One ‘Old Lady’ is back on trend as far as access for disabled people is concerned: wheelchair users can (finally) get into the Bank of England through the front door.
This is thanks to an ingenious new lift, which combines function with a form that doesn’t detract from the aesthetics of the listed historic building. Rising from within the steps, it is camouflaged by a stone veneer when not in use.
‘As a wheelchair user, I’m often obliged to ‘go round the back’ because there’s no step-free front entrance’
Visiting before the lift was installed, I had to ring several ‘assistance bells’, circumnavigate the building and enter via a colossal metal door, which creaked and rumbled as it was hauled open by two security guards.
Once inside, I was escorted through private areas, passing little known treasures, such as the ornate Roman mosaic flooring discovered during the previous renovation works.
As a wheelchair user, I’m often obliged to ‘go round the back’ because there’s no step-free front entrance: behind the scenes at the Bank of England was unusually fascinating but most of the time it is annoying and frustrating.
Who wants to be forced on a detour to a hidden, separate door, which speaks of inequality and segregation?
‘If front entrance access can be achieved at the Bank of England it can be achieved in a lot more places’
If front entrance access can be achieved at the Bank of England – built in in 1734, when most disabled people would have been in the workhouse or infirmary – it can be done in a lot more places.
Some people (you can picture the type) will say ‘ooh, we can’t do that’, sucking air through their teeth and shrugging. ‘It’s listed… it would cost a fortune… it would never fit’.
Everyone blames everyone else for why it ‘can’t be done’ or ‘isn’t worth doing’.
‘Important public buildings are no less important to members of the public who happen to be disabled’
Important public buildings, however historic, are no less important to members of the public who happen to be disabled.
There are forward-thinking engineers and designers who are working on ways to say ‘yes we can’.
And there are access and inclusive design consultants who can look at a building and see the possibilities for access, and identify where these innovations can be used (and prove the naysayers wrong!)
If you think ‘it can’t be done’ when it comes to access at your premises, give the friendly, expert team at Proudlock Associates a call and challenge us to change your mind.