In November 2002, I was appointed as Disability And Access Officer at the Victoria & Albert Museum. This was a new area of work, as my previous experience was providing a consultancy service to the Royal National Institute of the Blind and several property service companies. The role is varied, dealing with all aspects of the Museum’s work, including developing policies and strategy, design of galleries, staff training, and managing talks programmes.
I have had extensive input into the Sackler Centre, beginning in 2003, as a representative of the Project Team. My role is now as a consultant, providing advice on disability issues as they arise and ensuring that access for disabled visitors remains a major priority.
Achieving independent access for everyone to the whole of the Sackler Centre has been an overriding consideration in how the V&A wishes the Centre to be used and formed an important part of our original brief to the architects. The site is an existing building rather than a new one and they had to find solutions to a number of problems. One example of the many access issues to be considered was to provide a link between several different floor levels and the upper floor. As this level will house the new auditorium, seminar rooms and two studios for artists in residence, it is very important that everyone can access these. Softroom have solved this by installing a ramp on this level instead of a platform lift. Providing ramped access, which exceeds guidance given in Building Regulations Part M, will assist visitors to not only access the entire Centre, but also evacuate without staff assistance in the event of an emergency.