Access for all visitors has been dramatically improved as a result of the landmark redevelopment of Aberdeen Art Gallery – creating one of the city’s most accessible, welcoming and inspiring public buildings.
The accessibility features have been outlined as the countdown to the 2 November reopening continues.
The 130-year old Grade-A listed building and its streetscape have been re-designed to meet the needs of all visitors.
The once-in-a-lifetime project has delivered significant investment in the fabric of the building, new exhibition and collection display galleries, greatly improved visitor facilities and an enhanced public programme of events and activities.
Improvements to access include:
- Level access to the Art Gallery from Schoolhill. Recently completed public realm works have created a new accessible plaza, a wider footway and an improved setting to Aberdeen’s War Memorial.
- Level access throughout the building.
- A passenger lift to all floors. Prior to the redevelopment visitors with restricted mobility were forced to use the Gallery’s goods lift.
- Accessible toilets on all floors and a new Changing Places Toilet on the second floor. Changing Places toilets meet the needs of people with physical disabilities who often require extra equipment and space to allow them to use the toilets safely and comfortably, including a height adjustable adult-sized changing bench and a hoist system.
- Aberdeen Art Gallery has signed up to the Breastfeeding Welcome Scheme. There are baby change facilities on all floors.
- Induction hearing loops at points throughout the building including at the Welcome Desk, café servery, Cowdray Hall concert venue and in the purpose-built Learning Space. A portable hearing system is available for visitors on guided tours.
- Guide dogs, hearing dogs and other recognised assistance dogs are welcome.
- A British Sign Language (BSL) events programme begins in December 2019 and a programme of Visual Description Tours begins in 2020.
- Based on visitor research, a fresh new approach to displaying the collection has created a rich variety of experiences for visitors of all ages and abilities. Hands-on interactives, music, innovative display methods and engaging interpretive information including carefully considered font sizes and reading ages combine to create a range of experiences, moods and stories for visitors.
- Large print labels or magnifiers available throughout the Gallery.
- Interactive opportunities for visitors of all ages and abilities including objects, artworks and digital interactives that can be listened to, touched, held and sniffed.
- History sessions.
- Quiet Time throughout the Gallery on a Monday afternoon – no loud announcements, volume lowered on audio players, no group or school bookings.
- Welcome Host and Dementia-Friendly trained staff and volunteers on hand to help everyone get the most from their visit.
Councillor Marie Boulton, Aberdeen City Council’s culture spokesperson said: ‘Prior to the redevelopment project, Aberdeen Art Gallery fell short of meeting the needs of all our visitors. By dramatically improving access and visitor facilities, we now have a welcoming and inspiring public building which will exceed the expectations of all our visitors.
‘From the outset of the project it was so important to us that we created the people’s gallery, a place that will be welcoming and inspiring to all. We’re delighted with the result of the work that has been put in to accessibility and the commitment will continue when we reopen through the special events and tailored programme that has been created.’
Caroline Clark, director of the National Lottery Heritage Fund Scotland, said: ‘It is tremendously exciting to see the redevelopment of Aberdeen Art Gallery nearing completion, opening up access to its amazing collection in this beautiful building. New facilities such as a Changing Places toilet, level and lift access will transform the visitor experience for people with physical disabilities.
‘In this, the 25th year of the National Lottery, I applaud the inclusive approach the Gallery has taken. It is fantastic to see the impact that players of the National Lottery are having – supporting a world-class visitor attraction, enhancing the city’s reputation for culture and supporting jobs, tourism and economic prosperity.’
Libby Hillhouse, Training and Information Officer at North East Sensory Services (NESS), said: ‘NESS is delighted to have worked with the Art Gallery in ensuring their exhibitions are accessible for people with a sight loss, hearing loss and Deaf British Sign Language Users. The Art Gallery team have shown a commitment to making the new Art Gallery accessible and inclusive for everyone.’
The redevelopment project has received £10m from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and £14.6m from Aberdeen City Council’s Non-Housing Capital Fund. The fundraising campaign to secure the remaining £10m has raised £4.8m to date. Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums Development Trust supports fundraising for Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums. It is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation, Number SC045363.