Case Study: Albion Dry Dock
The Albion Dry Dock project is an ambitious initiative announced by the SS Great Britain Trust, dedicated to the restoration and preservation of the Grade 2 listed dry dock. The SS Great Britain Trust aims to extend its visitor attraction by constructing a replica of Brunel’s Great Western luxury liner. The organisation’s aim is to create an inclusive space where everyone can enjoy and experience Bristol’s maritime heritage.
To achieve its goal of broadening visitor appeal, the Albion Dry Dock project identified the need to further improve accessibility and inclusivity. The project recognised the potential ‘high-brow’ stigma that can museums and wanted to make the attraction even more accessible and appeal to a more diverse audience.
The historical nature of the site meant that accessibility was a challenge in places, the Trust recognised the need to engage external consultancy and contacted WECIL at an early planning stage. WECIL’s input through their business support service brand Disability.Inc., focused on addressing physical issues related to wheelchair accessibility, sensory impairments, multimedia experiences, and the provision of inclusive information, as well as also providing Disability Equality Training to staff.
WECIL’s Access and Inclusion Team (WAIT) conducted a user-led access audit, valuing lived experiences and ensuring the inclusion of diverse perspectives. WECIL also facilitated a workshop with WAIT members, including wheelchair users and those with visual impairments. During this workshop, plans were discussed, and a site visit was conducted to gain practical insights. WECIL then provided a detailed report outlining their findings and recommendations, equipping the project team with a clear roadmap to enhance accessibility.
Although the Albion Dry Dock project is still awaiting final funding approval, the collaboration between the project team and WECIL has already yielded significant improvements in terms of accessibility and inclusivity planning. Based on WECIL’s recommendations, the project team submitted a funding application that highlights their commitment to making the site accessible for all. The proposed enhancements include the addition of a second exit to provide more direct and convenient access for vehicles picking up visitors.
The project team has prioritised wheelchair accessibility, ensuring smooth and level surfaces throughout the site. Steps and stairs are being carefully designed, and rest areas are being strategically placed to allow visitors to rest during their anticipated 5-6 hour visits. Accessible wayfinding to aid navigation for visually impaired visitors is planned.
The team took neurodiversity into account when looking at the plans for a new multimedia experience, featuring a virtual voyage to NYC, and suggested noise-cancelling headphones, lighting considerations and an easy exit route to provide comfort for individuals who may feel overwhelmed. Finally, WECIL recommended training staff in Disability Equality Training, equipping the team with the knowledge and skills to provide a more inclusive workplace for both staff and visitors.
What They Say
‘We were delighted with the service we received from WECIL for our Albion Dock project in Bristol. The visit to the SS Great Britain from users to see the site and discuss our draft plans provided us with some very useful guidance and insights on how our designs for the project can be developed and adjusted to be fully inclusive for Disabled people. We plan to use their services again at critical stages of the project.’
Mike Day | Senior Project Manager