Maximizing access is one of the stated mission objectives of Dorking Museum & Heritage Centre (‘the Museum’). The Museum’s access policy seeks to ensure that there are no physical, cultural, social, financial, intellectual, psychological or emotional barriers to prevent visitors from enjoying and benefiting from the facilities and services provided by the Museum. Our aim is to achieve the optimum level of access to the Museum’s collections, and to enable the widest possible spectrum of people from all sections of the community to enjoy use of the Museum’s public facilities and to participate in its activities.
Our policy is to build accessibility into everything that we do to develop and improve the Museum.
- Physical accessibility – the ability of people with physical disabilities to reach and appreciate every part of the Museum.
- The needs of the elderly and of people caring for young children are considered as physical access issues.
- Sensory accessibility – whether those with impaired vision or hearing can enjoy and appreciate the Museum’s building, exhibitions and collection and participate in its activities.
- Intellectual access – whether people with special learning needs can engage with and enjoy the Museum and its exhibitions and activities.
- Cultural access – the needs of people for whom English is an additional language, or whose background knowledge of English history and culture may be limited. This includes the foreign visitors to Dorking who come to the Museum.
- Emotional and attitudinal access – whether the Museum environment and the Museum staff and volunteers are welcoming to our entire audience and participants from all sections of the community.
The Museum’s admission charges are maintained at an affordable level with discounted entry for pensioners and children. The Museum opens for free several times a year (on gala night/day, Heritage Open Days and other occasions) to enable those who cannot otherwise afford to visit an opportunity to do so. The Museum endeavours to make as many activities as possible free to users, including all family activities. Charges for walks, gallery talks and cave tours are maintained at affordable rates and the Museum does not charge booking fees. Free guided walks and cave tours are offered at Heritage Open Days. The Museum shop always stocks a range of low-cost souvenirs.
The Museum is open on two weekdays and on Saturdays, and the opening times are reviewed annually with a view to increasing the number of visitors. In addition to published opening hours, the Museum is opened, by appointment, for group visits (and individual visits in respect of the archives), and on special occasions. Cave tours, gallery talks and guided walks are offered on a pre-bookable scheduled basis for individuals and can be arranged for groups.
The Museum has no public parking but parking for disabled visitors can be arranged with notice. The entrance and exhibition area are fully wheelchair and mobility scooter accessible, as is the WC. The archives on the first floor are not wheelchair accessible but arrangements can be made to allow anyone who cannot access the archives to study material in the main gallery.
Seating is provided in all areas to enable visitors who cannot stand to enjoy the exhibitions and the text and photographs of all exhibitions is made available on the Museum website for those who cannot visit the Museum. Guided walks are tailored to the physical capabilities of participants. An all-terrain wheelchair-accessible route has been established on the Deepdene Trail and Museum guides offer tailored walks for those with disabilities and their carers.
The permanent exhibition has been designed with elements of touch, sound and smell for the enjoyment of all visitors. Exhibition panels and labels are designed in fonts and in font sizes that are recommended as being clear to those with reading and visual difficulties. The full text of the Museum’s permanent exhibition panels is available in large print format at the front desk. The Museum team regularly takes part in recorded interviews about the Museum’s collections, temporary exhibitions and activities for the local Talking Newspaper. Volunteer staff ensure that those with hearing difficulties are guaranteed seats at the front of gallery talks, if notified in advance. Where parties of non-English speaking visitors are expected, efforts are made to have volunteers available who can speak the relevant language. In order to assist visitors whose language is not English the Museum is working towards translating panel text into major European languages.
In planning temporary exhibitions the Museum team strives to widen audiences to those social and intellectual demographics that do not normally form part of Museum audiences. Interpretive text and labels are written in a format and using language that can be readily understood by those without previous knowledge or advanced language skills.
Baby changing facilities are offered to facilitate visits by those with young children and a regular programme of family activities is offered, as well as youth group visits. An education/youth outreach team works with schools and youth groups to increase access and participation by young people in structured visits. Loan boxes are also available, tailored to the National Curriculum, for schools. Walks and cave tours are open to children as well as adults. Volunteers of every age are encouraged, and where possible the Museum offers volunteering experience to young people and work experience to students in University vacations.
The Museum works with local organizations and charities which support the elderly and those living with dementia to allow their clients to visit the Museum or for members of the Museum team to visit them with artefacts to enable them to interact with the Museum’s collections. The Museum also runs an oral history/reminiscence team which enables elderly residents to contribute their memories to Museum collections.
The Museum is committed to maximizing access and the design of publicity material aims for an easily understood, cross generational appeal. Analysis is undertaken of the Museum’s audiences via data collected through the Visitor Verdict scheme and an in-house visitor survey. Target audiences are identified for the Museum’s exhibitions, activities, membership, and volunteering opportunities.
The training of new volunteers includes the need to assist access to the Museum and its activities. Compliance with this policy is subject to periodic review by the Museum’s executive Committee and by its Trustees.
Adopted by the Committee of Dorking Museum & Heritage Centre on:
12th March 2019
Approved by the Trustees of the Dorking Society on:
13th May 2019
Date for review: March 2022