Isle of Wight museums’ access audit peer network development
Isle of Wight Heritage Service, Dimbola Museum and Gallery and Brading Roman Villa.
Corina Westwood, Curator of Human History, Isle of Wight Heritage Service
Establishing a skilled, well-resourced peer network of Isle of Wight museums for mutual support with access audits.
What were the Project aims?
To establish a peer network of Isle of Wight museums for mutual support with access audits.
What was the impact of the project?
- Seven members of staff from the three partner organisations have been trained to undertake access audits.
- Staff have: better knowledge of disability legislation, how access relates to Accreditation and barriers to access.
- Increased awareness of accessibility factors relating to the exterior and interior of buildings, toilet facilities, signage, exhibition captioning, measurements; are better able to identify how adaptations and improvements can be made.
- A shared resource kit of access audit equipment and reference materials has been established. This includes an access audit handbook, gradient measure and other tools or information required to conduct access audits and implement improvements.
- Capacity has been developed in one of the areas of Accreditation that most often identified as a weakness by Assessors.
What went well and what didn’t go well?
- Our project was a great example of networking facilitated through the Museum Development leading to purposeful collaboration. The idea for this intervention was developed following a coffee break conversation between two staff from different museums at a previous MDP-funded training event. Identifying a common need for access audits, we worked with our MDO to develop an approach that builds sustainable capacity in the Isle of Wight.
- The consultant, Sonia Rasbery, responded to the brief positively, with a customised programme designed to embed key skills and knowledge in the peer network and helpful recommendations for the contents of the resource kit.
- It was difficult to identify a date for the training that suited all potential partners, therefore one museum that wanted to take part was unable to send a representative to the training. However, that museum – and others on the Isle of Wight – will be able to access support from those who did attend and to use the shared resource kit.
- Use the Accreditation standard as a tool to identify development priorities.
- Exploit networking opportunities to identify partner organisations with common needs – this enables better use of scarce resources and improves resilience.
- Think about approaches that build lasting benefit. An alternative approach to this project would have been to use joint buying power to commission a consultant to visit the Isle of Wight to conduct a series of access audits – however this would not have built sustainable capacity in the Island’s museums in the same way.
What are your plans for the future?
We will be increasing access audits for our sites and supporting continued development of the peer network for auditing. The resource kit will be used by the partners and loaned to other museums in the Isle of Wight. Each partner museum will produce an access audit with prioritised action plan, attendees will take these to their parent bodies. Some items will be achievable within existing budgets, others will need to be subject to funding bids. For the future, we will be ensuring that accessibility is an integral part of our everyday work, and incorporated into building projects, exhibitions, signage and range of everyday issues.
Overall Cost of Project
£1,110. Project 80% funded by a Hampshire Solent Museum Development training bursary.