Disability Equality Scheme
DISABILITY EQUALITY SCHEME (REVISED 30th APRIL 2009)
1. Sir John Soane’s Museum
The architect Sir John Soane’s house at No. 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields has been a public museum since the early 19th century.
Soane demolished and rebuilt three houses on the north side of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, beginning with No. 12 between 1792 and 1794, moving on to No. 13, re-built in two phases in 1807-9 and 1812, and concluding with No. 14, rebuilt in 1823-24. Throughout the period he also made continuous alterations, adding more objects to his arrangements and seeking always to enhance the poetic effects and picturesque qualities of the architectural setting.
On his appointment as Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy in 1806, Soane ‘began to arrange the Books, casts and models in order that the students might have the benefit of easy access to them’ and proposed opening his house for the use of the Royal Academy students the day before and the day after each of his lectures. By 1827, when John Britton published the first description of the Museum, Soane’s collection was being referred to as an ‘Academy of Architecture’. In 1833 Soane negotiated an Act of Parliament to settle and preserve the house and collection for the benefit of ‘amateurs and students’ in architecture, painting and sculpture. On his death in 1837 the Act came into force, vesting the Museum in a board of Trustees who were to continue to uphold Soane’s own aims and objectives (see below). A crucial part of their brief was to maintain the fabric of the Museum, keeping it ‘as nearly as circumstances will admit’ in the state in which it was left at the time of Soane’s death in 1837 and to allow free access for students and the public to ‘consult, inspect and benefit’ from the collections.
The Aims and Objectives of the Museum
The aims of the Trustees today embody Soane’s general aims as defined in the 1833 Act and in the 1969 Order which superseded it.
The principal aim of the Trustees is to maintain the integrity of Soane’s vision for the Museum while extending this, where appropriate, so that the Museum can play an increasing role in the education and recreational life of the country.
The Trustees’ main objectives are as follows:
1. To maintain and improve the conservation and maintenance of our Grade I listed buildings and works of art so that they will be accessible to present and future generations. Soane’s 1833 Act stipulated that his house and museum (No. 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields) should be kept ‘as nearly as circumstances will admit’ as it was in 1837. The Trustees’ strategy must be to maintain the historic fabric of the three Soane houses in our care, Nos 12, 13 and 14 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and to restore objects and interiors to their Soane positions and appearance where this is possible.
2. To allow the public free access to the Museum and to introduce first-time visitors to the architecture, works of art and collections of the Museum and make these comprehensible and accessible.
3. To inspire creativity by means of an imaginative programme of exhibitions, talks and events (including those on contemporary architecture, art and design), so that the Soane remains a ‘living’ museum.
4. To provide opportunities for education and life-long learning in Architecture and the history of art in their broadest sense following Soane’s intention to develop his House and Museum as ‘an academy for the Study of Architecture’.
5. To enable the public to acquire a deeper knowledge of the Museum’s collections of architectural drawings, books, models and works of art by means of exhibitions, catalogues and publications and through an increased use of information technology.
6. To manage the Museum’s financial and administrative affairs effectively.
No 14 Lincoln’s Inn Fields
In 1996 the Museum purchased the next door house, No 14, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and gained possession of the building in 2003. It restored the house in 2007-8 as an annexe of the Museum, containing educational facilities for children and adults, two floors dedicated to the Museum’s Research Library and staff offices.
2. The Disability Equality Duty (DES)
The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 means that, from December 2006, all public bodies will have a duty to promote disability equality. It aims to change the way our laws work in this area, from responding to individual disabled people making a complaint, to expecting the public sector to be positive in removing barriers.
The Act sets out what is known as the ‘general duty’, and that public authorities must, in carrying out their functions, have due regard to:
(i) Promote equality of opportunity between disabled persons and other persons.
(ii) Eliminate discrimination that is unlawful under the Act.
(iii) Eliminate harassment of disabled persons that is related to their disabilities.
(iv) Promote positive attitudes towards disabled persons.
(v) Encourage participation by disabled persons in public life.
(vi) Take steps to take account of disabled person’s disabilities, even where that involves treating disabled persons more favourably than other persons. If a public authority does not comply with the general duty, its actions, or failure to act, can be challenged by means of a claim to the High Court for judicial review. A claim for judicial review could be made by a person or group of people with an interest in the matter, or by the Disability Rights Commission. In addition to the general duty a public body such as the Museum must, as a special duty, produce a DES to set out a framework to assist in meeting the general duty.
The Museum must therefore:
1. publish a DES with a DES Action Plan; The DES and DES Action Plan are, and will continue to be, published on the Museum’s website
2. involve disabled people in producing the DES and Action Plan; The Museum has involved disabled people through its consultations in preparing the Disability Action Plan (see below); through review by a disabled Trustee; and putting a person with disability in the lead for its OUTS project. The Museum plans to institute a Disability Group with membership drawn from Trustees, staff, fee-paid consultants, Patrons and other sources to continue this involvement.
3. demonstrate that it has taken actions in the DES and achieved appropriate outcomes; The Museum gathers information from visitors about disability and reviews visitor book comments relating to disability. The Museum will record its actions in OUTS through project management records. The Museum plans to evaluate the impact of OUTS on people with disabilities as part of its general formative and summative evaluation of the project.
4. report on progress and review and revise the DES.
There will be a report on progress in the Museum’s Annual Report and the Museum will review and revise the DES and Action Plan at least once every three years. Specific goals will be assessed in line with the recommendations of the Disabled Access Audit 2006, and subsequent studies and consultations, as well as a review of visitor comments.
The definition of disability is that used in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, and applies to a wide range of disabilities (from people with Alzheimer’s and arthritis, to those with learning disabilities, diabetes, cancer, asthma, etc).
Government figures estimate that in the United Kingdom there are approximately 11 million people (15% of the population) who may be considered disabled. A majority of this figure, 75%, are of pensionable age. At least one in four people in the UK have a disability or are close to someone who is disabled. By 2020 one-third of the population may fall into this group.
Disabled people are amongst the poorest people in society. Only 50% of disabled people of working age are in employment, compared to 87% of non-disabled people of working age.
3. The Soane Disability Equality Scheme (DES) and DES Action Plan
It is essential that the Museum considers the impact of its decisions on the full range of disabled people.
The purpose of the Soane Disability Equality Scheme and the related Disability Action Plan (see below), is to help Sir John Soane’s Museum achieve equality in employment, service provision, access to premises and education. The Scheme will set out our overall objectives for improving and addressing disability inequalities, and our plans to deliver improvements to access and services. It will help us achieve a number of goals.
(i) Focus upon and meet our requirements under the DDA, setting out our plans to improve disability access to employment and services.
(ii) Make sure that we take the needs and views of disabled people into account when we design or deliver services, make access improvements, or develop policies.
(iii) Continuously measure, monitor and improve ways in which we deliver services to disabled people.
(iv) Build a positive and disability-confident culture, with a common understanding and approach through which we can integrate disability issues into everyday work.
(v) Learn what works well on disability equality and what does not, and create ways for sharing this knowledge with our partners.
This document aims to show how, through changing attitudes, the development of partnerships, and increased expertise, the Museum can be proactive in recognising and removing the barriers which disabled people face in accessing the Museum and its collections.
The Museum’s strategy is threefold;
(i) Access: To offer the widest and most appropriate forms of access to the Museum and its collections, its expertise, facilities and services, whilst respecting its historic fabric and context. Actively working to overcome physical, sensory, intellectual, cultural, attitudinal, and financial barriers which may prevent this.
(ii) Inclusion: To work in partnership with others to help tackle social inequality, discrimination and disadvantage; empowering communities, improving the quality of people’s lives, contributing to social cohesion, and acting as a catalyst for cultural and social change.
(iii) Diversity: To embrace and reflect diversity, harnessing the potential of all stakeholders (staff, volunteers, existing and potential audiences, key partners) in the development of a truly inclusive Museum which inspires, promotes learning, creativity and participation.
4. Current Provision
The Soane Museum recognises the importance of promoting disability equality.
The Museum currently occupies three adjacent Grade I listed historic buildings on a very constrained urban site in the heart of the West End of London. The buildings and their contents are of the highest cultural value, and any alteration or modification of the historic fabric - for whatever reason - has to be carefully justified, planned and implemented. Current accessibility for disabled people to these buildings - which is very limited - is set out in the document, Access for People with Disabilities, which is posted on the Soane Museum website, and is available on request in other media.
Museum staff are aware of current limitations on physical access into the building. To address this staff offer assistance on site (without compromise to dignity or safety, such as storage of wheelchairs that cannot be used inside) and the Museum provides a variety of auxiliary aids and alternative formats for disabled visitors:
- Two specially made narrow wheelchairs are provided for use within the museum to negotiate narrow level routes.
- Where corridors and routes are narrow they are kept clear of fittings or furniture.
- The total number of any visitors to the Museum is restricted at any one time (due its limited physical capacity)
- Assistance dogs are welcomed.
- Staff offer to facilitate visits for visually impaired visitors and touch tours can be pre-booked
- Large print information is available on the Museum and temporary exhibitions
- Braille editions of the Short Description of the Museum and the New Description of the Museum are available.
- MP3 or Ipod downloads with standard and children’s tours, recently launched, can be downloaded from the Museum website.
- Options for fire alert (such as pagers as alternatives to audio alarms) have been investigated for deaf visitors and visitors with hearing loss. The decision was taken to implement visual alarms in WCs and staff-managed evacuation with a sweep check through the building.
- Hearing enhancement is installed in No. 14 for education and a portable loop system is being investigated
Information on the Museum website gives comprehensive guidance on the access facilities and services available to visitors.
The low lighting levels in many parts of the Museum are part of its historic character. Additional lighting in the form of torches or additional overhead illumination can often be provided on request.
As a service provider, the Soane Museum must strive to provide equal access to disabled people by being proactive in making reasonable adjustments to services and premises. Guidance is set out in a Code of Practice - Rights of Access to Goods, Facilities, and Services and Premises - published by the Disability Rights Commission. The following changes have been made so far:
(i) Fire Pagers - available to visitors with a hearing impairment
(ii) Access guidance on the website - gives comprehensive guidance on the facilities and services available to visitors.
(iii) Large print information on the Museum and temporary exhibitions.
(iv) A Braille edition of the Short Description of the Museum.
(v) A Braille edition of the New Description of the Museum.
The Disability Discrimination Act, Part IV, gives disabled people rights to equal provision to education and facilities. We commissioned James Willis to address the provision of courses for disabled people and those with special learning needs in his report on Adult Education at the Soane Museum. Induction loop systems were provided in the Education facilities in No. 14, Lincoln’s Inn Fields. The Museum pro-actively takes many of its educational programmes - particularly those for Children and Families which explore architectural concepts - out of the Museum as part of an outreach programme.
The Museum currently has two audio guides and tours of the Museum, downloadable for free from our website onto personal Ipod and MP3 players. Two more tours are in preparation. This project has been sponsored by the Band Trust.
A tour of objects that may be touched has been devised and can be provided on request for blind or partially sighted visitors.
The low lighting levels in many parts of the Museum are part of its historic character. Additional lighting in the form of torches or additional overhead illumination can often be provided on request.
In relation to employees The Disability Discrimination Act gives disabled people rights in all areas of employment. At present the Soane Museum has no registered disabled employees, and no employees who consider themselves disabled.
The Museums Libraries and Archive Council (MLA) states that the greatest barrier to services for disabled people is that of staff attitudes. A pro-active approach is required from staff at all levels and in all areas to promote equality and inclusion.
The Soane Museum recognises that staff training is key to increasing awareness on disability and achieving improvements in service delivery. The Museum has begun a programme of training programmes including disability, access awareness and deaf awareness for all staff, especially Front of House staff.
Sir John Soane’s Museum has an Equal Opportunities Policy summarised below which sets out a commitment to being a responsible employer of staff and prospective staff.
Equal Opportunities Policy Summary
The Museum is an equal opportunities employer. We are committed to ensuring that within the framework of the law the Museum’s workplaces are free from unlawful discrimination on grounds of race, ethnic or national origin, gender (including gender reassignment), marital status, sexual orientation, age, religion or belief, or disability.
The Museum aims to ensure that members of staff achieve their full potential and all employment decisions are taken without reference to irrelevant or discriminatory criteria.
”Recruitment and employment decisions will be made on the basis of fair and objective criteria. The Museum’s selection procedures are reviewed from time to time to ensure that they are appropriate for achieving our objectives and for avoiding unlawful discrimination.
” The requirements of job applicants and existing members of staff who have or have had a disability will be reviewed to ensure that, where possible, whatever reasonable adjustments can be made, are made to enable them to enter into or to remain in employment with the Museum. Promotion opportunities, benefits and facilities of employment will not be unreasonably limited and every reasonable effort will be made to ensure that disabled staff can participate fully in the workplace.
” Person and job specifications will be limited to those requirements which are necessary for the effective performance of the job. Interviews will be conducted on an objective basis and personal or home commitments will not form the basis of employment decisions except where necessary. ” Appropriate training will be provided to enable staff to implement and uphold our commitment to equality of opportunity.
” Working patterns may be reviewed so as to enable us to offer flexible working to staff subject to the operational needs of the Museum. Where necessary and practicable special provision will be made for training for staff returning to work following a break for domestic reasons.
” All members of staff have a right of equality of opportunity and a duty to implement this policy. Breach of the equal opportunity policy is potentially a serious disciplinary matter. Anyone who believes that he or she may have been disadvantaged on discriminatory grounds is entitled to raise the matter through the grievance procedure.
5. Future provision: the DES Action Plan
Using the Soane Disability Equality Scheme, the Museum will strive to meet its obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act 2005. In recent years the Museum has consulted with individuals and organisations on making the Museum accessible to disabled people. Guidance was also gained from the Disability Framework published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and the Disability Portfolios published by the MLA.
In accordance with these guidelines, the Museum has set up an internal Access Group.
Its members are:
- The Director
- The Deputy Director and Inspectress
- The House and Visitor Services Manager
- The Education Manager
- The Head Warder
DES Action Plan
The Plan is divided into two sections.
DES Plan Section 1: Opening up the Soane
The Opening up the Soane project (OUTS) , is a phased programme of refurbishment and restoration works that seeks to enable the Museum to make the best use of the three buildings that now comprise it. As well as restoring yet more of Soane’s extraordinary house-museum, one of the main objectives of OUTS is to improve visitor facilities and welcome, particularly disabled access to the Museum.
To this end a complete Disability Access Audit, covering all three buildings, has been carried out to determine how improved disabled access can be achieved without damage to the historical fabric and special atmosphere of the buildings. A copy of the final report by David Bonnett Associates will be posted on the Museum’s website as an appendix to this document. This work was generously funded by Fidelity Foundation UK.
Taking this forward in February 2008, the Museum produced a Disability Action Plan (AP) drafted by Cassie Hershel-Shorland with David Bonnet Associates. This work was funded by a Heritage Lottery Fund Project Planning Grant.
The Access Plan takes an overall view of the Museum, including buildings, interiors and collections. It has been developed to fulfil a central aim of the OUTS Project - to improve access for visitors in ways that are reasonable given the historic importance of the building fabric and collection arrangements. It is recognised that this is to be achieved without disturbing all that is unique about the Museum and the special qualities that draw visitors to the institution.
The AP addresses access and inclusion for all visitors to existing and proposed new public areas, facilities or programmes.
” the Museum’s policies, practices and procedures which may restrict or improve access ” physical, sensory and intellectual barriers to access and inclusion
The Plan identifies strategies to deal with potential barriers and improve access by setting out the following:
” Policies, procedures and practices relating to access
” Review of current provision, commitment to address access and recommended actions to undertake what is reasonable
” Strategy and an informed approach for putting actions into place
” Resources to implement the Access Plan
” Organisational commitment to putting the plan into action
” Standards against which the Museum can measure outcome of actions and future improvements ” Consultation, monitoring and evaluation
OUTS creates opportunities to address barriers to access and offer a more inclusive experience at the Museum for visitors, staff and students. Inclusive design and management can effectively be a central part of the vision to increase access for all visitors to unseen parts of the house and collections and improve visitor circulation. The facilities in No 14 Lincoln’s Inn Fields are currently not accessible to many disabled users. They will, however, become so when the Opening up the Soane project is completed.
The Plan identifies inter alia the following as opportunities to make the future more inclusive of people with disabilities:
External lift: Installation of a platform (‘scissor’) lift in the forecourt of No. 12 for step-free access into the Museum and access to the basements of Nos. 12, 13 and 14.
Internal lift: Installation in the unused shaft in No. 12 to create step-free access to the upper public floors of the Museum and about 80% of all spaces within Nos. 12, 13, and 14. Both lift proposals have been explored to RIBA Stage C and require planning consents relevant to a Grade 1 listed building.
The drawing below shows the internal lift and the street access lift in schematic elevation as dark green columns.
The accessibility of the public floors to disabled people is almost complete using the lift except for the Ground and 1st floors in No. 14.
It is possible to use the Old Kitchen or Rear Kitchen in the Basement of No. 13 for seminars accessible to disabled participants as alternatives to the Ground floor Seminar Room in No. 14 and for the Rear Kitchen to be used similarly to consult library materials as an alternative to the 1st floor Library floor in No. 14. Another option is for Library materials to be made available on the 2nd floor of the Library. Finally, accessibility can be provided using a powered stairclimber to the No. 14 Seminar Room and 1st floor Library. (The Museum has conducted tests for the fire evacuation of disabled people).
In these ways, it is possible to achieve full coverage.
Inclusive interpretation: Ways for visitors to explore and experience the Museum spaces and displays such as virtual tours to be developed. This may include alternative formats and communication styles such as audio description, British Sign Language (BSL) and sub-titles, handling models and tactile information. Interpretation Strategy: A strategy for the whole Museum will take account of interpretive themes proposed in the Access Plan. This can address inclusive interpretive materials and alternative formats for:
” a new Reception area in No. 12
” a new Interpretation Room
” other interpretive opportunities such as the website, educational workshops and the new Gallery
Learning opportunities before and during the restoration work: Talks by the conservators could be BSL interpreted and audio descriptive with opportunities for touch or handling. Volunteers could include people with disabilities.
Interactive virtual tour: a virtual tour is planned to: ” provide an insight into the Museum areas where steps create a barrier
” supplement the Museum experience for all visitors
” provide an off-site experience through the website.
New website: In the context of the Education Strategy this is an opportunity to meet current accessibility standards, for example using the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) Web Content Accessibility Guidelines to meet W3C standards and initiatives for inclusive access.
Introductory film: this is planned to be shown in the Old Kitchen which will be fully accessible under OUTS.
Audience Development Plan: The audiences considered include disabled people, deaf people who use BSL, visually impaired people and people with learning difficulties and also people with mental health issues. Outreach and development should take account of this.
Training: The training plan is an opportunity to integrate access awareness, disability equality and supporting skills for staff at all levels.
The Disability Action Plan will be posted on the Museum website as an appendix to this document.
Consultation: In preparing the Disability Action Plan the Museum consulted in various ways.
The Museum has been consulting its regular visitors about possible development through its annual Visitor Intercept Survey which is designed and evaluated by external professional consultants. 4% of visitors reported having a disability. OUTS disability access improvements in the Access Plan would assist this group and enable more people with disabilities to benefit. This figure of 4% shows there is good scope for increase. In London the generally estimated figure for disabled people is 16 - 17%.
The Museum initiated consultation with disabled people in preparing the Access Plan. This began with a meeting to introduce the Museum and the OUTS Project. The meeting focussed on access improvements to be included in the Access Plan. The consultees included including a retired quantity surveyor, an actor and dancer, a BSL presenter, a deaf arts manager, several visual artists & a design graduate with deteriorating visual impairment, a person with Downs’ Syndrome, two wheelchair users and three deaf persons, the architect in attendance being a wheelchair user. All attending the first consultation were impressed by the uniqueness of the Museum and expressed the view that this should not be adversely affected in improving access.
The Access Plan draft was reviewed by a Soane Museum Trustee with disability caused by Parkinson’s Disease.
Taking forward and funding the OUTS project
The OUT project which includes the disability improvements of the Disability Action Plan critically depends on raising £6.3 million. The Museum has a fundraising plan and has raised (at March 2008) about £2 million. It has also obtained a Round 1 ‘pass’ from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Most of the development work is architectural design development to RIBA Stage D and this is 50% funded by a Heritage Lottery Fund development grant.
The Museum hopes to achieve a Round 2 pass in 2010 which would result in an HLF grant of about £850,000. The Museum has to undertake other fundraising to make OUTS possible. It is not possible to fund the OUTS project from the Museum’s government grant-in-aid and normal trading income. Subject to HLF approval and fundraising OUTS will be completed by 2012/13.
The OUTS project is being led by a development advisor with disability arising from chronic asthma.
DES Action Plan Section 2: Non-OUTS deliveries
Evidence gathering is part of the process of achieving greater equality for disabled people, treating employees, service users, and members of the community more fairly and with respect. Gathering evidence is both a specific requirement within the Disability Equality Scheme, and an indispensable prerequisite for complying with other aspects of the Duty.
This information will allow the Museum to:
(i) Assess performance.
(ii) Carry out effective impact assessments.
(iii) Identify barriers to good performance and actions for improvement, review progress and adjust actions as appropriate.
(iv) Set targets for improving outcomes.
(v) Benchmark against other comparable historic house-museums. General: The Museum plans to ask visitors about specific disabilities in the 2009/10 and subsequent annual Visitor Intercept Surveys.
Impact Assessments are an essential tool for achieving disability equality the Museum will assess the impact and potential impact of policies on disabled people, as well as benefits to those at whom a policy or practice is aimed. Advice and guidance on how best to conduct an Impact Assessment will be taken from the Disability Rights Commission.
Employment: the Museum will check annually for self-declared and registered disability among its staff.
Training: the Museum intends to continue disability-related training in line with its Training and Development Plan.
Education: We should also explore the provision of talks and workshops which are accessible to those with a hearing or visual impairment.
Procurement: the Museum should integrate DES aspirations into everyday procurement of goods and services.
Resources: Making the Museum accessible in all aspects of employment and service provision has obvious financial implications. However, careful planning and incorporating access solutions into the initial planning stage of any project will enable the Museum to minimise extra expenditure. That said, extra finance will be needed to attain most of the required goals. Such extra funding lies outside the Museum’s control and rests with government and private funders.
Further consultation: the Museum has made a commitment in the Disability Equality Scheme to continue consultation with disabled people in both the Masterplan and future actions.
Using DCMS guidance the Museum has set up an internal Access Group of staff to improve accessibility. As noted above plans are also in hand to appoint an independent Disability Group of disabled people with membership drawn from Trustees, staff, fee-paid consultants, Patrons and other sources to evaluate ‘policies, services and practices’. Representatives from professional access bodies such as the RNIB, Age Concern will also be consulted.
Review: there will be a report on progress in the Museum’s Annual Report and the Museum will review and revise the DES Action Plan at least once every three years. Specific goals will be assessed in line with the recommendations of the Disabled Access Audit 2006 and subsequent studies and consultations as well as reviewing visitor book comments.
Disability Access Audit - to be posted on this website shortly
Opening Up The Soane Disability Action Plan - to be posted on this website shortly
(Certain material will be excluded from the Appendices in the interests of Museum security)