The accessible & inclusive culture and heritage experience
With an aging population and statistics showing that one in four of us will have a temporary disability during our lifetime, and one in ten a hidden disability, accessibility is becoming increasingly important to us all, whether we recognise it or not.
Accessibility is therefore of paramount importance, and for culture and heritage venues, inclusive tourism is a growing market with real commercial benefits that are often ignored.
According to the Euan’s Guide Access Survey 2018, commissioned by Tourism GB, 83% of disabled travellers tell others about their experience, whilst 86% of seniors make return visits, making them loyal customers. Disabled travellers and senior travellers also spend significantly more when they go on holiday than other market groups: over 55s spent 42% more than under 35s when on a ‘staycation’ in the UK. Regarding their experience with cultural venues, one respondent even said, “It’s not unusual for access to be described as ‘fully accessible’ yet you can’t use the toilet or get around easily.” Whether visiting a new-build museum or castle built on thousands of years’ worth of history, the importance of inclusive tourism is undeniable.
Christopher Samuel, an artist who uses an electric wheelchair, was one of 19 artists who were invited to curate rooms at the Art B&B in Blackpool. Christopher designed a room that was deliberately difficult to stay in, giving visitors an idea of the lack of access to products, services and spaces faced by many disabled people.
Describing his own experiences as inconvenient, frustrating and humiliating at times, Christopher explains;
“On the surface level it’s quite playful and theatrical, but it’s real… I knew people would find it amusing at first, but in reality, when you live that every day it’s not funny anymore. “Many cultural institutions are housed in historical/listed premises. Whilst beautiful, these buildings present a complex, but not impossible, challenge when it comes to accessibility and, if correctly considered and co-created with disabled people and their relevant organisations, can empower future users in the right ways.
On a recent holiday to Germany, Emily Yates, CCD associate, accessible travel writer and wheelchair user, visited several historic sites which she was delighted to discover had carefully considered inclusive design. : “[The trip] left me feeling empowered, rather than burdensome, as a wheelchair user”, she said.
For Emily, this experience highlighted the importance of access feasibility at historical and cultural sites, as well as ‘new build’ experiences;
If a fortress – a structure built to be inherently inaccessible to the most able of intruders – can be adapted to welcome all, there is really little excuse for many venues in the UK and further afield not to follow suit.