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Museums and Galleries Month: Disabled Access Laws
With right access laws will all
museums be accessible for
disabled people; © Hemera
The DRC launched its Open4All Campaign to help business understand the new legislation and a new website www.open4all.org provides practical advice and information to those affected by the changes.
But with less than six months to go before new equal access laws come into force a national poll commissioned by the DRC revealed that a staggering 70% of disabled people still find it difficult to use services. The survey also showed that disabled people have little confidence that leisure providers are up to speed with the new duties.
Figures from the Museums Libraries and Archives Council do provide some encouragement though. A survey of museums and galleries found that 72% had undertaken an access audit in a bid to comply with new legislation.
Bert Massie, Chairman of the DRC said:
"The fact that nearly three quarters of galleries and museums have carried out access audits shows that the message about the new equal access duties is getting through to the sector, and that's encouraging. The test will be whether these audits have been translated into real time plans which will ensure that 9.8 million disabled people are able to benefit from the wealth of Britain's cultural heritage”.
From 1st October 2004, every business, large or small – from local galleries to retail outlets, libraries to museums - will need to become more user- friendly to the UK's disabled people. New duties under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) call for improvements including adapting premises, removing physical barriers or providing services in an alternative way to disabled customers when a physical barrier makes it difficult to use a service.
Mr Massie continued:
"Disabled people represent over one in five of the population, yet they are unable to get in to buildings, including major historical sites. The trustees and curators of our heritage need to realise that from October 1st 2004 fair access to disabled people will be a legal duty - as well as the right thing to do.”
Museum and Galleries Month runs throughout May.
- More information on the Disability Rights Commission