Exploring the built environment as part of training at OUMC. Photograph showing trainees visiting a building containing multiple stone statues.

Exploring the built environment as part of training at OUMC.

Each blind and partially sighted visitor will have different conditions and different degrees of sight loss which will affect how they experience the museum, due to the barriers they face. It is important to understand what these barriers to the collections and museum exhibits are, as well as the different methods available to overcome them. Having this awareness can help you ensure all visitors get the most out of their visit.

A great place to start is by working with blind and partially sighted people to really understand what constitutes a barrier.

Alternatively, you can commission an access auditor to provide an action list and solutions. In many cases it is the lack of design in the built environment that poses the most obstacles to independent movement and functioning.

 

Lewes Castle Audio Guide sign

Lewes Castle Audio Guide sign

New environments should be designed for maximum flexibility to meet various needs and older buildings and spaces creatively adapted in ways that enable flexibility of usage.

Many inclusive design features can be incorporated into an existing building through routine maintenance or refurbishment.

The care and attention to detail that is necessary when designing for the needs of blind and partially sighted people will enhance the functional efficiency, and create an aesthetically pleasing visual appearance for all users.

 

Key points to consider are:

  • Provide a simple layout, which is logical and memorable
  • Use contrasting colours to raise visibility. This helps people with poor sight distinguish outlines, for example use white crockery on a dark table, or have white walls with a dark carpe
  • Provide adequate and evenly distributed lighting
  • Use different touch, sound, fragrance and air movement techniques to provide a variety of options for visitors
  • Use highly visible, tactile embossed and concise signs
  • Have well designed and fully accessible toilets
  • Provide accessible car and bus parking for disabled visitors and staff
  • Offer accessible ticketing and assistance
  • Provide different formats for wayfinding, signage and guidance

 

Lewes Castle listening bench. Photograph of a BPS visitor listening to an audio description provided by a specially-adapted bench positioned in the garden at Lewes Castle.]

Lewes Castle listening bench.

Example

In heritage settings access can be difficult to change without creative solutions to provide an alternative experience. As part of the Sensing Culture project, Lewes Castle was unable to make dramatic changes to the built environment. Instead, their solution was to create a sound installation that represented the difficult walk to the top of the castle tower and the subsequent view for those who could not make the journey up themselves. This meant visitors still could have an experience that was accessible and meaningful.

 

Your Turn

With your venue in mind, consider the following questions:

  • Is the signage at your venue clear and easy to understand?
  • Do all areas of your venue have good lighting? Remember that good even lighting will help everyone not just those with sight loss.
  • Would key staff be aware of where blind or partially sighted visitors are located within the facility, in case they require assistance during emergency procedures?
  • Do you have information such as menus, price lists or handouts in large print or other accessible formats so blind and partially sighted people can read for themselves?

 

Credit: Zoe Partington and RNIB

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