Access to Heritage

people making a model of Pier Head with cardboard boxes and other materials

The Access to Heritage group with a prototype tactile map of the Pier Head

Access to Heritage is one of the four main stakeholder groups that were involved in the development of the Museum of Liverpool. They have extensive knowledge and experience of devising buildings which are truly accessible for people with learning disabilities and physical disabilities.

The group were involved in a number of different aspects of the Museum of Liverpool. For example, they helped to develop symbols, signage and wayfinding, using the findings of an audit they completed of best and worst practice in visitor attraction accessibility.

Developing tactile maps

One of the accessible features in the Museum of Liverpool is the tactile maps depicting the buildings on view from the museum's windows. The Access to Heritage group were instrumental in developing these maps. They researched the area around the Pier Head, took photographs, touched the buildings and recorded some of the typical sounds that you might hear there.

Using their finding the group built a prototype tactile model of the Pier Head out of cardboard and gave a lot of useful feedback to the museum staff and designers. Some of their recommendations for tactile maps were:

  • Include model boats on the river
  • Include cars that can be moved by visitors on the roads and in car parks
  • Each building should feel different, with different textures to demonstrate the materials they are made of
  • Include pictures and models of people, birds, trees and cars on the map
  • Use relief for the details (for example the windows) so that people with visual impairments can feel them
  • Include models of the statues at the Pier Head and explain who the statues are of
  • Include sounds such as birds, water and traffic
  • The maps could react to touch to convey information, so for example, if you touch the river you hear the sound of water
  • Include information about key buildings, such as the name, date of construction, a description of how it was built and what it is for
  • Information needs to be accessible, including touch responsive sound

people in hard hats and reflective jackets looking at view of city from construction site

Admiring the view during a site visit to see the construction of the Museum of Liverpool

Background information about Access to Heritage

The Access to Heritage project was set up by Liverpool Mencap in 2005 to find out what could be done to make interpretation at heritage venues accessible for people with learning disabilities. The project aims to find out why people with learning disabilities don't visit heritage venues and how we can make their visits positive and memorable experiences.

The Access to Heritage forum, which includes representatives from three day centres and a school, have made a film about their work, produced a report, made their own multi sensory exhibition and worked with designers on St George's Hall's new visitor centre.

The project is lead by the forum members who have become experienced 'access consultants', regularly visiting museums, galleries and old buildings using a variety of methods to get feedback. They are currently working with Speke Hall and the National Wildflower Centre as well as the Museum of Liverpool.

Access to Heritage won best community arts event or group at DaDa Fest 2008.