Buildings and Facilities
During the design process of our new buildings and refurbishments of our existing sites, consultation with Access experts has been an essential element of the process.
The development of our main museum in Leeds in 1996 fully involved all the appropriate agencies in its construction to ensure access to all. This does not mean that the organisation has been complacent since then and we continually monitor to ensure that all alterations and changes to exhibitions incorporate best practice. This includes the Access Officer in all governance structures relating to new project builds.
The Museum recognises that Access, Inclusion and Disability must be at the core of its vision to all enable all visitors to enjoy and learn of its collection therefore work has been undertaken to create an environment in which disabled people can enjoy the museum and its facilities. This includes design briefs, staff training and web site development.
The Royal Armouries now proactively takes the collection out of the Museum as part of an outreach programme that is targeted at people who are disabled or socially excluded. A dedicated handling collection has been established which allows groups and individuals the opportunity to access the collection in their own environment.
Example: The Tower of London
Staffs are currently working with Oaklands School-partnership as part of MLA funded project to produce an interactive learning ‘book’ to enhance their visit to the site.
Exciting new sessions, involving our Artist in Residence, form the basis of our innovative outreach work sponsored by Kodak. The first group is from a school in Islington which is bringing 7 pupils, 6 of whom are wheelchair users and 1 visually impaired.
Example: The Elephant Armour, Oriental Gallery, Leeds
The Royal Armouries has also funded a project linked to one of its most iconic objects, the elephant armour, which is due to be delivered to the public in Leeds, in September 2007. It has made provision for Disabled Access within a linked approach to equality and through a multi-layered format. The project welcomes the disabled into the decision-making progress as we begin the journey to integrated equality.
This has included the involvement of Neil Ackroyd, a visually impaired member of the Leeds Society for Deaf and Blind People who commented “Things like the 17th-century armour are too fragile to touch, so by making replicas that someone blind can hold the elbow joint of the suit, and feel how the hinges work, is essential to giving access to all”.
The Museum will be purchasing equipment for enhancing visibility both in the Oriental gallery and in the library. Making a beginning in the selection of archives which can be developed for the visually-impaired in a raised swell format and in braille.
Also an audio guide for the blind with BSL signing in video format, with a trail offered as appropriate for families with children under ten, and in languages other than English, such as Urdu, Gujarati and Hong Kong Chinese.
To link with the issue of literacy in society, it is planned to place visual literacy directly into gallery display in the form of painting and drawing. There will also be software packages for the deaf, such as Widgit and Makaton, which all visitors will be able to use. There will also be a specially designed Touch Truck:
- with a ‘please touch’ handling collection of tactile armours
- tactile fabric squares
- tactile maps, drawings
- MP3 files
- new labels with colour enhancement
- large print trails
- colour buttons on Live Interpretation costumes
- handling and costume collections for interactive learning providing a fast track training programme on disability awareness for the staff of the Museum.