Community Spark: Making Spark:York accessible to all

Joe has had a million and one things to do recently to make Spark:York happen, so Bec Horner from Spark:York’s Communities & Partnerships team has been out and about meeting the small inspirational organisations in the city that make such a difference to local people.

Here’s Bec talking about her first few weeks on the Spark:York team…



Bec Horner, Spark:York

Well the first thing I wanted to talk about is a good customer experience.  All of us at Spark:York know that everyone coming to us will be expecting some top notch customer service from all our traders and we wanted you to know for us, that is a given!  And of course the site is going to be fully accessible to those with physical additional needs (accessible toilets and a lift, etc.) with all the standard Disability Discrimination Act requirements covered and more.

What you probably don’t know is that all our tenants will receive training on how to interact with, and offer meaningful support to, the wide range of people using the site; being able to assist a visually impaired person, for example, or offering a reassuring chat with an elderly customer.

Ensuring we are welcoming and accessible for all is key for everyone at Spark:York, and I have been out and about finding out more about the individual needs of some York groups.


York Blind and Partially Sighted Society

My first meeting of the week was with Diane, the Chief Executive of York Blind and Partially Sighted Society; a local organisation who help people with sight problems to be independent. Diane and I had a great chat about how we could make Spark:York much easier and more accessible for people who are blind and partially sighted.

We talked in depth about clear signage, large font readable menus, contrasting colours and a logical layout for the space. Also, eliminating hazards, like A boards, which she pointed out is equally good for mums and dads with buggys and disabled customers.

Something as simple as introducing yourself: ‘Hi, I am Brian, how can I help you?’ to a visually impaired customer makes a huge difference. Diane explained how this enables people to easily picture you and makes them feel much more comfortable to ask for what they need. It was great to talk to Diane, we really look forward to incorporating her advice on site and making Spark:York truly accessible for all.

If you need any information or equipment for visual impairment, their friendly staff are based on Rougier Street in town, just pop in, or check them out online


OCAY – Older Citizens Advocacy York

It was great to meet Ruth from Older Citizens Advocacy York (OCAY), an important independent organisation in York helping people to have a voice on issues that concern them.

You know that feeling you have when you think no one is listening to you, or you have an important decision to make on something like housing, health or social care services but don’t know where to turn? Well the advocates at OCAY help with that kind of worry, working with the over 50s, supporting them to speak up for themselves when there is something they want to say.

Before we met, I researched OCAY and I came across this great little video on their website showing a day in the life of an advocate in Scotland. I thought I would share it with you, it gave such a great insight into the various situations advocacy can help in:

OCAY were very excited about Spark:York and really happy to read that we would be offering training and signposting to people looking for employment. And they are looking forward to using our Community Hub for social activities and community outreach amongst their users.

One of Spark:York’s priority groups is older residents, so we will continue discussions with OCAY and other local groups to ensure we remain relevant and accessible.

Find out more about OCAY at


York Dementia Action Alliance

It was really interesting to meet Helen, the Dementia Action Coordinator for York CVS who is determined to make York a dementia friendly city. Much like YBPSS’ input she re-iterated how important clear signage was and attentive, personalised service to make someone with dementia feel comfortable at Spark:York.

I am pleased that there are specific people in the area who can offer training on helping people with Dementia and Alzheimer’s and Spark:York will definitely be taking advantage of this and becoming a member. Find out more at


York Travellers Trust

Another inspiring meeting was with Kate Cassidy, Outreach Advisor at Citizens Advice Bureau. She works closely with the York Travellers Trust and we discussed ways of alleviating the social exclusion of Travellers and Spark:York being a place where we promote inclusion and community cohesion.

She does such great work supporting people and it was fascinating to hear about some of the issues around hidden poverty in York, and the impact of Government cuts and policy changes on the ground.

From this meeting, we were shocked to learn more about the increasing use of York’s three (yes, three!!) food banks, and also the fact they are inaccessible to some (due to mobility or public transport barriers), and we’ll be seeking ways to address some of these barriers through Spark:York. tells you more about the organisation.


Tang Hall Big Local

Finally (it has been a busy couple of weeks!) it was great hooking up with Mora and Anna from Tang Hall Big Local. What an amazing project, supporting the residents of one of the biggest wards in the City.

We recognised much synergy between their ward and our immediate surroundings and we all felt it would be great to work together on empowering local communities and bringing affordable activities, training and enterprise opportunities to all. Find out all about the scheme right here:


Get in touch

Well it was great to meet such amazing organisations in York and hear about the good they do in the community. I hope you have enjoyed reading about it and that maybe you will check out their sites and support them in the future.

As ever, if you’re a not-for-profit organisation in York, a social enterprise, or you know of any amazing small organisations, please drop us a line. We want Spark:York to be for everyone, and we want to use our profile in the city to support other organisations.

Likewise, if you work for a business in the city, who is currently doing (or would like to do) good things – get in touch. We would love to help!


Bec Horner
Community Outreach, Spark:York CIC
07854 519 056

Spark:York’s Communities and Partnership work is kindly supported by Rank Foundation