We believe that everyone should be able to experience the wonder of natural history and urban nature. That’s why accessibility and inclusivity have been at the core of the Urban Nature Project’s design from the start. Here, Harriet Fink (Learning and Volunteering Programme Manager), who co-chairs the Museum’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Action group, talks about how we’ve incorporated accessibility into our designs.
This week we’re excited to share that work has begun to make access to our gardens step-free. The cumbersome steps that lead out of the TfL tunnel near our Exhibition Road entrance are being removed and replaced with a wide ramp, to make entering the gardens smooth and easy.
The Urban Nature Project gives us a unique opportunity to transform our five-acre site in South Kensington into a welcoming, engaging, accessible and biologically diverse green space in the heart of London. These exciting new spaces will: tell the story of how life evolved on earth; give opportunities for people to explore nature; and will be used as living laboratories. The spaces and experiences are being designed to be enjoyed by all and to accommodate as wide range of people’s needs as possible. The plans for our new gardens, and the activities that will take place in them, have been developed in consultation with a number of access specialist organisations and disabled individuals who shared their expertise and experience to enable our gardens to be as welcoming as possible for everyone.
The ramp that will replace these steps, and which will in itself form part of an amazing new geological feature, is the first of many design aspects that will enhance access to our new gardens, there will also be:
- step-free access from the street to our gardens for the first time
- pathways wide enough for two wheelchair users to pass comfortably
- raised ponds so wheelchair users can freely join our pond-dipping learning activities
- state of the art ‘changing places’ accessible toilet facilities in our new Learning and Activity Centre
- steps replaced by gentle slopes
- benches and stopping places across our gardens
We’re taking a sensory approach to planting and interpretation – our new outdoor galleries will be designed to be touched, smelled and heard, as well as seen in all their glory. Interpretation will include tactile maps, audio descriptive guides and acoustic audio posts which will play the sounds of the environment captured through our scientific acoustic monitoring. Calm and contemplative spaces will also be created within our gardens for those that need a more restful space. Accessibility has been central to the plans and as a bonus we believe it will create a richer, more enjoyable experience, for everyone visiting our gardens, this week’s removal of the steps from the TfL tunnel marks an exciting first step in this vision becoming reality.