Client: Culture Coventry
Task: Access Audit
Date: Summer 2020
This is large museum in the centre of Coventry, the building is quite old and some of the facilities are tired, the client approached us very conscious that much of the museum was established and designed in a time where accessibility and inclusion were not at the forefront of the planning process. The brief was to undertake a full and comprehensive Audit of the facility as it stands, highlighting the accessibility pitfalls, areas of non-compliance and providing suggestions as to how the experience can be improved.
The display spaces here are large and as such there were few problems directly with physical barriers and dimensional restrictions. However the wayfinding was poor and confusing and the displays themselves very seldom offered any alternative format for visitors with any range of impairments. Many of the plinths where vehicles were mounted and displayed were the same colour as the floor below and presenting as a hazard. Many of the display and interactive points were not at a suitable height for people in a wheelchair or children/younger visitors to appreciate.
Much of the feedback here related to service delivery and sensory improvements rather than the physical space, although the poor wayfinding was by far the biggest problem identified. The venue has now improved the wayfinding, using a uniform and clear font in a consistent format. Makaton symbols are also provided at the entrance to each new exhibition to explain the theme for that space. All of the exhibitions have a mixture of written material, pictures, audio, and video to allow visitors of all abilities to enjoy the experience on offer. The vehicle and object labels have been altered to a large print, with a special background tint to reduce glare. The videos and interactives have special directional speakers. The sound does not carry across the space but can still be heard when you stand close to the speakers. There are also now subtitles for main videos with commentary. The latest refurbishment has also seen one of the exhibitions set as a dedicated multi-sensory space, with scents, sounds and tactile items available to use. The scents and sounds are contained and can be accessed by lifting a handle or telephone handset. Each time the client undertakes an upgrade of an area the Audit is consulted, and positive changes are made, again the feedback as to the information provided was praised, it’s great to be part of these projects and to see the positive changes.