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Stories | 01 May 2024

How we work: Accessibility

How we work: Accessibility
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Accessibility is embedded in our vision, our activities, our programmes and our company structure. We are committed to the highest standards in this and strive to be a leader for other organisations in the arts and cultural sector.

Our Universal Accessibility Policy (PDF version) provides a framework of broad areas that we focus on to develop our working methods, focus and delivery. At the moment we are working within this framework to continue to develop our buildings and the Culture Company as a whole to make them as accessible for as wide a range of people as possible. Our Policy has 10 areas of commitment, which are set out here with examples of the work we are doing in each of these areas:

We are committed to Universal Design and Accessibility as part of all Cultural Initiatives.

We aim to make everything easily accessible - how we use language, how we write scripts, how we plan events, the signage we use, the design of our websites and more.

For example, our social media videos are subtitled and posts are optimised for those using screen readers, wherever possible. We aim to embed alt-text into the images we use across our social platforms.

A visual story for 14 Henrietta Street is available and enhanced with recommendations from a recent audit carried out by AsIAm. We are developing a sensory map of 14 Henrietta Street and a social narrative for Richmond Barracks, also supported by AsIAm. These will allow people with neurodiversities to pre-plan a visit to our buildings.

We offer Irish Sign Language tours in 14 Henrietta Street, and are developing our talks format to include ISL interpretation.

We commission Disability Access Audits to audit our building and our websites consistently. We use up-to-date expert advice to improve accessibility across our offerings.

We actively seek peer advice to always improve our offer, and to ensure we are looking at everything from all sides in case we forgot something ourselves.

We act on expert advice, for example, sensory kits are available in 14 Henrietta Street and Richmond Barracks on the advice of AsIAm. Safety decals have been added to all of the glass doors and large windows for the safety of those who are partially sighted.

We are currently in the process of obtaining AsIAm and JAM card accreditations for both Richmond Barracks and 14 Henrietta Street.

Staff training is essential in helping the Culture Company to continue to grow, including ensuring accessibility and staff engagement and staff retention. We constantly upskill in areas related to access and inclusion, such as understanding and supporting neurodiversity and the use of Plain English, guided by NALA, the National Adult Literacy Agency. We continue to develop our staff skills, knowledge and experience of working with us.

We aim to attract a widely diverse workforce to allow the company to flourish. Some implementation steps are simple to apply, such as providing our hiring questions to candidates before the interviews so they can prepare, and inviting them to let us know about any reasonable accommodations that might help them to perform at their best during t interview. Both of these adjustments came as a result of what was learned at a Public Affairs Ireland (PAI) Supporting Neurodiversity in the Workplace training that some of the team attended.

While we recognise that other steps will require time and resources for us to apply them, we endeavour to be up-to-date with best practice.

Our Human Resources policies follow best practice and are designed to attract and retain a workforce as diverse as the communities we serve. We make any reasonable accommodations needed to attain this goal beginning with the recruitment process. We aim to retain these staff once they join the Culture Company by providing them with the support that they need to do their best work and develop their skills. We are committed to making adjustments to working methods to help all staff perform at their best', and to ensure that managers have the training and resources to support this.

The Culture Company continues to focus on collecting feedback and involving people with disabilities to identify their universal design and accessibility needs in the creation, planning, delivery and evaluation of cultural initiatives in Dublin City.

All of our feedback forms have questions regarding accessibility and access to our services and buildings in order to gather information from as wide a range of people as possible. Annually we engage a mystery shopper to visit our sites and feed back to us on anything that seems complicated, or non-straightforward so we can work to improve our information access, content and physical accessibility to ensure that our customer service is at a high level.

To date, feedback on the accessibility of our buildings, programmes and events has been positive. In the Sunday Times disability rights activist Louise Bruton reported 14 Henrietta Street implements “inclusivity and accessibility so impressively that it should be used as an example by all other cultural institutions”.

When the opportunity arises, we co-create with groups to make projects and programmes together. For example, we invited a group of people from Vision Ireland (formerly NCBI) to take part in our National Neighbourhood programme. We collaborated closely to co-design the workshops to suit the needs and interests of the group, and we engaged Emilie Conway (an artist with visual impairment) to lead the creative process.

All information published by the Culture Company is universally designed and accessible to all people. We regularly review and redevelop our websites, printed materials and all other documentation, both public and internal, to ensure this remains the case. We updated our company style guide to include learnings from training from NALA’s Plain English workshops regarding language, format and design.

Evidence of a commitment to inclusion and accessibility is one of the criteria by which we assess potential suppliers when we procure Goods and Services and we work hard to demonstrate to them how important a commitment this is to us.

The Culture Company aims to ensure that our services and public buildings are fully accessible. We are constantly striving to improve our facilities and services. Both 14 Henrietta Street and Richmond Barracks are Part M compliant with some limited physical access to the staff areas of the buildings. With protected historical buildings, there are challenges in improving physical access to some areas but we are committed to finding ways to overcome or work around these issues, for example by providing ground floor work spaces at Richmond Barracks if needed.

We ensure that the Health and Safety needs of all visitors, volunteers, contractors and staff including people with disabilities are catered for in emergency situations. Individualised safety statements are created for any member of staff that may require one. We have emergency call points throughout both buildings and 14 Henrietta Street is equipped with an evacuation chair and staff are trained in its use.

With our Tours, Meetings, Seminars and Events within the Community, whether they are walking tours, events in other spaces or in our spaces, or in partner buildings, we ensure that accessibility is on the planning agenda, with information about access readily available.

Two exhibitions, Counterpunch and The Archive Within Us, had accessibility and inclusion at the heart of their planning from the selection of the exhibition venue through to the post-visit feedback collections.

Both exhibitions were specifically designed to allow sufficient space for wheelchair users as well as placing artworks at an accessible height. They included quiet spaces and labelling, signage and booklets that followed Plain English guidelines. The Archive Within Us included an audio-described version of the tour and an interactive room which was originally designed to be digital, but was adapted to analogue to ensure access for all. The exhibitions were assessed for the success of their accessibility measures with feedback feeding into future exhibition design.

Our Culture Connects and Cultural Spaces programmes are two examples of the way in which our buildings are used as accessible spaces for the wider community. The accessibility of our buildings and the Culture Company’s open and inclusive approach is often a key factor in organisations' choice of our spaces as the venue for their events.

For example, recently two festivals, Eat the Streets and Neuroconvergence, choose Richmond Barracks as their venue because of its physical accessibility, good transport links and garden space. Similarly, our Culture Connects Programme designs its workshops so that all ages, interests, ability levels and needs are catered for. A number of local groups with specific needs have participated in the programme as a result and have even built their own events around our facilities, such as the community garden.