Safari Park Team Train in Makaton

Our staff are being trained to use Makaton this week, to better communicate with all guests.

From Saturday, almost half of our guest-facing staff members, from a range of departments, will have attended a training course to learn basic Makaton signs and phrases.

Makaton is a unique language, practised by over 100,000 children and adults in the UK, who use signs, speech and symbols to communicate.

Through our research, around 20% of our guests identify themselves as having a disability, and to support these guests, we have dedicated a Makaton training programme, which forms a very important part of developing our DEAI (Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, Inclusion) plans.

Head of People, Development & Culture, Niccei Castanheira, said, “It’s incredibly important to us that we make our attraction accessible to all. Following our first ‘quiet morning’ last month for guests with neurodivergent needs, providing personal development opportunities for our staff to receive training to use basic Makaton, is the next step in progressing towards our DEAI pledges.

We have about 400 staff members who we class as guest-facing, so our plan is that all of these staff will be able to communicate with guests in Makaton by the summer. As well as championing inclusivity and making all of our guests feel welcome, I’m also passionate about upskilling our teams, so this training is beneficial to all. I hope that it makes our guests feel more comfortable when visiting us, knowing that our team are able to better communicate with them.”

Around 180 staff members have taken part in the tailor-made training course this week, where they learned basic phrases, such as how to greet guests, tell them their names or ask them how they are.

They also learned how to sign phrases for their specific roles, such as informing guests that the rides are finished, directing guests to the toilets, or which animals guests can see nearby.

Following their training, staff will receive a handbook which they can keep with them, to remind them of useful phrases, the company-wide newsletter will contain Makaton updates and staff are encouraged to share examples of Makaton signs they consider helpful in their roles and for guests. 

As well as Makaton training and the quiet mornings, which we hope to run more of throughout the year and for special events, we will be installing a quiet room in the Adventure Theme Park and a sensory garden along the African Walking Trail route.

We are also working on our communication methods for people who are visually impaired, as well as developing more social stories for school holiday events.