Eureka! The National Children’s Museum staged its first ever ‘Access All Areas’ conference on accessibility and inclusion with 75 delegates in attendance from museums and visitor attractions across England.
The conference was the culmination of ‘Helping Hands’ - a three-year accessibility and inclusion programme funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, aimed at helping families with disabled children feel welcome and supported during visits to Eureka!
With inclusivity an ever-increasing priority for visitor attractions the aim of the conference was to give key people in the museums sector the benefit of Eureka!’s expertise on all aspects of inclusivity.
Key note speakers included Tim Gardiner MBE, vice vhair of tourism for All UK and chair of the Accessible Tourism Stakeholders Forum; Ross Calladine, head of business support for Visit England and Eureka! chief executive Leigh-Anne Stradeski.
Eureka! welcomed special guest Euan MacDonald and his sister Kiki MacDonald. Euan was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease in 2003 and now uses a powered wheelchair. He joined the conference to raise awareness of Euan’s Guide, www.euansguide.com an online directory of venues, attractions and public places which offer best practice provision for people with disabilities.
Liz Smallman, Eureka! visitor experience director, said “Our Helping Hands project has taken us on an incredible journey in understanding so many different facets of inclusion which is why we wanted to share our experience and expertise with our peers across the museum sector. Our vision is simple: we want accessibility to become a seamless and instinctive part of every visitor attraction’s customer service offering rather than a bolt-on extra.”
Ross Calladine said “It’s a pleasure to be here today at the Access For All conference at Eureka! They’re doing some great stuff with regards to inclusivity and accessibility, and sharing it today amongst many attractions from the local area and nationally, so hopefully it’s going to lead to many more great accessibly experiences throughout England.”
Ross also added that this was the first event of its type that, instead of focusing on legislation and regulatory issues, placed an emphasis on proven practice and experience – thereby giving delegates first hand exposure to the successes and learning moments from Eureka!’s journey to becoming an award-winning inclusive attraction. Last year Eureka! won Bronze in the ‘Access for All’ category in Visit England’s prestigious awards for excellence, and this year won Silver.
Delegate Chris Mason from Techniquest tweeted “really interesting and thought-provoking day at #AAAEureka! today. Great to share how we make what we do better for everyone.”
Delegate Charlotte Atkinson from Bromley Museums tweeted “best conference I’ve ever been to, feeling so inspired about inclusion in museums.”
Delegate Jane Fellows from Dudley Canal Trust tweeted “Brilliant conference, so many great speakers, really inspiring.”
Summing up the day Liz Smallman said “The great thing about today is the conversations that it has started - not just from ourselves as presenters but from our guests today, our delegates, who’ve started conversations amongst themselves on so many different themes. It has created a real buzz across the sector.”