Issue 118/10, p17, 01.10.2018
Are museum websites engaging for disabled visitors?
25092018-comment-vp-becki-morrisBecki Morris, lead, Disability Co-operative Network

"Anyone who visits museums will expect to find clearly identifiable key information including facilities, costs and services on a website. This is key for any museum visit, to engage visitors to the organisation. Our work at the Disability Co-operative Network encourages museums to actively promote access and inclusion in their organisations via our meet-ups, resources and support. Low-cost adjustments can be easy to make, as can changes in working practice. It is vital to make sure that information and guidance is part of the visit and on the website."

25092018-comment-vp-matthew-cockMatthew Cock, chief executive, VocalEyes

"Information provided online by a museum is crucial for a visitor's decision-making process; a disabled visitor is far more likely to visit if they are given welcoming and comprehensive access details. VocalEyes audited more than 1,700 UK museum websites for the State of Museum Access 2018 report. We found that most provide access details only for people with mobility impairments, meaning millions of disabled people are being excluded. Engaging and informative websites are possible with minimal resources, so improvement across the sector is achievable."

25092018-comment-vp-mike-laywardMike Layward, artistic director, Dash Arts

"The answer is that some are and some are definitely not. It looks like a question of the scale of the museum. The bigger you are, the more designed your site will be, and the more visual it will be. This doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of small museums with welcoming and informative sites. A quick solution is to ask as many disabled people
with different impairments as you can to give you feedback on your website. Then act on the feedback and keep your site clear, simple and visual, with alternative formats available."

25092018-comment-vp-david-heaveyDavid Hevey, chief executive, Shape Arts

"Many museum websites give clear information for disabled visitors in regards to access within the building - the British Museum is one example. It caters for visitors with a range of impairments and illustrates a well-considered offer for participation and intellectual access via accessible tours and so on. But if we focus on the major contribution by disabled people to our nation's heritage and culture, then it is often a different story. Many museum websites don't engage in this, neither do many want to engage in radical stories. So, museums could do better in our view."

01102018-paul-ralphPaul Ralph, access and inclusion director, Euan's Guide

"One of the biggest frustrations is when it's not obvious or easy to find out access information. Whilst a museum might tell you about a wonderful exhibition, a fantastic touch tour or a signed event, it's all irrelevant if you don't know whether you can get in the door, whether there's an accessible loo, or indeed if you're welcome. Our top tip is to put an obvious link on your homepage straight to that information."

25092018-comment-zoeZoe Partington, visual artist, creative consultant and trainer

Museum and gallery websites are still quite uninspiring for disabled people. For example, the opportunity for digital sites to engage blind and partially-sighted people is huge but under utilised, as organisations have very little understanding of the barriers and depend on audiences viewers to have sight. Non-visual audiences can easily access audio files, text files and films if the framework for accessibility is in place from the concept stage.

Commissioning an informed, creative expert who is blind or partially sighted to work with the design team would make a huge impact, and open up the cultural offer to many other disabled and non-disabled people. We really need to acknowledge change is necessary but it can be creative, innovative and fun. The opportunities are endless and will definitely put your venue, collection and archives on the map. Digitising disability is not impossible or expensive, it's just smart. The time for thinking disabled people are just an add-on has gone: disabled people need to be integral to everything you do.