Posted by Tabi Marsh on

If you live in Thornbury then hopefully you've heard about Thornbury Welcomes. This group seek to enhance the welcome that is offered not only to new residents, but also to people with additional needs who otherwise can struggle with accessibility.
Being welcoming to all is an important part of the ethos of Papilio and has been since we took over the business in 2014. It's one of the reason why we don't overstock Papilio home with shelving, we want anyone in a wheelchair or with a pram to be able to access the whole shop without the need to move furniture out of the way. We are proud to have step free access all of the way from the front of the shop to the decking in our garden.
When we were approached by Thornbury Welcomes about their desire to see Thornbury become a Makaton Friendly Town we jumped at the chance to get involved. My background involves working with lots of children and young people, many of whom have additional needs and struggle to verbally communicate. I have seen the difference Makaton can make.
Makaton is a language programme that uses symbols, signs and speech to aid communication, it is not used in place of speech, but alongside to help provide extra clues about what someone is saying. There is no special grammar to learn and the signs themselves are quite intuitive. 
Makaton is not just for use by children, we have seen it used in the shop by groups from care homes and it can also assist people who have suffered a stroke and are struggling to speak.
Some of our staff have been on a basic training course and I'm also going to be doing some further training. We have started to roll our the use of Makaton symbols on our internal signage, in addition to adding it to one of the books for children to read in Papilio coffee. A Makaton menu is also almost ready.
If you follow us on social media then you will see that we are joining in with The Makaton Charity's sign of the week. This is a great way to learn some signs without it feeling overwhelming.
Since we became an officially recognised Makaton Friendly Business we have heard numerous stories from customers about how they use Makaton in their own lives. It is far more widely used than many realise!
I would really encourage you to join in with us and to learn some Makaton. Even just being able to say "Hello, how are you?" to someone can make a huge difference to them feeling heard and like they have a place in Thornbury. If you are involved in a local business or any type why not encourage them to also become Makaton Friendly.

Photo of a double page spread of a Jellycat kids story book. Underneath the wording a makaton translation can be seen. A cappuccino is seen behind the book.

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