I wrote this for CultureThemes.com
A huge thank you to everyone who took part in our August theme #CultureAccess. The theme was related (loosely) to the London 2012 Paralympics and our acknowledgement of the tremendous progress that has been made over the years (admittedly still a way to go).
One thing we didn’t want was for this to be a topic to point fingers and/or embarrass cultural venues that aren’t provided access to everyone and I’m pleased to say we didn’t have to worry! Museums and art galleries are doing their best to recognize issues and make adaptable changes where (and when) they can (finances being a huge hurdle still).
Accessibility changes are being made and responses seem to be good. Yes there are still issues but people ARE listening when spoken to. This means ownest is also on the visitors to be more open, especially when it comes to specific needs (larger motorized wheelchairs, needing 2 carers when activity is limited due to size, etc).
The key is communication – on all sides.
What to Look for:
- Be upfront and honest and most importantly transparent. Put your accessibility information on your website and share via social media. Ok, so we all know old historical buildings are a nightmare to convert to be wheel chair accessible but as long as that is labelled clearly, it would make visitors happier. It’s also important to know your limits.
- Do more than tick boxes. Show your venue actually care about the changes they are making.
- Not sure where to start? ASK. (and more importantly) LISTEN. Feedback from individuals to full blown focus groups should be listened to and acted upon, even if it’s just a matter of researching that it’s not possible but knowing why it’s not an option.
- Train the staff. Yes, yes, the dreaded Human Resource training. However, invite disabled people to the training to let them share their issues. The employees can’t make changes but it can hopefully make them more compassionate to accessibility issues.
Key items mentioned:
- Ensuring your website is accessible – large print options, subtitles, alt tags etc.
- Allowing Blue Badge Holders option to call and reserve space.
- Working with local disabled kids to get honest feedback.
- Offer discount (or better – free) prices for disabled and carers.
- Offer mobile apps for vision impaired visitors.
- Provide wheelchairs/strollers
- Providing media solutions for non-accessible exhibitions.
- Provide Access events/classes. Philadelphia Museum offer art classes for visually impaired. Wolverhampton Art Gallery offer monthly Art Speak – audio tours that describe the exhibitions for the visually impaired.
- Offer Hearing Loops.
This is by no means the end of this topics but it was refreshing to hear it being discussed openly, honestly and internationally. This is not just a culture issue but it is an important issue within our sector.
What are your thoughts?