Oxfordshire Playbus' new single-decker 'Sensory Bus' is the only one of its kind in the country and likely to be the first of many, such has been the interest. It meets a need for disabled children, those with emotional and behavioural difficulties, and adults with Alzheimer's Disease to have access to a static sensory room, of the type pioneered by hospices and special needs schools.
Touring the county and visiting nurseries, schools, nursing homes and people's own houses, the Sensory Bus provides a genuine sense of inclusion for many youngsters and senior citizens, the interactive equipment onboard helping to stimulate all their individual senses. Now in its 25th anniversary year, Oxfordshire Playbus is a registered independent charity and continually seeking funds, grants and other support to help maintain nine different county-wide projects, from a big double-decker playbus to a toy library and book recycling scheme.
So when Manager, Niz Smith, approached Manchester paintmaker HMG Paints for materials to finish its newly converted Sensory Bus, she was 'absolutely chuffed' when the company agreed to support the project with 60 litres of high performance transport coatings. "As you can imagine, when we ring for support, we do get a lot of rejections," says Niz. "But HMG grasped the idea immediately and have supported us with enthusiasm."
HMG Paints has supplied speciality coatings and primers to the UK bus and coach industry for many decades and provides original finishes for Plaxton, now part of Transbus International, whose body is the basis of the new Sensory Bus. For this project, HMG donated a 2-pack primer, a clear-over-base topcoat in pearlescent white, and a 2-pack clear lacquer, together designed to produce a high quality, durable gloss finish. The paint was applied by commercial vehicle bodybuilder and repairer, Mass Engineering of Sheffield, who built the original Oxfordshire Playbus and successfully tendered for the latest refitting and refinishing contract.
"They've done a cracking job," enthuses Niz, "and the Sensory Bus is already attracting plenty of attention, so we may have started a trend."
Designed for easy access with a steplift for wheelchairs, the single decker has been totally stripped out and divided into a dark room and contrasting light room. The lightproof dark area is equipped with UV fibre optics on the floor and ceiling, illuminated bubble tubes with colourful fish mobiles, balls and boxes that glow, and colour wash downlighters. The light room has a sound system, aromatherapy diffuser, giant dice, fog machine and a whole variety of switches and levers, enabling visitors with all types of disability to operate the effects and, according to Niz, 'give them a chance to make decisions'.
The Sensory Bus tours around the county and has once accommodated 24 children for storytelling in the dark room, although more normally hosts 4 or 5 people at a time. Stopping at schools, old people's homes and private houses, it reaches everyone from elderly Alzheimer's sufferers in their 80's and 90's, down to a housebound 18 month old toddler undergoing chemotherapy.
Wherever it goes, the bus brings pleasure, stimulation and a rare chance for disabled people to 'include' their able-bodied peers in an activity of their very own.
Donations and enquiries to:
Thames Business Advice Centre
Telephone 01865 256809
Further enquiries to:
Telephone 0161 205 7631