Museums and cultural attractions have an influential role to play in our increasingly fast-paced and diverse society.
Young and old alike are facing new pressures and to meet these challenges, we must embrace a more inclusive and holistic approach.
Removing physical and intellectual barriers while opening doors to all ages, genders, people with accessibility needs, ethnicities and social classes will enable us to build more supportive and thriving communities. You can read more about this in Attracting Girls to Science on page 76 and in Sensory World on page 138.
A sound starting point is to adopt an inclusive design methodology by working with focus groups, advisors, campaigners and people with accessibility needs. This collaboration must start at the initial design stage of an exhibition or new build to ensure barrier-free access is achieved. Let the Public do the Talking on page 178 gives excellent examples.
This inclusive approach enables the delivery of spacious exhibits which are free from trip hazards; large glass lifts so visitors can see what’s on offer as they move through the building; clear and accessible signage; 3D images and models; guides and menus in large colour-coded print and Braille; cane-stop floor strips; interactive maps; and online information on accessibility to facilitate pre-visit planning.
Including Maker Spaces in the floorplan provides special places where visitors can experiment, tinker and play. Onsite hands-on activities promote learning, creativity, exploration and social skills, while bridging generation gaps, engaging the public and encouraging repeat visits (see The Maker Mindset on page 114).
A more holistic approach also means embracing social engagement with local communities. By involving volunteers and marginalised groups such as people with accessibility needs, young offenders, refugees and long-term unemployed, museums and cultural attractions will better understand wider interests and needs in society – while giving these groups new skills and experiences.
These approaches must be adaptable and scalable to respond to feedback, policy, funding and technology to facilitiate enduring success.
Helen Patenall, editor, Attractions Management Handbook