A report by VocalEyes, in collaboration with Stagetext and Autism in Museums on the State of Museum Access 2018. A major barrier to disabled people visiting museums is the lack of advance information. Museum websites are key tools for providing visitor access information, and the absence of this contributes to the ‘disability engagement gap’; where people with a disability are less likely to be regular or frequent visitors of museums than those who are not disabled.
Image: Sensory backpacks for autistic children and young people. © National Museums Scotland
The State of Museum Access 2018 comprises guidance to help museums create or review the information that they provide online, in order to:
- welcome potential visitors with disabilities
- inform visitors of any barriers to access at the museum
- reassure visitors that the museum has worked or is actively working to remove them
Our audit of the websites of UK accredited museums found that one in five (19%) failed to provide any access information online. While this indicates an improvement from 2016 when the figure was 27%, our research also revealed that the level of detail provided is generally very poor. The majority of museums provide basic information for people with mobility impairment only; which does not address the access needs of millions of UK citizens and potential visitors, their families and friends.
To support museums to become more inclusive to all visitors the State of Museum Access 2018 contains comprehensive guidelines on: the types of access information a museum should provide; how to communicate with potential disabled visitors; providing information in a range of accessible formats; developing staff disability awareness; and providing detailed information about how to reach the museum.
Five audience groups are addressed within the report – autistic people and people with a learning disability, blind and partially sighted people, D/deaf and hard of hearing people, people with dementia, people with mobility impairments – which together form a large proportion of disabled people. For each audience group we recommend the particular information, resources, facilities and accessible events that a museum can provide to welcome and support them.
Furthermore there are tips on setting up an access panel or disability advisory group, which can help a museum to best address visitor needs when developing both on site and online provision.
Finally, we present an access showcase, celebrating good practice at museums across the UK, with links to over 50 organisations’ websites, which we hope will inform and inspire.
We encourage museums to make the Museum Access Pledge (#MuseumAccessPledge) to close the disability engagement gap, and ensure everyone is welcome at the UK’s museums, galleries and heritage sites.
The report authors are:
Matthew Cock, Chief Executive, VocalEyes
Molly Bretton, Access Manager, Royal Academy
Anna Fineman, Museum and Heritage Programme Manager, VocalEyes
Richard France, Subtitling Services Manager, Stagetext
Claire Madge, Founder, Autism in Museums
Melanie Sharpe, Chief Executive, Stagetext