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Cassie Herschel-Shorland asks what makes a museum or gallery environment accessible? / 10 October 2010

Inclusive exhibition design
I would like to pick-up on Marcus's questions about why new exhibitions and museums are still opened without being accessible to all? What makes a museum or gallery environment accessible?

A simplified definition of 'inclusive design' that I use when working towards inclusive exhibitions is 'design that provides choice and flexibility for people'. This sounds straightforward and obvious when explained in a design team meeting or project workshop, but it is too often lost along the way when decisions have to be made and budgets met.

The idea of choice and multi-sensory design required to be inclusive is perceived as being too generous and a one-size-to-fit-all solution is the compromise presented after designs have been scrutinised and cut back to fit the budget (value engineering). 'One-size' usually only fits one person, not all of us!

Too often the visual elements win over the tactile, audio and olfactory. There is then a miss-match between an organisational policy or brief that aims for inclusion and the reality - limited by current design process and practice.

This is not always the case (but it is, too often) and creative approaches - surely the role of a designer - can create cost effective and inclusive solutions. This needs to be tackled in design education.

In the meantime I would love to see some of the exhibitors at the RNIB Tactile Graphics event display their products at design fares where exhibition designers and contractors show theirs; mixing their audiences and knowledge could prompt cross-fertilisation of ideas, materials, technologies and user centred solutions...

You can visit Cassie Herschel-Shorlands' Access and Museum Design consultancy website at www.cassiehs.com/

Keywords: access issues,