Accessibility Policy

The Board of Trustees, staff and volunteer team at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House (EGH) stated aims include welcoming visitors and volunteers of all backgrounds and ensuring that every visitor and volunteer feels valued. The EGH access policy seeks to ensure that any physical, sensory, cultural, social, financial, intellectual, geographical or technological barriers that prevent visitors from enjoying and benefiting from the facilities and services provided by EGH are minimised or removed.

The purpose of this policy is to provide a framework for maintaining and improving access to the EGH building, collection, website, online content, staff and knowledge. It does so by recognising that there are many barriers to access at all levels with the overall aim of achieving equality, diversity and inclusion.

This policy applies to the provision of our services to all users both in person and online. It includes access to the building itself, garden, exhibitions, events, activities, resources and access to collections and collections knowledge.

Elizabeth Gaskell’s House is committed to maximising and /or improving access by:

Physical access

  • Upholding the statutory requirements of the Equality Act (2010) by taking reasonable steps to ensure that policies, practices and procedures do not discriminate against disabled people; by providing auxiliary aids and services, which enable disabled people to use EGH and by removing, altering or circumventing physical barriers to and within our building.
  • Providing an accessibility statement on the EGH website visit page.
  • Ensuring that step-free access is provided to all spaces open to the public.
  • Ensuring that the House period rooms, garden, exhibition rooms, toilets, Tea Room and welcome desk are accessible to wheelchair users and those with walking aids.
  • Providing plenty of accessible seating throughout the building including within period rooms.
  • Welcoming assistance dogs.
  • Allowing registered carers to visit free of charge when accompanying a visitor with a disability and visitors with a disability to pay a concession admission charge.
  • Providing free accessible on-site parking that can be pre-booked and is not restricted to just those with a Blue Badge parking permit.
  • Welcoming prams and pushchairs in the House and garden.
  • Ensuring baby changing facilities are available and the House is breast feeding friendly.
  • Ensuring that the House is open to the public three days a week, 11am-4.30pm throughout the year, only closing over the Christmas period.

Intellectual access

  • Being aware that visitors (in-person and online) have different needs and EGH is committed to an inclusive approach that recognises a range of different visitor needs and levels of engagement, including families and children.
  • Ensuring that the text used in our room folders, exhibitions, website and social media channels matches the needs of our intended audiences.
  • Providing children’s trails and family tailored verbal interpretation.
  • Providing public programming that utilises a wide range of approaches and content appropriate to particular audiences. These include visits to the House, online public talks and tours, print and digital marketing, learning resources, guided tours, workshops, public talks and volunteer training resources.
  • Encouraging and supporting volunteers with physical, sensory and learning disabilities and making adjustments, when able, to ensure they are able to contribute positively to the visitor experience.
  • Signposting to relevant partners (E.g. The Gaskell Society, John Rylands Library) or to individuals with the required expertise or knowledge.

Sensory access

  • Being a ‘hands-on’ heritage site and museum with an interpretation policy that aims to create spaces that visitors can physically engage with. (i.e. sit on chairs, pick up books, listen to sounds and touch objects).
  • Providing baskets of toys/books and dressing-up areas all year round for children and adults.
  • Having volunteer room stewards in the majority of rooms to give verbal-interpretation specifically tailored for the visitor and to encourage object handling.
  • Developing temporary and new exhibition spaces designed to include multi-sensory interpretation such as audio material, handling objects and film.
  • Ensuring a Braille copy of the House guide book is available on request and/or is offered at the welcome desk.
  • Providing free Wi-Fi throughout the building.
  • Offering regular training to staff and volunteers to aid better understanding of visitors and volunteers with physical, sensory and learning disabilities.

Geographic access

  • Providing details of public transport links and walking routes to EGH on the website with references to local landmarks and other attractions within walking distance.
  • Working with strategic partners to ensure that EGH is included in area related marketing.
  • Welcoming international visitors to EGH by working with strategic partners to promote the House to overseas visitors.
  • Offering the guide book free of charge in a variety of languages (currently Arabic, French, German, Italian, Mandarin and Spanish) and a commitment to increase this when able.
  • Utilising the skills of volunteers and staff to offer language specific tours and interpretation when able.
  • Keeping the public talks programme online to continue to reach an international and national audience on a regular basis.
  • Offering online house tours periodically to provide access to those unable to travel to EGH.
  • Publishing regular blogs and news stories online to allow free access to knowledge, information and research about the collection and related people/places/objects.

Cultural access

  • Working with local schools (within walking distance of EGH) to encourage both subsidised and paid-for school visits for KS1 and KS2 pupils.
  • Offering visits to schools by EGH volunteers and staff for open days, events and talks within a 10 miles radius.
  • Providing private guided tours for special interest groups and societies.
  • Offering external speakers (in-person and online) for society talks within the Greater Manchester area.
  • Being a wedding venue for up to 24 weddings a year, allowing non-visitors to engage with the space at EGH.
  • Reflecting a range of visitors from different communities on publicity material and online.
  • Adding blogs and new stories to the website regularly and providing more details about a range of subject matters ranging from plants in the garden to specific detail on Gaskell family neighbours. These can be accessed free of charge.

Financial access

  • Committing EGH to providing good value for money and offering a 12-month ticket and a concession rate for students, visitors with a disability, NHS workers and the unemployed. Admitting Under 16s and carers free of charge. Allowing a visitor to return as many times as they want within a 12-month period.
  • Appreciating that the ticket price may be a barrier to visiting for some people.
  • Working with partners where possible to offer free entry to member organisations such as the Historic House Association and the Northern Museum Volunteer pass scheme where EGH volunteers can visit free of charge.
  • Committing to offering local residents at least one free entry day per year to EGH.
  • Allowing volunteers to claim for travel expenses up to a capped limit and have access to free hot drinks and biscuits when volunteering at EGH.
  • Allowing volunteers access to the majority of the public online talks free of charge.

Technological access

  • Allowing visitors to book both online via a web-platform and in-person when they visit.
  • Not requiring visitors to print out tickets and only asking them to provide a name for proof of booking.
  • Accepting both cash and card for payment and donations.
  • Utilising technology designed with visitor accessibility in mind throughout the House to give greater access to information.
  • Where access to a digital device is required (e.g. for QR codes) making an alternative paper based form of interpretation available.
  • Making available a recording of most online events which can be sent to audience members who purchased tickets but were not able to attend live.
  • Making visitors aware they can use zoom live captioning when attending online events programme.
  • Providing Wi-Fi throughout the house free of charge.
  • Committing to running at least one in-person/special event or performance at the House each year.
  • Allowing prospective volunteers to apply either online, by telephone or in-person with a written enquiry form.


Evaluation

This policy and action plan are monitored and evaluated via the following methods;

  • Visitor feedback surveys sent after visits on public open days. The standard survey also asks if visitors consider themselves to have a disability and asks those who say yes to tell us what we could do to improve their visit.
  • Visitor feedback taken from specific accessibility related websites. E.g. Euans Guide
  • Feedback and comments from social media, Google Business, Trip advisor and Hitched, and collected verbally from visitors. These do included references to access.
  • Mystery shopping reports annually and VAQAS inspections bi-annually which include specific reference to physical and mental accessibility for visitors
  • Annual volunteer surveys and ongoing dialogue with volunteers who have asked us to make accommodations for their disability
  • Audits and advice from external bodies. (e.g. VocalEyes) as funding or opportunities arise. (Typically, these have been done annually)

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This policy was adopted by the staff, trustees and volunteers at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House on:  28 September 2023

Approved by the Trustees of Manchester Historic Buildings Trust (Governing body of EGH) : 28 September 2023

a whispering of leaves and perfume of flowers always pervaded the rooms

Charlotte Brontë, on visiting 84 Plymouth Grove