Not all museums are grand institutions such as the British Museum. Many small museums are run on the efforts of volunteers, donations and entry fees. So, upgrading premises, exhibits and interpretive signage to be accessible to all poses challenges. But legal obligations require adjustments to provide accessibility. It also means that people with disability can join as volunteers more easily. The Come-In! Guidelines from Europe tackles some of the issues for small and medium-sized museums.
Come-in! Guidelines provide a practical way forward for small and medium-sized museums. It lays down some principles to guide processes and to meet legal obligations. Language, the “service chain” and staff training are the key aspects of the guidance. The principles include:
Disabled people have a right to be included in all the activities of museums and galleries.
Museums and galleries should engage in a dialogue with people with disabilities to find out what they need and wish, and how to deliver it.
Barriers to access for people with disabilities should be identified and dismantled to enable and empower them to participate.
Universal design principles should be the basis for inclusive practice in museums and galleries.
The implementation of best, inclusive, practice should be adopted to ensure that disability issues are included in all areas of a museum or gallery’s activities.
This process must be ongoing, long-term, achievable and sustainable. It should be reflected in the museum’s policies and strategic planning, and implementation should be led by senior management.
The European Union acknowledges its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Consequently, the document is framed with this in mind. The information in this guideline is good for any attraction or tourist destination. The Come-In! Guidelines are detailed and practical, and not just policy words.
Transport planners and engineers are not new to counting pedestrians. But how many of them count the number of pedestrians using a mobility device? This information is very useful in understanding the importance of designing for accessibility. A study carried out in New Zealand ran a pilot study for measuring pedestrians using mobility devices. The aim was to develop an appropriate counting tool and survey template to help with transport planning.
The New Zealand study by Bridget Burdett was carried out in six sites. Twelve categories of aid were included in the count worksheet. Burdett acknowledges that this is not a measurement of disability per se, or an assessment of accessibility for a facility or for transport connections. However it proved to be a reliable tool which can be used more widely.
The interview data were useful in gaining more detail about the complexities of being a pedestrian who uses a mobility device.
Abstract: This study set out to demonstrate the feasibility and usefulness of a series of pedestrian counts, including counting the subset of pedestrians who use visibly identifiable mobility aids. The resulting proportion of mobility aid users can then be used as a proxy measure of relative accessibility for each count site. The study acknowledges the diversity of disability, and the count is not intended to capture all people who identify as having disability of any kind. It was estimated from Statistics New Zealand data that approximately 3% of New Zealand’s adult population uses a mobility aid for travel at any particular time. This figure includes those identifying as having permanent disability, as well as an estimate to account for those not included in this figure, namely children, people who do not identify as having a disability but nevertheless use a mobility aid, and those with temporary disability requiring use of a mobility aid. The study identified opportunities to use the tool to remove gaps in the delivery of accessible transportation, across all parts of its system from policy and planning, through design, construction and monitoring. Its widespread promotion will support more objective measurement of inclusion, to inform best-practice infrastructure investment for all.
Editor’s comment: The number of people using a mobility device relative to the population is not the issue in terms of designing accessible and inclusive places. However, for transport planners the tool brings to the fore the need to be accessible and inclusive.
While planning Covid-safe processes and procedures it’s easy to forget accessibility. To the rescue comes a handy checklistwith things to watch out for. The higher education advice applies to almost all built environments where people are coming and going. Here are some of the key points:
Remind maintenance staff to sanitise accessible features: tactile and Braille signage, and automatic door openers.
Make floor markers high contrast: one way arrows in hallways, for example.
Ensure floor markings are clear and intuitive. Where to stand should be obvious. Boxes individuals can stand in are clearer than lines or cross-markings.
Eliminate protruding objects and trip hazards: wall mounted sanitisers, A-frame signs, for example.
The New Zealand Government has a new guide to support their building code, Buildings for everyone: Designing for access and usability. It’s a good practice guide which goes into fine detail. For example, for entrances it gives reasons why revolving doors are not a good idea, problems with sudden changes in light levels, issues with highly patterned flooring, and how wheelchair users might inadvertently damage doorways or tiling. The guide also links to features to the relevant sections of the Building Code. The main contents are:
Builder user activity
Surrounding area and transport
Vehicle circulation and parking
Fixtures and fittings
Means of escape
This guide explains the “why” of the specific designs. So there should be no more thinking, “near enough is good enough because a little change here and there won’t matter”. It does matter. The publication is from the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
The University of Toronto Magazine is about cities. It has four feature articles and accessibility is one of them. The article is a personal story of a father who asks what would a city without barriers look like? The question comes because his daughter is a wheelchair user. He lists six disabling things apart from steps and stairs. First is the issue of garbage bins littering the walkway after collection; the second is finding someone who is responsible for operating portable ramps; help buttons in the wrong place or need excessive force; broken and uneven footpaths; a loose piece of carpeting; and narrow footpaths that don’t allow people to pass. The article is written by Professor Ron Buliung, who is a transportation researcher, and that is his research question: What would a city without barriers look like? The article begins on page 24. Other articles on city living are about sustainability, having fun, and affordability.
Michael Small’s Churchill Fellowship report tracks and compares discrimination laws and industry practice in relation to public buildings. He questions whether the control of the Access to Premises Standard is falling more into the hands of industry as Human Rights Commission resources are becoming increasingly constrained. Three of his recommendations are: that more training is needed for industry to help them understand the standards; more flexibility is needed for building upgrades; and better systems are needed for compliance enforcement and auditing. The title of his report is, Ensuring the best possible access for people with disability to existing buildings that are being upgraded or extended. The countries visited and compared are Canada, United States of America, Ireland and United Kingdom.
Explaining that universal design is more than accessibility is sometimes difficult for people who have heard of accessibility, but not universal design. A neat article from the US lists five points to help. Briefly listed below are the five points for solving accessibility problems:
Accessibility is not always inclusive. Steps plus a ramp to a building means some people have to take a different route to get in.
Accessibility puts burden on the individual. More planning is needed for every trip, even to a restaurant – not to make a reservation – but to find out if you can get in.
Separate accessible features are not equal. Sometimes they create extra hurdles and more effort.
Accessibility provides limited solutions to a broad problem. This is because it is often an “add-on”.
Accessibility is not designed with style in mind. It is usually just designed to just serve a purpose.
Linking “sustainability” with universal design is not a new idea, especially when thinking about social sustainability. A new book,Towards Green Campus Operations, includes a chapter that moves away from “green” to social sustainability. The argument is that making the campus more universally accessible is a sustainability exercise. The more accessible the campus is, the more likely the students are to enroll and, more importantly, finish their course. This is good for the university and sustains their student intake and retention. The authors also argue that academics need to be educated about this issue too. The chapter, “Educational Institutions and Universal Accessibility: In Search of Sustainability on University Campus”, is available through Springer Link.
Abstract: The paper reports proposals and solutions of the design and implementation for universal accessibility at the university campus, complying with current legislation and community demands. It addresses the challenges of raising academic awareness about the subject and of the accessible route project overcoming the campus large dimensions, urbanized areas and rugged topography. It is the result of a project and an accessible route shared through pedestrian and motorized routes and with its implantation overcoming barriers in the implementation. The theme was conducted with a focus on social sustainability, as it is a requirement to obtain the universal and legitimate right to higher education and the benefits of the university campus as a community educational, environmental and leisure urban equipment. The results of the article demonstrate that universal accessibility, more than a legal requirement for educational institutions, contributes to social sustainability. The spatial adequacies allow the universalization of the possibility of entry and stay of persons with disabilities or reduced mobility in the university campus, expanding their training at an higher level.