitment to inclusivity, the show has also announced a number of new and inclusive features at this year’s show. 

A Quiet Zone sponsored by toy retailer, Hippychick, will be made available for the exclusive use of neurodivergent children and their parents/carers where they can chill out and decompress if things become too overwhelming.

The zone will offer a calm setting with comfy seating, sensory lighting and toys. 

A sensory garden in the Crafts and Horticulture Marquee is being designed and installed by Devon in Sight, an Exeter based charity providing support to those living with little or no sight.

The planting will focus on specimens with recognisable textures and scent, a water feature will provide the sound of calming, trickling water, a shed will deliver sounds of birds and summer cricket matches and pot pourri in jars will offer a variety of different scents.

Visitors will be able to wear glasses as they navigate the garden that simulate different types of visual impairment - an exercise designed to build empathy and understanding with those with sight loss.

They will also have the opportunity to speak with people who are living with sight loss including Guide Dog user and former Mayor of Torbay, Mandy Darling, Blind Artist Barry Goodfellow MBE and Andrew Hesser, The Blind Gardener. 

A jungle garden in Crafts and Horticulture, will provide Ned Riley, a 20-year-old who is autistic, with the opportunity to share his passion and knowledge for reptiles and bugs with the Devon County Show-going audience.  Full details to follow shortly. 

Lisa Moore commented: “We have always prided ourselves on being an accessible show with several elements already in place to facilitate access for everyone, regardless of their ability.  But as a constantly evolving show, we recognise that there’s always room for improvement.

“It has been incredibly useful having Chloe working with us and giving us such a detailed insight into the Show from her perspective.

“She recognises that we can’t reinvent the wheel in year one, and many of her recommendations have been small steps but ones which, I’m convinced, will make a really big difference to Devon County Show goers living with a disability.

As a thank you to Chloe and her assistance dog Ocho, the Devon County Show is donating a cheque for £1,000 towards Ocho’s upkeep this year.