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May 4th means a lot to us…

It’s hard to believe but May the Fourth is the Include Choir’s 8th Birthday.

Two years before registered as a charity, people with and without communication needs were already joining together once a week to sing, sign, include and bring the ‘joy and uplift’ that Include has become famous for.

The Include Choir sings and Makaton signs

And as you may know (if you are a person of a certain age or have children obsessed with lightsabers), we share our 4th May birthday with Star Wars Day.

So on behalf of all of us at ‘May the Fourth be with You’.

Groan. As my son would say.

Birthday cake with icing and star wars chocolates on it with the words "May the 4th be with you"

This salutation is an old joke (and a great excuse for a pre-Bank Holiday celebration) but this year, we’ve decided to reflect more deeply on our connection with Star Wars Day and what Star Wars can teach us all about inclusive communication.

More than 1 in 5 people in the UK will experience difficulties with speaking and understanding in their lifetime – and those people will need Inclusive Communication Partners to help them access services, have their needs met, make choices and live a full life.

Being an Inclusive Communication Partner means recognising, respecting and using all forms of communication that people need to understand and express themselves, not just the spoken or written word. It may mean sharing a smile with someone to reassure them you are listening, using Makaton signs for someone who finds it hard to understand speech, even though their hearing is fine. It could mean getting out a pencil and paper to draw what will happen next for someone who is anxious. It could be recognising what that movement and sound means for someone who doesn’t use words or it might mean taking your time so that someone can say what they need to say, even if speech is hard.

At some time in your life, you will have been an Inclusive Communication Partner, and with a little more awareness, we could all make much more of these skills to make the world better for those 1 in 5 with communication needs.

The Include Choir hatstand wearing a Happy Birthday hat next to an 8th Birthday baloon

OK – all well and good. But what does this familiar Include message have to do with Star Wars?

Well, without even straying from the original trilogy, we can find some outstanding examples of inclusive communication.

R2D2. So much going on in that electronic circuitry but no speech to communicate with others without the support of polylingual C3PO. C3P0s words explain R2’s feelings and thoughts to others – but we also still know how R2 feels about things when he does an excited little dance, emits a high-pitched, frightened squeak or droops with a low electronic sigh. We all respect and recognise his non-verbal communication too.

And what about Chewbacca? It’s not easy being a Wookie in a human world. Apart from the amount of time it takes for a blow dry, you are reliant on inclusive communication partner Han Solo to interpret your messages- although we can all tell a great deal about how Chewy is feeling from the pitch and inflection of his utterances (and I suspect we would all recognise and respect the body language of an angry Wookie).

We don’t only need to consider non-verbal communication either (though Ewoks and Jawas provide plenty more examples). Where would the Rebel Alliance have been if young Jedis were not capable of interpreting Yoda’s unique use of grammar to make sense of his wisdom. When we accept communication in all its forms, we can truly connect and grow together as Inclusive Communication Partners.

So to help us celebrate Include’s birthday on 4th May, we are asking you to think about how you could include people with communication needs by recognising, respecting and using all forms of communication – from symbols and pictures, to gestures and signs to body language and facial expression.

After all, it is only at the end of Empire Strikes Back, when we finally see Darth Vader’s face that we truly understand and connect with him.

staff and members do Star Wars look

May the Fourth be with you as an Inclusive Communication Partner, this Star Wars Day.

Our birthday hopes and wishes:

  1. A more inclusive world where all forms of communication are welcomed.
  2. People celebrate 8 years with us on Bank Holiday Monday 27th May at Teas on the Green in Brockham, see the choir, sing Happy Birthday to Include and buy tea and cake!
  3. Make a one-off birthday donation to or set up a regular / monthly donation on 4th of each month to give year-round cheer and help ensure no one is excluded due to communication disabilities or differences.
Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Communications and Partnerships Manager

Stress Awareness Month

Stressful Statistics

April is stress awareness month. Many people take this to mean work-related stress – and that is an issue. 1.8 million working people suffering from a work-related illness, of which 875,000 workers suffer work-related stress, depression or anxiety.

Source: Britain 2022/23

Group of professionals including people working in the Social Care sector

The CQC’s state of care report highlights that Social Care Workers are stretched and stressed by lack of resources and high levels of demand.

Meanwhile, among unpaid carers, who are estimated by the UN to meet 75 – 90% of care needs, carer burn out is also real. More than three quarters of all carers (79%) feel stressed or anxious, half (49%) feel depressed, and half (50%) feel lonely.

Source: The State of Caring Survey 2023

Communication skills and stress can be related. Sometimes when stressed, our ability to process or produce spoken language is impaired. And if it isn’t easy to communicate or if we are not understood, it is stressful. All of Include’s projects and training aim to build communication bridges, so that this stress is reduced for everyone involved.

Stroll and Sign project participants smile and wave at the camera

We welcome carers and support workers to our projects and they tell us that things like our Stroll and Sign wellbeing walks help them to feel less isolated and less stressed as a carer.

Being in nature with a supportive group boosts everyone’s mental wellbeing.

You can watch our video about How our Stroll and Sign project helps people. Why not come and join us?

Honest Insights

We asked a friend who is a full-time carer to share his experiences of stress and ways to help manage it. Here is what he said:

“I have always used the word stressed and stress for as long as I can remember, I’ve always felt anxiety socially, About everything really, being late, thinking that I need to be doing something better with my life or thinking that something bad might happen. In December 2020 something really bad did happen, my son had a brain tumour removed and then suffered from severe complications that meant that he needed me to be with him all day every day to care and help him to rehabilitate.

So, I learnt that what I was worried about before paled into insignificance compared to this new life. The stress of keeping someone alive 24/7, the stress of making sure they get the right calories, the right water intake, that they don’t have a seizure, they don’t hurt themselves, to try and get them out into social situations when they don’t want to get out of the car, the dread of impending scans and discussions with Drs to know if the tumour comes back, and a million more tiny stress points in the day while trying to operate as a normal family with my wife and daughter as well.

How do I deal with stress? Well, it is there and it won’t go away and most of the time I can handle it with the occasional ‘dummy spit’ where I have to take a few minutes to breathe. I ensure that I exercise at least 3 times a week, playing Football with a team helps as that is a great place to talk to others who are sometimes going through tough times themselves, but also to talk about Football and tactics that our crumbling bodies probably can’t execute come match day. I also go for a walk around the block on evenings where I need to get my thoughts straight.

My son is currently at a Neuro rehab centre in Surrey with a packed schedule of therapy and School sessions, so I am flat out getting him ready, getting tosessions on time, feeding him etc etc, after our first week we reviewed everything with the team here, and one of the key goals of this placement is for me to look after myself. Easier said than done, but very important because if I suffer then everyone suffers. It’s hard to let go, but I’m doing it step by step, and my son is responding well to me taking a step back at times. I’m also finding it really useful to chat to others who are in a similar situation, there is no agenda, we are all in tough situations and can just talk straight to each other. So, another way to manage stress is to speak to others, understand where you can step-back and that you may not be that vital all the time – the World will still turn without you.

It’s difficult to manage stress. Try to find time away from your day to day to do something you enjoy, chat to people wherever you are, walk round the block, maybe get some professional help if you feel ready, listen to your close ones if they say they are worried about you, there’s always some way to solve a part of the problems you are facing.”

Other things that can help

Sticky notes on a board with handwritten comments about how people relax when stressed

We asked some of our Include Choir members, support workers and volunteers to share how they manage their stress. Here are some examples of what they said:

“I relax by gardening, playing guitar and reading.”

“I like to talk to someone, listen to music or watch a film to cheer me up”

“Headspace and yoga. Listen to music. Exercise.”


“Turn off notifications on my phone!”

“Listen to music”

“Go for a drive”

“Deep breathing exercises”

“Take a long bath”

Easy Reads

Our Champions Group (people with lived experience of communication needs) has produced two relevant and helpful Easy Read resources – one about mental wellbeing and the other about physical wellbeing.

You can download them for free here:

Healthy Mind download LINK

Healthy Body download LINK

There are audio versions on SoundCloud too:

Healthy Mind

Healthy Body

Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Communications and Partnerships Manager

How helping others helps you…

“Everybody can be great because

everybody can serve.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Why Do People Help Charities?

Why do we help anyone?

What inspires us to help will vary, but there is a common side-effect of helping; you get a boost and feel good yourself!

Two of our Include Champions, Beth and Sarah told us how being a Supported Volunteer (a volunteer with lived experience of communication needs), makes a difference:

Two seated Include Choir members look at each other at an outdoor event

Beth says; “Volunteering makes me feel like I have a purpose. It boosts my wellbeing in many ways because it helps me to help others and that is a good feeling that helps not only my mental health but emotional too.” 

Two seated Include Choir members communicate using Makaton at a rehearsal

Sarah says; “When volunteering in The Include Choir it makes me feel helpful and I’m loving working as a team there. It especially helps me forget everything and volunteering cheers me and builds confidence…

…Also it helps me gain confidence to volunteer with other services too. Just by volunteering I forget what happened and I look forward to coming to choir – I am always the first person to respond to events.”

The Champions have produced a FREE Easy Read on this subject:

How helping others improves wellbeing

Audio version on SoundCloud

How Can People Help?

We’re so grateful to all of the people who help Include. As a small charity the kindness of others is what enables us to keep going. We have a number of other amazing people who volunteer with us.

You do not even need to be based in Surrey to get involved!

Neta volunteers her skills remotely with Include, helping to edit some of our videos. She says; “Helping Include adds meaning and purpose to my life, fostering a sense of connection and fulfilment. By lending a hand and making a positive impact on someone else’s life, I also uplift my own spirits.”

Charlotte comes in person to weekly Include Choir sessions, she says;

Choir volunteer joins in with singing and Makaton signing - hands are raised

“Volunteering at Include is the highlight of my week. I feel connected and part of a lovely special group. Singing in a safe environment whilst helping others find their personal joy is sooooo uplifting and rewarding. It truly does make me very happy.”

There are many volunteering opportunities, so whether you would like to attend an Include project like the choirs in Redhill or Epsom, help on a wellbeing walk, or edit videos etc, please just let us know

Members of the small part time staff team at Include also gain so much from working for the charity. Susi explains; ” When I read the advert for an Assistant Choir Director for Include, it sounded like the dream job for me – to be involved in music and fun and learning and making friends and sharing important messages. I’m so proud to be part of Include and when I attend rehearsals or performances the feeling of joy is palpable. it’s also incredibly inspiring to see the friendships that are made by others.”

Susi stands alongside members of The Include Choir all wearing their choir tshirts and performing outside

How Can Companies help?

In 2023 there were four stand-out organisations that helped us.

BOOSTFit, PowerTutors, WB Simpson & Sons, and Morr & Co.

Below we share some of the ways companies can, and do help.

Gifting Spaces

As a small charity we work from home and from community buildings rented for a few hours to run our projects. But sometimes we need a space to get together for team planning days and training. Local solicitors Morr & Co kindly allowed us to use the Board Room space in their office in Redhill on several occasions. Thank you.

Mike from Morr & Co says;  “We have really enjoyed getting to know the team at Include over the last few years. Supporting the communities in which our team live and work has always been part of our firm’s core values,  and providing a space for the Include team to get together or provide training is a really simple way for us to help out”.

Members of the Morr & Co staff team attended Include’s Makaton training (at a discounted price) because of the partnership.

Funding Specific Resources

PowerTutors kindly offered to fund a printed brochure for Include. Naz says; “At Powertutors, we recognise the invaluable contributions of Include in our local community. Their dedication to ensuring no individual faces exclusion due to communication disabilities is commendable. With innovative and thoughtful approaches, Include fosters an environment of inclusivity, empowering everyone to embrace and express their unique voices with confidence. We are proud to support their mission and witness the positive impact it has on enriching lives.”

Sponsored Fundraising

Close up of the sleeves of two people's cycling tops that have the logo on them

Billy, Max and Kirk from tiling company WB Simpson & Sons’ Head Office in Redhill participated in Ride London on 28 May 2023 to raise money for

They raised nearly £1200 and even wore Include branded tops for the ride. Thank you.

Sharing Our Story

Our CEO and one of our choir members have links with a local fitness company BOOSTFit. The company is inclusive, community minded and keen to support charities. As they say on their Instagram bio they offer “A fun workout to heart-pumping popular music leaving you physically & mentally BOOSTed.” Our values were well aligned and they kindly said that they would help with promoting our Big Give fundraiser which raised over £38,000 in one week!

Cassie from BOOSTFit said; “Using our platform to help support and their Big Give campaign meant we could not only raise awareness and funds, but it opened up conversations between our community too. Our team of instructors spread across the UK and overseas used their own communities to share the story too. It was great to bring together a business and charity and collaborate for such a great cause.”

Follow and share our social media content:

social media details
Facebook is
X (Twitter) is @includetweets
YouTube is @inlcudetube
Instagram is @include_org
LinkedIn is @include-org
website is

Corporate Volunteering and other help

The funding landscape for charities is very, very challenging now and we’re grateful for the continued interest and support of local businesses in Surrey. If you work for a community-minded organisation please do keep us in mind.

Could you help by:

  1. volunteering at some of our projects?
  2. sharing some of our social media content?
  3. sharing your professional expertise to help us improve?
  4. getting your organisation to consider us for payroll giving?
  5. mentoring one of our Supported Volunteers (people with disabilities)
  6. gathering a team of people from your organisation help to raise vital funds for the charity by taking part in a fundraising event for us – like Run Reigate?
  7. offering a storage space at your premises…we’d love to be offered a place in Redhill where we can store and easily access some of The Include Choir’s things.

To offer help or to ask any questions please email

Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Communications and Partnerships Manager

Breaking Down Barriers – there’s an app for that!

When healthcare information is accessible and understandable for all, it can literally save lives.

Alix Lewer, Founder and CEO of Include and The Include Champions helped to develop an accessible version of the CardMedic app…a tool that breaks down barriers to good communication in healthcare.

It’s a partnership that we are really honoured to be part of. We wanted to know a bit more about what the people at CardMedic thought, so we asked!

Rachael Grimaldi – Co-Founder and CEO of CardMedic

What is CardMedic’s mission? 

At the point of care, the inability to communicate is the largest single contributor to health inequalities, and patients with additional communication needs make up nearly 50% of the population.

CardMedic’s mission is to break down communication barriers between healthcare staff and patients by making healthcare information accessible and understandable for all.  

We’re committed to inclusive communication and believe in acknowledging and accommodating everybody, regardless of their communication needs. Our aim is to provide intuitive and cost-effective technology that empowers clinicians and patients to communicate quickly and efficiently across any barrier, enabling more effective delivery of care, reducing health inequalities, and improving patient outcomes.  

Why did CardMedic want to work with Include?  

We were really keen to work with Include because we share their mission to break down barriers and create a more inclusive world. At CardMedic, we recognise that accessible information is vital for ensuring equitable care delivery, so we couldn’t imagine a better partner.

Alix Lewer’s expertise as a Speech and Language Therapist, as well as Founder and CEO of Include, made it a no-brainer. She and her amazing team have been invaluable in helping us improve communication in healthcare and increase our understanding of the challenges people can face.  

Together, we’ve been able to develop innovative solutions and resources that empower us to think differently about how we communicate. Particularly in a healthcare setting, we’ve learnt how to effectively communicate with patients with diverse communication needs and improve health outcomes for underserved populations.

Our shared vision of inclusivity and accessibility made us confident that partnering with Include would help us work towards a more equitable healthcare system for all. 

How did the partnership help your project? 

Alix is incredibly knowledgeable in the accessible information space and about the Mental Capacity Act (2005). She understands that inclusive communication means recognising and respecting all forms of communication–not just the written and spoken word.

Drawing on her knowledge of inclusive practice in health and social care, having worked as a Speech and Language Therapist in the NHS, Alix contributed to the initial development of an accessible version of the CardMedic app. Include’s lived experience Champions Group also continues to work with us to review our content regularly and provide feedback about accessibility.  

Our partnership with Include has helped us refine our content to ensure that it’s as accessible as possible to individuals with diverse needs, including those with learning differences, visual and hearing impairments, and language barriers.

Alix’s expertise has helped us convert our library of scripts covering a vast array of clinical specialties and sub-specialties into Easy Read, at a reading age of 6 or under.  This essentially means it is accessible to many more people than traditional information would be, both children and adults.

What would you say to others thinking of partnering with Include? 

For anyone working in the accessibility, language, and communication space, they would be remiss not to reach out to Include! Include promotes inclusion and wellbeing, empowers people with additional communication needs, and ensures that they have equal access to services, facilities, and opportunities. They do a fantastic job of collaborating with businesses, educational institutions, and other organisations to help raise awareness of accessibility and provide practical solutions for inclusivity.  

Include also offers brilliant training and consultancy services to help organisations improve their practices by making them more accessible. By partnering with Include, you’ll gain valuable insights, guidance, and resources to enable you to create a more inclusive environment.

The team are so friendly, and their expertise will help you address communication barriers and send out a powerful message about your commitment to inclusivity. All in all, we’d highly recommend partnering with Include! 

Get in touch with Include, please email :

More information :

(She won’t tell you herself, but while we are here and talking about healthcare…Alix won a Royal College of Speech & Language Therapists’ Giving Voice Award for voluntary work with The Mental Capacity Act Clinical Excellence Network – Raising Awareness of Supported Decision Making at End of Life.)

Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Communications and Partnerships Manager

Adjusting for Sensory Needs

Free Easy Read

This week is National Inclusion Week which celebrates inclusion and encourages taking action to create inclusive workplaces.

One of the ways that employers can be more inclusive is to think about the sensory experiences of their employees. We found an interesting article on LinkedIn which talks about things like lighting adjustments, sensory break spaces and noise control. 

Of course, sensory considerations are not unique to the office environment. People who experience their senses such as smell, noise, or textures in heightened or muted ways may need reasonable adjustments to be made wherever they are.

Many theatres are now good at taking sensory needs into account. For example, The Lyceum has a scene-by-scene Sensory Synopsis of The Lion King available on its website. In addition, during relaxed performances the theatre turns off noisy hand-dryers in the toilets and provides alternative ways to dry hands.

Being in a healthcare setting can lead to heightened experiences – so it’s important that healthcare staff and those designing healthcare settings take sensory needs into consideration and act on requests for reasonable adjustments.

We had the founder of The Sensory Projects  Joanna Grace as a special guest at one of our Champions sessions. She talked with us about the reasonable adjustments that autistic people may need to help communication in a healthcare setting.

Many thanks to Jo for kindly sharing her own personal insights of how her autism affected her experience of healthcare during pregnancy and birth.

The NHS’s Sensory Friendly Resource Pack (Free here: NHS England » Sensory-friendly resource pack) describes 3 types of sensory experiences that people with autism may experience:

  • hyper-sensitivity:
    • extreme over-reactivity to sensory input
  • hypo-sensitivity:
    • extreme under-reactivity to sensory input
  • sensory-seeking:
    • unusual interest in aspects of the sensory environment.

The Include Champions have produced a new FREE Easy Read document to share about reasonable adjustments for sensory needs. 

Download it free here: 

Listen to it on SoundCloud

Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Communications and Partnerships Manager

Meet Beth

Everyone is welcome

When I talk to people about Include, I always say how much it has made a huge, positive impact in my life and improved my quality of life, given me a purpose and that it is the BEST charity I have ever come across where EVERYONE is included, everyone is welcome.

I want the world to know that there is no place anywhere that makes you feel so included, safe, comfortable, happy and purposeful as Include does.

How it started

I first found out about Include by research. I moved back down to Surrey from Coventry, and wanted to find out if there were any Makaton groups nearby and that’s how I came across Include. I messaged Alix and it all went from there.

I wanted to get involved because I was very lonely and I enjoy Makaton so much, and use it a lot personally.

At first, I was very anxious, only because I always am when facing new places, people and situations BUT this didn’t last long! Soon I was comfortable and felt ‘included’ and part of an amazing community and surrounded by lovely, genuine people.

When I first went to Include, I started off just joining in the choir every Wednesday evening in Redhill.

Growing in confidence

It wasn’t long before I wanted to volunteer, make a difference and help others.

I also started to attend some of the Stroll and Sign walks on Saturdays, going to performances, and helping to design the new ‘Star of the month’ certificate and another certificate.

I am also now part of the Champions Group which I really enjoy and feel we all make a difference by working on and designing Easy Reads for people and giving examples and explaining things like ‘reasonable adjustments’ etc. 

Since being part of Include, I have gained confidence, made friends and have something to really look forward to each week; helping others, having fun, being included and having a purpose.

Signs of Change

Although I already knew most Makaton signs before I came across include, I have gained more skills from The Include Choir and the Champions Group. These include improved speaking and listening skills, trusting people because I feel comfortable with the people I’m surrounded by and learnt a couple more skills on my computer.

The things I do with Include really help me day to day and help my support workers, family and others around me to understand and communicate with me, and others in a better or different ways.

When I struggle, I can become non-verbal, so for support workers and family to know basic Makaton signs is very important and helpful. I am now able to feel confident to teach them the important basic signs that are useful so that they can best support me. 

I think it is important for people in all sorts of jobs to know basic Makaton e.g. hospital staff, doctors, teachers in schools, dentists and other professionals that might come across people who may use a different form of communication like Makaton.

We are all different…

My favourite quote is ‘we are all different, but all equal’ and I feel everyone at Include is treated equally no matter what their needs are and this makes me very proud to be a part of such an amazing group.

The next step in my Include story is to do volunteering more and make more of a difference, help people more, improve more skills and gain more confidence.

I have a goal and that is to do a solo Makaton song at Christmas, I hope I can get enough confidence in time.

Discovering Include is the BEST thing that’s happened and I am very grateful for all that everyone does to make it such a lovely, enjoyable group.

Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Communications and Partnerships Manager

Reasonable Adjustments

At Include, we work hard to ensure that communication needs or disabilities are not a barrier to access or inclusion in our projects.

We proactively make reasonable adjustments – and we keep listening and checking what else we can do to ensure people have equal access.

We admit that we can always improve in this area.

Probably most services, charities and businesses can do more to enable genuine equality of access. We don’t just mean how easy a building is to access if you have a mobility issue. But the whole experience – how people interact and communicate, how we experience an environment or service from a sensory point of view etc.

A graphic representation of a ramp - explaining the things that support Communication access. 1 Raise Awareness of Communication Needs. 2 Increase Understanding of Inclusive Communication 3 Build confidence and self-advocacy in people with Communication needs 4 Train people to be inclusive communication partners.

Focussing on improvements that help individuals and getting it right tends to enhance things for everyone, with or without an additional need.

As well as coproducing a FREE Easy Read on Reasonable Adjustments, our lived experience consultancy team The Include Champions are reviewing some of the things we do within Include and helping to fine-tune them.

By sharing this FREE Easy Read we hope more people with communication needs and disabilities will have better experiences when they go to work, interact with services or are customers in shops and restaurants.


Basic graphic of an envelope on a computer screen to represent email

We recently talked about our emails.

We already use accessible fonts and Easy Read format – with a picture to reinforce each point.

But our members suggested that we use shorter and simpler links, and make the writing bigger.


Image of a young man pointing at the colour red on a board which has two colours on it - red and blue

We’re becoming even more aware of the importance of colour contrast in terms of how easy, or not, it is to read and have started to use a new resource to check this: 

Furthermore, we are going to be working harder to make best use of alternative (Alt) Text to describe the images we use on our website and elsewhere. Thanks to Colin Grist from Few and Far for his recent free talk and tips on website accessibility.

A screen shot of a calendar of things is doing on 15th 18th and 19th of July. Which are Stroll and Sign on 15th at 11am, Epsom Include Choir on 18th at 6pm and Redhill Include Choir on 19th at 7.30pm

Our website provides project information in a calendar format so members can check at any time what projects are running, where and when. One of our Champions, Hannah is encouraging everyone to use it – it means you don’t have to wait for the emails!


A photo of the list of songs that Include Choir members have put together on a board. Includes songs Any Dream Will Do, Three Little Birds, This is M, Sweet Caroline, I have a Dream, Fly a Kite, Don't Worry Be Happy, Shotgun and Wonderful World

Consultation and co-production are central to the way we do things, so naturally Include Choir members help to write lyrics and choose which songs we learn to sing and sign.

Visual and tactile prompts help people with communication needs. So, we make a physical list of song names with visuals using Velcro. Members choose from a whole table full of song options to decide which songs we perform at certain events.

Recently Hannah, one of our members has suggested that our song polls on Facebook also have an image to represent each song option to enhance understanding.

We also have a photo board at the choir sessions – this is for people to add themselves (sign in – without needing a pen) as they arrive and so everyone can see from the photos who is there that day.

Recently we have had feedback to say that we should make the signing in board a bit more organised so that volunteers are shown in a board along with an idea of their role that day.


A montage of three photos showing Objects of Reference. 1 photo shows  Hattie the Hat stand loaded with props like two large foam hands, a round emoji cushion with a smile and hearts as eyes. A photo of a choir member having fun playing a blow-up guitar. Choir Director standing next to the hat stand doing thumbs up and the back of someone in the choir also doing thumbs up - the Makaton sign for good.

Hattie the hat stand is never far from Choir Director Alix’s side! There is a very good reason for that. We have Hattie because it carries all our props or objects of reference. We use physical props because some people find objects helpful to enhance understanding – because communication is more than signs or words.

Champion Beth feels the props are good as we have some visually impaired members – props can enhance their experience too. Member Philip loves the hat stand and Josh reminds us to include Hattie in some of our photos!


A photo of 5 people walking down a path in the countryside chatting and using hand gestures while talking

Many of the adjustments we make are not to do with literal access ramps (often the first thing that comes to mind when people consider disability access). That said, when we run projects like our Stroll and Sign wellbeing walks, or perform as a choir in new locations we always risk assess beforehand.

An important element of that is assessing accessibility and working out what adjustments we may need to make. For example, regarding lighting in a car park, suitability for wheelchair users or access to a stage. And if we need to, we do feedback to venues about any issues to try to improve things.

If you would like some guidance on inclusive communication, or access to a lived experience a focus group to look at this topic for your organisation please get in touch:

Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Communications and Partnerships Manager

‘Let’s go fly a kite’ for Volunteering!

It is Volunteers’ Week 1 – 7 June and we’re delighted to share a blog from our fabulous Volunteer Kim who joined us this year…

Thank you Kim for all you do for Include. You’re kind, hard working, brilliant at thinking on your feet and you make people feel included.

“My name is Kim, I’m turning 40 this year and I’m a single mum to 3 wonderful kids aged 17, 11 and 7.

Many years ago, I saw a sing and sign choir on the TV, and I found it so exciting and inspiring that I decided one day, when the time was right, I was going to be involved in something similar.

Then just a few months ago I came across on Facebook and decided to see if I could be involved somehow. My two main passions are music and inclusivity so Include was perfect for me.

My first impression when I came along to choir was that everyone was so welcoming and friendly and were all so happy to be there. It was incredibly well organised with a professional set up.

There is a role for everyone at Include, from refreshments, tech support, meet and greeting, one to one support, to setting up, handing out props and instruments, tidying up or just generally joining in and having fun. You can learn so many roles and skills.

The thing that has surprised me most about Include is that it is so much more than a choir. They put on social events, quiz nights, Stroll and Sign (wellbeing walks) and much more.

Not only that but they are true advocates for inclusivity and change. Attending NHS conferences and talking in public about making reasonable adjustments for adults with communication difficulties. They really inspire me to help bring that change!

When I tell people about the work I do with Include, it makes me feel excited to share the amazing work they do and I’m proud to be a part of it.

I love talking with the members and sharing experiences – I’m happy to say they have become my friends.

My favourite experience so far was with a member who was incredibly shy and nervous of me when we met on my first day. They didn’t want to talk or sign with me at all. But slowly over a few weeks they got to know me more and one evening came over to me on their own to say hello! My perseverance had paid off and they were now comfortable with me. Since then, we chat at every choir and have fun. I’m so happy to have made that connection.

One massive perk of volunteering with Include is the amount of Makaton you pick up along the way.

Learning signs of the week and joining in with choir, using the pictures of the signs on the projector to join in the songs. I’ve even used the Makaton signs that I’ve learned outside of Include, for example helping a lady order a coffee in McDonalds. The server was struggling to understand her speech and Makaton, but I recognised the sign for coffee and was able to help.

I love the fact that Include offers Makaton training and qualifications to their volunteers free of charge, as a thank you for everything. This means everyone can be a huge part of inclusive communication at Include and beyond.

My favourite song to see the members perform is ‘Let’s go fly a kite!’

The joy you can feel in the room when everyone is on their feet, swaying along, signing and singing at the top of their lungs, kite props flying above their heads, huge smiles on everyone’s faces.  It really is wonderful to experience; they raise the roof!”

To volunteer with Include please email

Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Communications and Partnerships Manager

Vote like a Champion!

Ahead of the local elections on Thursday 4th May, The Include Champions Group has created a FREE Easy Read guide to voting for people with communication difficulties.

Here is the audio to listen to the guide:

The My Vote, My Voice group have accessible information about voting on their website too.

Our Champions have been sharing their experiences:

Hannah’s experience

During Covid times, Hannah, one of our Champions voted by post. But gradually she has decided to go to a Polling Station.

She knows she can ask for help from the people working there but Hannah has become more confident over time about being independent when voting in person.

First, she talks about it with her family and thinks really carefully about who she wants to vote for. She now votes independently.

Planning Ahead

The Include Champions pointed out that if you live in supported accommodation, or a block of flats you might not get someone knocking on your door or putting a flyer through your door about their party. So, it’s not always easy to get information to be able to make a choice about who you want to vote for.

Despite that, our Champions did know about The Conservative Party, SDP (Social Democratic Party), Liberal Democrats, Labour Party, Green Party, Heritage Party and The New Forest Party. There are lots of options and you can talk to your friends and family and get ideas to help you make a choice about who to vote for.

Ellie voted by post – you need to register to do this before the election. Ellie’s Mum helped her do this online.


Voting in person

Some people prefer to vote in person. David said that it is too far to walk to the polling station, so he needs to ask for help / transport to get there.

Remember your Photo ID to vote in person.

If you are voting on your own and don’t know what to do, you can always go into the polling station and say “I am here to vote, please can you tell me which desk to go to.”

The helpers can’t actually tell you which party to vote for – that has to be your choice.

Apparently, all the polling station staff have been trained to look out for sunflower lanyards – so they know that people may want to be offered extra help. So, you can wear one if you have one.

More participation

Changes (set out in The Elections Act 2022) are designed to boost the political participation of people with disabilities in voting and standing as political candidates. The Local Government Association provides support to disabled councillors and those considering standing for election to their local council.

You can read more about it here:

Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Communications and Partnerships Manager

Meet Sarah…

Sarah joined Include in 2017. In the time between then and now Sarah has moved home a few times, navigated Covid and had hospital stays. Throughout all the changes and challenges Sarah has remained loyal to Include.

She is very thoughtful and brings so much to the charity – we are delighted to share what she has to say about Include and her role:

How Include Makes Me Feel

” Being part of Include helps me to be myself.

And it makes me feel proud and relaxes me.

When I come to The Include Choir, I feel listened to. There are people with and without disabilities and we all help each other. Together we raise awareness of communication needs. I am proud when my Support Worker joins in with the singing and Makaton signing.

The volunteers are great too – they set up and make it all run smoothly – they are non-stop like Alix – our Director! Alix is so good.

Singing makes me happy – even if I can’t get to choir one week I will join-in on Zoom.

Getting The Community Involved

The Mayor of Reigate & Banstead knows us – he likes our charity. He helps us get more empowerment and open it up to more people. At the Banstead Christmas lights switch-on he wouldn’t let The Include Choir leave! He just felt we were popular with the crowds.

At concerts and performances people in the audience ask questions and I like explaining about Include and telling them how I feel about it. I also like when the people watching join-in. When we performed in The Belfry shopping centre there was a kid who was blind dancing along with us.

I am Choir Rep for our new Epsom Include Choir. I would say to anyone; “come along – there is cake, it is fun and everyone is helpful.”

Part of the Decision-Making

My favourite song is the MCA (Mental Capacity Act) song. Choir members help to write the songs. I helped to write one about Covid too. Our songs are our own versions – with the words expressing our feelings and what’s best for us from our point of view.

I use Zoom to be part of the Steering Group and the Include Champions Group. It is really, really good to be involved with Include – when I’m part of these meetings I feel more involved. I am part of the decision-making and that makes me feel included.”

Penny Sims
Penny Sims
Communications and Partnerships Manager