Recently nominated for Britain's leading arts award, The Gulbenkian Prize for museums and galleries, Banbury's stunning new museum opened in September last year. Built at a cost of £5 million, it is located alongside the Oxford Canal in the centre of the town. Accessed from the town's Castle Quay Shopping Centre, a short flight of steps leads from the Museums shop to the first gallery. The steps present an obvious barrier to the less able, and those with restricted mobility, wishing to view the many exhibits. In order to provide equal access for everybody, movemanSKG, the UK's leading supplier of platform lifts for disabled access, was asked to look at the problem and propose a suitable solution.
The museum incorporates Tooley's boatyard, a working boatyard, which was built in the 1700's and is a key part of Banbury's history. Galleries on both sides of the canal, linked by an impressive glass bridge, tell the story of the towns history from the English civil war up to the present day.
The Museum Prize, a charitable company including representatives from National Heritage, the Museums Association, the National Art Collections Fund and the Campaign for Museums, administers the Gulbenkian Prize. It recognises the most original new development of the previous year in a museum or gallery. Banbury Museum is one of twelve nominations for the 2003 award.
movemanSKG brief was straightforward. Provide alternative access to the flight of the steps, which can be used without supervision and blends in with the impressive appearance of the museums entrance hall. The solution was equally simple. They installed a low rise Excel platform lift adjacent to the steps. Excel is the perfect choice for the Banbury Museum site. The scissor mechanism, which raises and lowers the platform, is housed in a shallow pit so there is no lifting machinery or structure above the platform. This means that the lift can be customised to match the surroundings. In this instance, the landing gates and rails are fabricated from stainless steel with glazed panels and match the balcony guard rails used throughout the museum. The Excel platform lift meets all necessary safety and operating standards and carries the CE mark as proof of conformity.
This particular Excel has a travel height of 1400mm. It has a generous 1400 x 1200 mm platform, big enough to accommodate a wheelchair user and attendant. It has a through door configuration. The upper landing door is on the opposite side to the door at the lower level. This is the best possible combination for easy access to and from the lift, as the wheelchair does not need to be turned within the confines of the platform.
The Excel, developed from movemanSKG heavy-duty industrial platform lift, can also be installed outdoors. In fact, a second movemanSKG lift is located externally and provides access from the canalside to the Castle Quay Shopping Centre. It is proving equally popular with parents with pushchairs as well as the less able.
The provision of the platform lift is just one of a number of measures, which ensure that the museum and its exhibits are fully accessible to the disabled. Simon Townsend, Cherwell District Council's Museum Services Manager, is extremely pleased with the result. "Since opening, last September, eighty thousand people have visited the museum." He says. "The special facilities, including the new access lift, mean that the less able can experience and enjoy all of the exhibits. We are confident that as word spreads, we will attract even more visitors both able bodied and the less mobile."