Story so far
Biddenden Bowls Club is totally committed to providing facilities and support to bowlers of all ages and abilities and to ensuring that the club is accessible and inclusive to all including those with any form of impairment or disability. It became clear changes were needed to achieve this and to continue to expand our membership from all sections of the community and to ensure that bowlers could continue playing for as long as possible. The social aspect of the club is seen as an integral part of this.
Taking the updated "Disability Bowls Advisory Guide" 2019 (issued jointly by the Bowls Development Alliance, Disability Bowls England, English Indoor Bowling Association and Coach Bowls) as our framework a small sub committee is working towards improving both accessibility and inclusion to meet the needs of our bowlers and members, both present and future.
In turn as a club we will be able to recruit new members from a wider pool of people, provide more opportunities for disabled bowlers or bowlers with an impairment to take part in matches, rollups and activities and sustain our membership by empowering our members to play the game into their late 80s and 90s.
So what has happened so far?
Blue Badge Parking Spaces (2021)
Although we do not have any parked blue badge spaces the Parish Council has agreed (2021) that if we are holding an activity when people with a blue badge are expected we can put up temporary barriers and signs to reserve 2 places close to the main entrance. Suitable bollards, chains and signs have been purchased and the facility has already been put to good use. Visitors are asked to let us know if a reserved space is needed so that arrangements can be made.
Ramp Access to the Green
A substantial ramp access to the green is now available for wheel chair users and for sloped access to the green if needed. This was built to the specifications recommended in the Disability Bowls Advisory Guide again by Member Ashley. The ramp is also available for the work crew to get equipment out and onto the green as needed.
Step Access to the green (summer 2020)
Investigations indicated that a set of corner access steps would be £500+ and direct access steps £800+. Member Ashley, whilst on work crew duties pre lock down, began to look at options and took measurements of what our green would need. He reviewed the specifications of steps on line. From his workshop at home, during his "self isolation", Ashley has produced two sets of very impressive made to measure steps with handles. The steps were collected (strictly observing social distancing) and taken to the green where they are now ready for use as needed by bowlers as soon as we are allowed back onto the green. Huge thank you and congratulations to Ashley for making these steps to improve accessibility whilst saving the club well over £1000.
Questionnaire sent out to members April 2020 to collect information to help identify the gaps between what we currently offer and the needs of our members. It has been emphasised that completion of personal information on the questionnaire is entirely voluntary. This is now included in our annual membership forms. (2021 season)
Path from the car park to the green and playing fields. (New path fitted by Biddenden Parish Council - late summer 2020)
A safe, smooth path now leads from the car park to the bowls green gate and the playing fields. The old path was clearly unsuitable with a brambly hedge overgrowing it, breaks in the concrete, uneven surface and puddling and mud. Back in February 2020, before the birds were nesting, the work crew cut back the hedging comprising mainly ivy and brambles. (see the before and after below)
Coach Bowls Courses
During COVID lockdowns and over the Winter (2020/2021) members have been attending online courses offered by CoachBowls including Supporting Inclusion, Safeguarding and Dementia awareness. These will help us to ensure we have a safe, happy and inclusive club.
Back in 2019/2020 the relaunched course "Supporting Inclusion" was not being offered anywhere in Kent. Agreement was reached with CoachBowls for Biddenden BC to host both the "Supporting Inclusion" and "Safeguarding Vulnerable Adults" at the club on Monday 18th May 2020. Sadly the courses cancelled due to the COVID lockdown and restrictions. We remain ready to host them in the future!!
The club's major project in 2018-2019 was the construction of a new toilet block which now means there is an accessible toilet with ramp access and proper fittings for use by bowlers and visitors with a disability or impairment. Officially opened April 2020.
Club Facility and Accessibility Questionnaire - self assessment tool - February 2020
Completed and an action plan drawn up including - review disabled parking spaces, review ramp access to club house balcony, review access to the green by steps/ramp, prepare accessibility guide, review adaptive equipment available, arrange attendance on "Supporting Inclusion Coach Bowls Workshop, review access from Car park to main gate.
Widen path linking entrance to club house. (2019)
The walk from the entry gate to the club house could be problematic due to its width and the need to avoid bowls equipment e.g. scoreboards, mats, bags and it was along walk on a hot day for some visitor without a rest. With slabs donated to the club, the path was widened, a low retaining wall built and 2 areas for benches put in place. (All done without cost to the club through material donations, a gifted bench and the hard labour of volunteers). Over Autumn 2020 the bank behind the wall has been planted up and should look great for the new season.