OK, lets start this entry with a little guessing game for a bit of fun!
Where am I?
I’m walking very slowly around a large room. Other people are milling around and there is some classical music playing. I am listening to a friend reading various pieces of information dotted around the room. Unfortunately I don’t remember a lot of it as I’m struggling to concentrate. As I walk around I have many featureless glass cases in front of me. Sometimes there are open spaces with a rope at my waist height.
I do remember two things from the experience: Some spears on a wall whose handles and lower shafts I can feel and an immense porridge pot which stands about waist height and which is made from bell metal.
Well, you would be forgiven for thinking that this was a pretty dull and unfulfilling experience for me but sadly it is not unusual. I was at Warwick Castle hoping to enjoy an informative day out. This was not to be as there was nothing to touch or experience directly and there was no audible information throughout the exhibition in the Great Hall.
I was more fortunate though than my friend who came with us who is a wheelchair user. There was no access for him to enter the Great Hall at all.
I might have enjoyed a visit onto the ramparts of the castle but on the Warwick Castle website it states that assistance dogs are not allowed in this area. A blind person without her guide dog is bound to fail on castle ramparts so that was out.
We then considered visiting the dungeons where, apparently, actors bring them to life. This sounded better! But having paid almost £70for four blind people, one of whom is a wheelchair user, and not been able to experience anything, we didn’t feel able to part with any more money.
I am a realist, I know that there will always be things that are inaccessible to me as a blind person, but Warwick Castle haven’t even tried. Some well put together audio information and a few things to touch would have made the day much more interesting and memorable.
When we arrived at the castle and went through the barrier, the sighted person in our group was given an accessibility guide on a piece of paper. However, it would be more accurate to call this an inaccessibility guide. All it seemed to tell us was where the toilets were and where it would not be possible to go with a wheelchair on account of the steps.
After the visit and on delving through the website some more, I learnt that there was a Braille guide available. However, at no time were we offered this, even though three of us had guide dogs with us so we weren’t exactly hiding our disabilities!
I am not an advocate for disabled people being allowed free entry to attractions. I earn money and believe that I should pay my way like everyone else. However, in this instance, I feel that Warwick Castle should not charge for disabled visitors as there is absolutely nothing there for us. I feel particularly strongly about this as, a few years ago, Warwick Castle were approached by RNI B as part of their Culture Link projects, to improve accessibility for blind and partially sighted people. They were not interested.