OpenNESS – Inclusive Communities


Soirbheas are delighted to support and coordinate the OpenNESS – Inclusive Communities project with local partners including

  • The Patient Participation Group
  • The Glenurquhart Centre
  • The Chamber of Commerce

Nationally, in addition to the new Dementia Friendly Communities and awareness developments, there are a small number of other organisations and charities working on specific conditions and disabilities. But we are taking a more holistic approach to be more inclusive for all.

The Aim

With around one million people in Scotland defining themselves as disabled we are aiming to reduce inequality; prejudice and improve how welcome people feel in our communities. When we get it right for one person, we get it right for all!

We aim to encourage all those who live and work in Glen Urquhart to increase their level of understanding, knowledge and confidence to recognise and support individuals – family, neighbours, visitors and customers – living with long-term conditions.  We are piloting respite holidays; delivering training and awareness sessions and the long-term aim is to ensure that our streetscape and buildings consider the needs of all.

Learning and Development

We don’t know what we don’t know, so to increase our knowledge, become more confident, helpful and supportive we are developing a series of interventions.  These will be available in a variety of formats to suit individual learning preferences; at suitable times and convenient venues.

Bite Size Awareness Sessions – due to the coronavirus the sessions from MArch – April have been cancelled, and will be rescheduled later in the year. The sessions are free and will be delivered by specialist presenters and will be held in the Glenurquhart Library.
Everyone is welcome and if you have an accessibility need please contact Nicky – details below.

Hearing Loss was discussed at the January session. Amanda Wilson showed us some useful aids and provided us with an information booklet about hearing loss.

Useful Contacts:

See Hear Highland Education & Learning Services,
T: 07765 898689   Email:   Web:

NHS Highland Deaf Services & Hearing Support Team,
T: 01349 868711   Text: 08457 023398
Fax: 01349 864438   Mobile: 07887 833889


At the end of February our session was Autism Awareness, lead by Gill MacLennan of the Highland One Stop Shop.  We found out that relationships can take a long time to build up, with patience and trust being key factors to supporting a person with autism.  Everyone is different but generally:
>  indoor lighting should use as much natural light as possible and reduce fluorescent lights
> do not over or under heat a room
> textures can have a negative effect such as sand, grass, carpets or seat covering on a bus
> loud noises may have a more negative impact on females, as they can be more hyper sensitive to noise than males
> anxiety can cause us to respond with ‘flight or flight’ but don’t forget some people may freeze
> identify someone’s strengths and interests and ensure they are involved
> don’t just assume someone is behaving badly, it may be a condition that we cannot see.

We can help by making sure we understand what someone needs are and reducing misunderstanding by:
> speaking in a calm, quiet voice
> repeat what you say as often as is needed without losing patience
> offering a quiet place to talk
> ask what the person wants to do – find solutions together
> allow headphones to be worn
> turn off TV’s and radio’s
> offer quiet times for shopping.

Face-to-face sessions have been disrupted by coronavirus restrictions  and we are currently exploring how to deliver topics in other formats. Topics of interest have included sight loss, Dementia friendly, wellbeing through nature,  and wellbeing with food and health.  Please let Nicky know of any topics you would like us to organise.

Accessibility on-line training and audit – developed by Visit Scotland, this on-line resource is useful for all our  businesses regardless of sector. They have also produced a Dementia Friendly Tourism guide which has useful information for everyone.

Dementia Friend on-line sessions – bite-size , easy to understand and informative awareness sessions for individuals developed by Dementia Friends Scotland
The Key Message through these awareness sessions is to  Be Calm   Be Kind   Be Patient

A booklet has been produced by a small group of Dementia Alumni on Dementia and Self Management Peer to Peer Resource.

Learning  toolkit – this has been prepared to save you time on finding training and development opportunities, and has links to some support services. It isn’t an exhaustive list and if you know of other good opportunities or contacts please let us know and we shall update accordingly.  There will be restrictions on face-to-face contact during the coronavirus pandemic, but most organisations are still providing options in other formats. Open the Toolkit here.

Generations Working Together have compiled a Directory of inter generational ideas and resources for use during Covid-19 crisis.
Even though we have been distancing physically, there are still many ways that younger and older people can connect.  These will be useful for everyone and you can open the directory here

Respite Holidays

Our pilot offer in partnership with Cobbs Group; Glenurquart Care Project; and  Connecting Carers has now ended. We are extremely grateful to the Clansman Hotel for their support with this project.  We shall evaluate the feedback and let you know the outcome and next steps. But as you can see from the comments below it has been an excellent way to support carers and their loved ones:

“Just what I was needing, for two days I didn’t have to think about my loved one as she was safe in a home to give me a break, for once in a long time I didn’t have to think about the other person and could truly relax . The biggest positive I had was a long lie !! “

“It was great not having to think about cooking meals or doing chores, and being among other people enjoying the craic and banter. We could totally relax, plan our day, and doing something different was great. “ 

Streetscape and Buildings

Our longer-term aim is for improvements to be made to pavements; buildings; walking routes and access to transport.  These options all dovetail with other initiatives, and through the continued work with our Community Councils.

Next Steps

Nicky is coordinating the project and would welcome your involvement: from offering your time on the working group; undertaking training/awareness; sharing information with friends, family and colleagues about events; and making suggestions on what you would like to see happen: contact email: or telephone 07842 781986.

Useful Resources
Directory of Inter-generational Ideas and Resources  from Generations Working Together Edition – 2

Electrical Safety for Carers – Electrical Safety First website