Tuesday, February 22, 2011

British disabled advocates urge London art museums to become more accessible

From The London Evening Standard in the UK:

Disability campaigners today urged London's leading art institutions to work harder to improve access following reports of wheelchair users being stranded outside buildings.

Vauxhall-based charity Leonard Cheshire Disability found that four out of 10 disabled Londoners struggle to get into museums, theatres, cinemas and art galleries.

Dea Birkett, a writer from Southwark, said she and her teenage daughter, who needs a wheelchair, had to use the back entrance to Tate Modern when disabled parking bays were suspended during building of the £215 million extension.

Ms Birkett said she and her daughter were "checked in to the building at the same desk at which a package arrived, and handled as if we were one".

Tate Modern said disabled access will be improved once the extension is complete. "We have made some changes and will continue to try to find better solutions to our parking arrangements for disabled visitors."

Ms Birkett also complained about an exhibition at the National Gallery where only three out of 3,200 works were lowered to wheelchair height.

A gallery spokesman said it would be a "mammoth task" to lower every exhibit, but added that the National had an access policy, events for blind and partially sighted schools groups and facilities for guide dogs.

Leonard Cheshire Disability's senior policy adviser, Rebecca Rennison, said she constantly heard of wheelchair users stranded outside venues: "Galleries and museums need to think about access as being at the heart of what they do."

Both Tate Modern and the National Gallery appear in Visit London's list of the 10 most accessible attractions.