Almost 20% of UK heritage sites have made ‘no improvement’ in online access information since 2018, survey finds


Almost a fifth of UK museums and heritage sites have not updated their websites in the last four years to include accessibility information, a new report from charities has revealed. People with Disabilities.

The report on access to heritage – produced by VocalEyes, Stagetext, Autism in Museums and the Center for Accessible Environments – saw more than 2,250 establishments across the country provide information on the access measures they have in place for visitors with disabilities.

Although the number of sites providing information on hearing loops has increased by 11% since 2018, the report also revealed that only 7% provide captioning of audiovisual material, with only 5% offering transcriptions.

Meanwhile, British Sign Language (BSL) tours only increased by 3% to 4%.

Melanie Sharpe, Managing Director of Stagetext, said: “While many sites advocate for the inclusion of all communities, this is not visible on their websites and significant work remains to be done to make inclusion a reality.

“We recognize that many places have suffered significantly during the pandemic and ongoing turbulence, including a loss of access expertise. However, commitment and action must now be restored.

“For example, 53% of videos reviewed for this year’s survey had no captions, making more than half of heritage and museum video content inaccessible to deaf visitors.

“This survey was carried out in collaboration with three other access organisations, all of which are there to support, guide and share knowledge with the heritage sector. We are all here to help.

Joanna Wood, President of VocalEyes, added: “Heritage Access 2022 is a real-time measure of the accessibility of the sector: progress in some areas, but far from equality. It provides a comprehensive guide to the barriers that exclude D/Deaf, disabled and neurodivergent visitors and the solutions to overcome them.

“But above all, the D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent who formed the majority of digital volunteers at the origin of the report show the sector they miss when the heritage is inaccessible: no access, no visit. Let’s change that.

The launch of the report also coincides with the release of a new “Reference Tool”, where visitors to the VocalEyes website can see a map with details of how each individual site obtained access information.

Lizzie Glithero-West, Managing Director of The Heritage Alliance, said: “We were delighted to support this project and share key guidance for the sector in partnership with our member VocalEyes.

“This is an important contribution as part of our collective journey to ensure that heritage becomes more accessible to everyone in society.”

The full report and accessible versions are available on the VocalEyes website.

Photo: Access to Heritage 2022.

By Liam O’Dell. Liam is an award-winning deaf freelance journalist and campaigner from Bedfordshire. He can be found talking about disability, drama, politics and more on Twitter and on its website.

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