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A Top Ten Guide To Making Your Venue More Accessible

A Top Ten Guide To Making Your Venue More Accessible
17 March 2020

Eight venues have received awards from the disabled access charity Euan’s Guide for their work welcoming disabled visitors – and this prompted ThisWeekinFM to offer a top ten guide to make your venue more acessible.

The awards, now in their second year, were presented on February 10 and were based on public nominations and reviews shared on the Euan’s Guide website.


Top 8 Accessible Venues


  • The Barbican – London
  • Newquay Zoo – Southern England
  • Cadbury World – Midlands
  • Beamish, The Living Museum of the North – Northern England
  • Holyrood Distillery – Southern Scotland
  • Culloden Battlefield – Northern Scotland
  • Folly Farm – Wales
  • George Best Belfast City Airport – Northern Ireland

From the hundreds of nominated venues, these venues stood out by providing exceptionally good experiences to disabled people.  For that reason, they were each named “Venue of the Year” for their region.


“We’re delighted to have been awarded London’s Venue of the Year by Euan’s Guide.  We’re always striving to be inclusive, both in the work we programme and the exceptional experience we aim to offer all visitors to the Centre, so this award is a very welcome recognition of the progress we are making.”

–Sir Nicholas Kenyon

Managing Director, The Barbican


Ideal places to visit in 2020


Euan MacDonald, co-founder of Euan’s Guide said:

“Last year we awarded four venues across the UK. This year we felt it was only fitting to recognise eight venues that stretch across the UK.  Each of these venues has shown tremendous commitment to providing an excellent experience to all in 2019, making them ideal places to visit in 2020.”


Making your venue more accessible


Taking steps to make your venue more accessible is beneficial to everyone – from shops trying to increase sales to attractions aiming to increase footfall; and from wheelchair users to young parents out and about with prams. Here are our top tips for making your venue as accessible to as many people as possible – published in association with Euan’s Guide.


1. List your venue on Euan’s Guide


Listing your venue on Euan’s Guide gives you the opportunity to list any access information for potential visitors together in one place. Telling people what you do have is a great way to make people less anxious about visiting. It may be that while you don’t have wheelchair access, you do have great facilities for people with a hearing impairment, such as an induction loop around a room.


Not all buildings have the capacity to be fully accessible to everyone though, so be honest and don’t exaggerate how accessible your venue is – this way customers will be more likely to visit you again!


2. Write an access guide – that’s accessible


People are unlikely to assume that your venue has good access, so it is a good idea to tell potential visitors about your facilities. Before visiting a new place for the first time, disabled people will often look for information about what to expect when they arrive, including whether your space includes features such an accessible toilet, level access or good signage. Information about parking and public transport is particularly helpful as well.


3. Support and train your staff


Reviewers repeatedly tell Euan's Guide that their best experiences have come from great staff and excellent service. A large part of being accessible is to be friendly and as helpful as possible. Be welcoming to customers and aim to offer the best solutions to any issues that may arise.


Ensure that staff know how to provide help and assistance when needed – even if it is a small gesture such as carrying a coffee to a table. Good access is not just about facilities, it’s also about being friendly and inviting.


4. Engage with your customers


Invite feedback on accessible features that your customers look for or use and encourage them to share their experiences. It may be a nice gesture to offer an incentive or thanks for their time, such as loyalty card stamps or a free sample for example.


5. Make the most of your accessible toilet


They may not be exciting, yet toilet facilities often make or break the decision to visit somewhere new. If your space is limited, remove any unnecessary items such as oversized bins or decorations. Avoid using an accessible toilet as a storage area, as empty space is a feature which customers may need to use. Check to see that everything is easily reachable – are the paper towels beside the sink? Attach a red cord card to your toilet alarm cord – this will highlight the importance of alarm cords to people using or cleaning the facility. Consider looking at a Changing Places toilet for your venue.

Accessible toilets can be stylish, colourful or bold - so use your creativity and reflect your venue's style.


6. Be creative with your space


Like people, wheelchairs come in all different shapes and sizes. Wheelchair users need to be able to move around your venue in order to enjoy their experience and see what’s on offer. Aim to keep your floor space free of obstruction and have a clear path around the venue. It’s good to have enough room in aisles for a wheelchair user and for somebody to pass.

Remember to consider sightlines as well and whether or not a wheelchair user will be able to see what is coming up ahead. Aim to keep your venue as bright as possible – dark environments can make it difficult for visually impaired visitors to read information or notice important signage. Where light levels are important for your environment, you can always illuminate signs.


7. Check your signage


Signs are a very important feature that help all visitors to navigate your venue. Try to use high contrast text and keep signs clear and free of obstruction. If you are missing a sign, be sure to inform customers when they arrive of where the toilets, ramps or lifts are located, including alternative routes.

Signs are more informative when they have text directions as opposed to just an arrow. Make it abundantly clear where the sign is leading your visitors to, for example, “wheelchair ramp to the garden”. Don’t forget to consider the height and location of your signs as well; wheelchair users will not be able to clearly read signs that are positioned high up, and visually impaired people have to be able to reach tactile signs.


8. Fill up a water bowl


People may visit your venue with an assistance dog. Be helpful by offering to pour the dog some water; visitors may feel pressured to leave if their dog has gone a long time without something to drink.


9. Be informed


Do you know where the nearest bus stop is, where those buses go and if they are wheelchair accessible? Are you aware of the lifts into the local train station? Is there a park nearby where assistance dogs may go for a break? Being familiar with your immediate surroundings will come in handy if a disabled customer ever has a query.


10. Take part in Disabled Access Day


Disabled Access Day is a biennial event which encourages disabled people to get out and about by removing any uncertainty and anxiety they may have about going out and exploring new places. This can help prevent another level of stress being reached which can lead disabled people to not bother and turn back around. Offer an event at your venue to give people the opportunity to ‘try it out’ for the first time.

Why not take part in Disabled Access Day 2021?


The Winning Venues


Six of the top eight accessible venues have a Changing Places facility installed.  Changing places are provided in addition to accessible toilets, they contain additional equipment, such as an adult-sized changing bench and a hoist, which a quarter of a million people require to use the toilet safely.

Many of the winning venues provide step-free access or have lifts installed to ensure that wheelchair users and those with mobility impairments can experience the venue in its entirety.


London’s Venue of The Year - The Barbican


The Barbican is a vast space containing a concert hall, theatres, galleries, cinemas, restaurants and more. It is one of only a few places in central London to provide visitors with a Changing Places toilet as well as having a substantial number of accessible toilets across the site.  Their programme includes a number of accessible performances, such as audio described, sensory-friendly, captioned and BSL shows.


Southern England’s Venue of the Year - Newquay Zoo


The team at Cornwall’s popular attraction has taken great steps to try to ensure that the zoo is accessible to all by introducing a Changing Places toilet. Importantly, they are also open to feedback on how the services can be further improved.

“Newquay Zoo’s new Changing Places toilet is a facility that we’re all very proud of.  We want to keep improving on what we do for guests.  We want everyone to feel not only that they’re welcome, but that they’re expected.”

–Phil Knowling

Spokesperson, Newquay Zoo 

Midlands’ Venue of the Year - Cadbury World


Cadbury World stood out thanks to its fantastic staff.  The venue has good accessibility with its own Changing Places toilet.

Gerrard Baldwin, General Manager at Cadbury World, said: “We strive to offer an inclusive experience for everybody and want to create lasting memories of a wonderful day out for all of our visitors.  Our aim is to be as inclusive as possible.”


Northern England Venue of the Year - Beamish, the living museum of the north


The open air museum in County Durham lets people travel back in time while still making an effort to ensure the experience is as accessible as possible.  Many of the staff are Dementia Friends, the site has free wheelchair hire, an accessible bus, a Changing Places toilet and an induction loop system.


Southern Scotland’s Venue of the Year - Holyrood Distillery


The venue has clearly been designed with accessibility in mind. There is a spacious lift which ensures everyone will be able to participate in the full experience. The staff make it memorable with their warm welcome and ability to adapt.

Debs Newman, Visitor Experience Director at Holyrood Distillery said:

“From initial conception, it was always a priority to ensure that what we do at the distillery, both in production and experience, can be enjoyed by as many people as possible - taking them on an interactive and immersive journey into flavour and the science and enjoyment of Scottish gin and scotch malt whisky.

“We welcome family groups, offer fully guided tours in a variety of languages, and are as physically accessible as possible. We are looking forward to introducing BSL experiences and making other enhancements to access as we continue to develop.”


Northern Scotland’s Venue of the Year - Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre


The site provides step free access, audio guides and knowledgeable staff.  It provides access to all, regardless of their budgets with the paid-for experience separate to the battlefield and visitor centre amenities.


Wales’ Venue of the Year - Folly Farm


For the second year in a row Folly Farm has been named Wales’ Venue of the Year by Euan’s Guide.  The attraction has not only installed a Changing Places facility but they have two rides, their Big Wheel and Land Train, which can accommodate a wheelchair user.


Northern Ireland’s Venue of the Year - George Best Belfast City Airport


Belfast City Airport has implemented several changes to make the airport more accessible. It was the first UK airport to install a Changing Places toilet and the first to recognise JAM (Just A Minute) cards from the NOW Group.  It continues to look for ways to improve with help from its Airport Accessibility Forum.

Bill Doole, Duty Manager at Belfast City Airport, said:

“It is important that our passengers, regardless of ability, feel welcome and comfortable when travelling through our airport. We retained our ‘Very Good’ rating for our accessibility services in 2019, the highest recognition available from the CAA, and our staff are specially trained to provide the best quality of service to meet the needs of any individual."

“As a leading business, we aim to enrich the local community and consider comfort and convenience a top priority for all those who travel through Belfast City Airport."

–Bill Doole

Duty Manager, Belfast City Airport

Picture: Northern Scotland’s Venue of the Year - Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre.

Article written by Brian Shillibeer | Published 17 March 2020


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