Initial suggestions from Ju Gosling for
the Holton Lee National Disability Arts Archive
Object store (with a future expansion
Area for handling/cataloguing/conserving
objects by staff and handling by researchers/visitors (remember
conserving can involve the use of chemicals)
Office area including ample filing
space for contracts with artists and other lenders/donors, insurance
documents, contracts for exhibition tours and all the other paperwork
that cant be held electronically
Study/resource area including
DVD/CD and print publication library
Fully accessible toilet (including
Adequate space in all areas for
visually impaired people and users of large wheelchairs to circulate
safely and easily
Level access to all areas if
at all possible (ramps hinder independent access for manual wheelchair
Fixed rather than flexible use
of space and siting of fittings to enable blind and visually impaired
people to navigate easily
NB Exhibition and meeting
spaces already exist on the site so are probably unnecessary here.
High level (to meet the needs
of visually impaired people as well as to illuminate the detail
Daylight spectrum (for access
as well as aesthetic reasons)
Easy to switch on and off (e.g.
by touch pad, remote control but ensure controls are accessible
to visually impaired people)
Allow direct sunlight
or similar to fall on objects (because of light damage); computer
screens (because of reflections); and print publications (because
text on shiny paper becomes impossible for many people to read if
light reflects off it)
- Good quality
- Absorb low-spectrum vibrations etc
Temperature and humidity
Warm enough to meet the needs
of people with low mobility (who will feel the cold much more and
will find it much harder to warm up again once cold than those with
Compliant with gallery/object
- Increase depression/anxiety/aggression
NB: Traditional colour
palettes in fine art reflect Enlightenment ideals of the restrained
body and rational mind. The disability arts movement, in contrast,
celebrates the unrestrained body and the irrational mind, and so the
colour palettes used vary in this respect.
- Reflect sound
- Create trip hazards
Height adjustable (to meet the needs
of different wheelchair users, people with restricted growth, people
with spinal impairments that require them to work standing etc)
Positioned so that they allow an unrestricted
view of the rest of the space they are in, including any entrances
and exits (so that Deaf and hearing impaired people can rely on
their vision to know who is coming in and out and so that those
who have anxiety conditions can feel safe in the space)
Positioned so that sound reflections
Door furniture, switching systems, height
adjustable systems, object stacks etc etc
Accessible to people with reduced grip/strength/energy/control
Accessible to people with the above
plus the use of one rather than two hands
Accessible to people from varying heights
(to meet the needs of wheelchair users, people with restricted growth,
people with spinal impairments that require them to work standing
Secure against theft
Protected from flood
Incorporate fire prevention systems
that minimise the risk to the objects and documents stored on the
Enable safe exit for people with
a wide variety of sensory, mobility and intellectual impairments
Post-Part M publicly
funded arts buildings to learn lessons from:
1) Dance venue
This venue is held up as an example of
great access. However
There is very little seating
in the foyer and the bar seating is very high, despite the fact
that many people with mobility impairments attend the theatre without
wheelchairs and cannot stand comfortably for any length of time.
(In general it is more difficult for people with mobility impairments
to stand still than to walk.)
The acoustics in the foyer and
upper levels are appalling, with sound bouncing round the entire
height of the building. Events on the mezzanine and other floors
are thus rendered completely inaudible by any activity in the foyer,
while all foyer transactions are inaccessible to people with hearing
impairments because of the background noise.
There is only one accessible
toilet on the ground floor, with no seating outside for people waiting
to use it. The toilet is reached down the side of the bar, so that
people wishing to use it have to navigate crowds of drinkers to
get there and back. The siting of the other toilets on the basement
floor means that non-disabled people also use the accessible toilet
rather than travel down a floor (poor signage exacerbates this because
no one knows where the other toilets are situated), causing more
delays and stress for disabled users.
None of the toilets will accommodate
a hoist, yet personal assistants are not allowed to lift clients
on and off the toilet by law.
There are only two tiny public
lifts to the upper floors, and one is kept locked for the sole use
and convenience of their caterers. Wheelchair users and other people
with mobility problems can therefore only reach the upper floors
one at a time, although most non-dance events are held on these
levels. Queues of 15 or more people are common at large events,
making it impossible to keep events on schedule without excluding
The accessible toilet on the
first floor is reached down a narrow corridor with no turning space,
beyond the facilities for non-disabled people. There is no waiting
space for wheelchair users that does not involve being hit by the
doors every time someone enters or exits the other toilets, and
no space for two wheelchair users to pass each other.
Facilities for visually impaired
people are very poor, with no apparent attempt made to use high
contrast colours etc or to think about lighting levels throughout
There is almost no level access
to the theatre itself, restricting the number of people with mobility
impairments who can attend, and increasing health and safety hazards
for people with visual impairments.
There is no dropped kerb by the
Blue Badge parking space immediately outside the studio theatre,
forcing wheelchair users to drive down the road against the traffic
to the dropped kerb by the Stage Door.
The ramp to the studio theatre
is very steep and continues inside, preventing independent access
by manual wheelchair users. Despite this there is no bell or intercom
to enable wheelchair users to call for assistance.
The accessible toilet
in the studio theatre requires users to navigate the length of the
crowded café, turn a tight corner and go down an incline,
making it anything but.
Disabled people are assumed to
be audience members/attending events but not to work in the building.
Thus access to offices, technical facilities etc is poor or non-existent.
Etc Etc Etc.
2) Community centre arts extension
The street level entrance is
between the lower and upper ground floors with ramps leading to
each, meaning that manual wheelchair users cannot access either
of the ground floor levels without assistance. Independent access
is therefore only possible as far as the reception desk by the door,
which may not always be staffed, and thereafter dependency is enforced.
The need to assist manual wheelchair users also poses a health and
safety hazard to reception staff.
The bridge construction of the
ramps involves wooden planks sitting on metal struts (or similar).
The noise created by the planks banging on the struts every time
anyone uses them penetrates throughout the building and makes events
in the theatre and basement gallery spaces inaudible to people with
The oxygen levels in the theatre
are unacceptably low without artificial ventilation, but the air
conditioning system is so noisy that people with hearing impairments
cannot hear when it is switched on.
The door to the technicians
booth is situated immediately opposite the door to the lift but
has no viewing panel, while the space between the booth and lift
doors is very narrow. Anyone leaving the technicians booth
therefore opens the door directly into anyone waiting to use the
lift, posing a serious health and safety hazard.
Access to the toilets involves
tight corners and an excessive number of doors.
Etc Etc Etc.
3) Purpose-built arts centre
- There is inadequate Blue Badge parking, meaning
that disabled people often have to go home rather than access the
building as planned.
- The automatic doors open directly into the foyer/café/box
office area, and create a wind tunnel effect that lowers the temperature
on the mezzanine floors too. If the doors are kept in use, the temperature
becomes unacceptably cold. If the automatic doors are switched off,
then they cannot be used by people with a wide range of impairments.
- The lift is so small that people using larger
manual/powered chairs and scooters cannot use it, although the majority
of non-theatre-based activities take place on the upper floors.
- The accessible toilets are constructed in such
a way that one on each floor cannot be exited by wheelchair users
even though they can enter, continually trapping disabled people.
- There is no air circulation in the technology
studios, making working conditions uncomfortable for all and impossible
- The acoustics in the dance studio are severely
affected by the noise the roof makes every time the wind blows, blocking
access for people with hearing impairments and concentration problems.
(The roof is supposedly of some type of cutting-edge construction.)
- Tutors working in the dance studio are back-lit
whenever they have their backs to the window side, as this is south-facing.
Lip-reading is therefore impossible when this side is used for teaching,
even though it is the natural side for tutors to use.
- Artificial light levels are insufficient to allow
lip-reading throughout the dance studio after dark or when natural
light levels are low.
- The bridges above the foyer which are intended
as networking spaces etc are too narrow, making access difficult for
people with mobility and visual impairments.
- Disabled people are assumed to be audience members/attending
events but not to work in the building. Thus access to offices, technical
facilities etc is poor or non-existent.
Etc Etc Etc (including the fact that it
leaks like a sieve from the roof to the basement during heavy rain).
4) Artists' studio and training facilities
- There is no means for Blue Badge holders and
taxis carrying people with mobility impairments to communicate with
the reception desk, but the gates to the car park in front of the
entrance are kept locked. It is therefore very difficult for people
with mobility problems to get close enough to the building to enter.
- The carpark in front of the entrance is pitted
with pot holes and covered in old nails and glass, causing a hazard
to people with mobility and visual impairments.
- There is a lip to the entrance that manual wheelchair
users find hard to get over.
- The ramp from the entrance to the reception desk
is unacceptably steep and ends opposite a wall, meaning that manual
wheelchair users cannot enter and exit the building independently
- All the inside surfaces reflect sound and let
sound pass through them, making the acoustics appalling.
- The meeting rooms are too small for their purpose
i.e. providing artists training when wheelchair
users and people with visual impairments are included as there is
insufficient space to circulate. The cramped nature of the premises
also increases anxiety/aggression.
- The open access print studio is sited next to
the main training room even though the sounds generated by the air
compressor are very loud and the wall between is not insulated against
sound. This renders the training sessions inaudible and thus inaccessible
to people with hearing impairments on the days that the print studio
Etc Etc Etc
5) Converted contemporary
art museum (though this is much better than the rest)
There is insufficient signage
for the stairs/escalator, so there is heavy pressure on the lifts.
Its also not possible to know which lift will arrive after
calling them and so get in a queue for entry. Therefore people who
cannot use the stairs/escalator can wait huge amounts of time before
they can move between the floors, because every time a lift arrives,
non-disabled people reach it and fill it first.
The accessible toilets are very
small and often situated at the end of narrow corridors that include
other toilet facilities. This makes them hard to enter and exit,
particularly as there is no waiting/turning space in the corridors
and the doors to the other toilets are constantly being used.
Most of the books and magazines
in the bookshops cannot be seen, let alone reached, by wheelchair
users and people of restricted growth.
Exhibition signage is too small
for people with any degree of visual impairment to read, including
the majority of the over-60s. It is also hard for wheelchair users
to access as they frequently cant get close up to the signage.
Podiums, particularly from touring
exhibitions, are often too high to allow the objects displayed to
be viewed by wheelchair users, people with restricted growth
Pictures may be hung too high
to be viewed by wheelchair users, people with restricted growth
Ventilation grids in the floors
create hazards for wheelchair castors, narrow gauge walking and
guide sticks etc.
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