A young man from the Harrogate area who has just 20 percent vision, has written a guide that opens up the history of Ripon Cathedral to a whole new audience.
Tom Oates (pictured left) began volunteering at Ripon Cathedral last July as a guide, greeting visitors and sharing some of the history of the 1345 year old place of worship. However he soon realised that something was missing for visitors like him.
Now, a year on, Tom has developed his own guide to Ripon Cathedral specifically for people with visual impairments.
“We want there to be a good guide book for people who come to the cathedral whose vision is impaired - to help enhance the visitor experience” said Tom. “I think people with visual impairments have been missing out. We are including a sensory guide as well looking at the stonework and carvings. I hope that it will be something that, in a small way, will change people's lives.”
Fellow volunteer Felicity Hydes said: “He’s an excellent welcomer. He’s very good with people – very warm. He trained as a guide so he knows a great deal about the cathedral and is able to share that knowledge with people that come."
Cathedral Guide Andrew Burns added: “Tom is very focussed. I think he’s helped us focus on areas within the cathedral where people that have a disability may need extra help. It’s given us a different perspective.”
Tom’s work is part of a larger effort to redevelop Ripon Cathedral’s visitor experience, including new trails for families, children and pilgrims. The first of these, ‘Treasures Untold’ was launched on June 1st. It will give visitors and pilgrims the opportunity to discover not only the heritage of the Cathedral in stone, metal and wood but also the spiritual driving force which has caused the Cathedral to exist for more than 13 centuries.