Friday, August 08, 2008

Half of Derby museum out of bounds to disabled people after lift is switched off

DISABLED people cannot access half of Derby's Museum and Art Gallery because a stair lift has been condemned.

Derby City Council said the lift, which helps people reach the upper levels of the museum, including the Joseph Wright collection, could no longer cope with the demands on it.

The council said the weight of some of the wheelchairs now being used by disabled people had become too much for the lift.

It was turned off a week ago but the lack of access was only highlighted after John and Helen Winson, of Dovedale Avenue, Long Eaton, tried to visit the museum.

Mrs Winson, 51, uses a battery-powered wheelchair because she has two artificial legs.
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She said: "We had been to the museum before but I wanted to go again to see the changes to the Egyptian exhibition.

"I could access the ground floors and one of the lifts was working to part of the building but when we went to use the stair lift, we were told by staff that they were very sorry but the lift had been condemned by the council. I was really disappointed because I couldn't get to the exhibition I had really come to see and we just had to leave."

A spokeswoman for the council said it was looking to replace the lift with a better one.

She said: "A structural engineer will visit the museum this week because we want to replace the lift with a better platform type of lift which will be easier for people to use.

"Before installing that, we need to look at the site because it is very structural work.

"We don't know at the moment how much that could cost and how long it could take but we will get the work carried out as soon as possible."

The council said it could be around a month before disabled people would be able to access the remainder of the museum.

Martin Austin, managing director of Derby firm Nimbus, which provides advice to companies and organisations about providing access for disabled people, said health and safety had to come first.

"Derby City Council is usually proactive about access issues and I am sure they are assessing it now," he said.

"Although not having access is not ideal, health and safety has to come first and I am sure people would prefer not to be able to access part of a building for a short time rather than use equipment which could potentially be dangerous.

"The Disability Discrimination Act means the authority has to provide a replacement within a reasonable amount of time and I hope they are able to provide a new lift as soon as possible."