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Advocates Angered That Museum Ignored Access Suggestions
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
January 10, 2005

SWANSEA, WALES--Two years ago, officials constructing the new National Waterfront Museum asked members of disability groups to meet with them monthly and give suggestions on how to make the £30 million ($56 million US) facility accessible.

"When we were asked more than two years ago for our input, we were very optimistic," Frank Allen, chairman of the Llanelli Disabled Access Group, told the BBC.

But after a visit last week, members of the groups came away upset that most of their suggestions were simply ignored.

They then voted unanimously not to endorse the project.

"It was a sickening experience to go around it -- one woman went home crying," Allen said of the visit. "We had given up our time and paid our own expenses."

In spite of the input from the groups, museum officials had the cafe tables designed with the chairs fixed to them, so that patrons with wheelchairs could not sit at them. Allan said that the self-service counter was built too high for him to reach across from his wheelchair. The restrooms are too narrow for wheelchair users to transfer to the toilet, he said.

Even the main entrance to the museum is not accessible, forcing visitors with some disabilities to enter through a separate door.

"Disabled people should be able to enter through the same door as their friends and relatives," Allen said.

The museum responded to the criticisms by issuing a press statement in which they acknowledged the groups had "some valid issues". The complaints are well-timed, it said, in that it gives the museum several months to correct the problems before it opens to the public this summer.

"Disabled groups' fury at access" (BBC News)


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