2015 Report on Accessibility
at Model Railway Exhibitions
Having had accessibility problems (including having to use a wheelchair during 2015 through complications from my disabilities) I thought these findings may be of interest to others with mobility impairment!
Please note in report my findings and opinions I can only comment on exhibitions that I visited in 2015 (or could not /would not visit due to prior known issues) plus and relevant updates. My comments may at times appear harsh but reflect the realities of (often unaided) manual wheelchair use. Certainly many exhibitions do not understand their duties under the Equality Act 2010 let alone the need to make reasonable adjustments including the simple expedient of providing sufficient seating in their exhibition hall(s). The attitude to exhibition staff also made a significant difference at several exhibitions in overcoming difficulties.
On each and every occasion issues were raised at the time and exhibition staff advised a report would be made on BloodandCustard lest they wanted to respond prior to publication. None chose to do so suggesting fulfilling the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 was not seen as a priority.
Barton Peveril College, Eastleigh
24th January 2015
The exhibition was at a school although the organisers claimed the advertised on-site parking was not under their control. As a consequence there was no effort made for those with accessibility problems; in my opinion a ‘massive fail’. I tried to raise this with the exhibition staff who were basically indifferent to the issue; not a good start.
The exhibition was on two levels and in terms of the gangways access was not generous. In terms of facilities the public lunching area was cramped and almost impossible for wheelchair users. The accessible toilet was gaining rather a lot of use by apparently able-bodied people who could have used the non-accessible facilities; the accessible WC could have been cleaner.
The only real seating I could find (beyond the eating area) was outside in the cold or in a darkened exhibition hall. Not very impressive.
Summation - I cannot recommend this show which is best avoided.
Angel Centre, Tonbridge
21st February 2015
The exhibition has no dedicated parking and I was driven there by a friend. Access within the exhibition was fine although one section required use of a lift (in a previous year this had been out of order). Another area was inaccessible being on a stage; not really acceptable these days.
Staff were generally helpful although sometimes terse in asking to see your ticket when trying to access the different areas; it is not difficult to be polite or even say ‘please’. The gangway widths aren’t generous and in places it can be a struggle to get through if there is any more than a single depth of people looking at a layout.
In terms of facilities the 1st floor public lunching area was cramped and difficult for wheelchair access; there being no seating on the ground floor (except it seems for exhibition staff and exhibitors) unless you sit on the benches outside – an epic ‘fail’ these days and certainly not disability-friendly. In 2016 the lift upstairs was not working although a service lift was made available there was little assistance to find you way in /out this area on the 1st floor.
In 2015 the accessible toilet was gaining rather a lot of use by apparently able-bodied people who could have used the adjacent non-accessible facilities; the accessible WC could have been a lot cleaner. However, this was better in 2016 – probably because the door to the accessible was not functioning properly. A request to use led to exhibition staff having to find Angel Centre staff who in turn had to work out how to fix the electric sliding door....
Summation – Poor and inadequate although I did attend again in 2016 having been driven there due to parking issues outside of the Tonbridge MRC’s control.
Homewood School, Tenterden
28th February 2015
The exhibition has dedicated parking with most level parking on a school playground (now gone). However, if you have trouble getting in /out your vehicle door without marked bays there is a risk of another vehicle parking too close. Other parking areas involve rough ground and
Access within the exhibition was fine although the dining tables weren’t too accessible-friendly.
Staff were very helpful. However, the accessible WC was gaining rather a lot of use by apparently able-bodied people who could have used the non-accessible facilities; the accessible WC was not particularly clean (this had improved in 2016)
Summation - I will be attending again but driven there due to parking issues
2020 update – still indifferent to Blue-Badge parking needs even though a club official (and Ashford town councillor) claimed to ‘know all about what they need to do [under the Equality Act 2010]’. If he really did know then why wasn’t the club doing it?
Summation - I probably won’t be attending again
Alexandra Palace, London
28th March 2015
Access around the exhibition was fine with generous gangways. However seating was woefully inadequate with one marshal acknowledging they were not fulfilling the requirements of the Equality Act.
In terms of facilities the public lunching areas were totally inadequate and overcrowded throughout the day with many standing to eat. Simply an unacceptable shambles given the numbers attending.
The none-too clean accessible toilet was gaining rather a lot of use by apparently able-bodied people queuing who could have used the non-accessible facilities on another floor.
Complaints were made to both the organisers (Warners – who are supposed a professional company) and the Model Railway Club (who back this exhibition but do not appear to accept any responsibility for its failings) with pitifully inadequate interest and responses from both; neither sought to enter into a meaningful dialogue with a mobility impaired person as to how the exhibition could be improved.
Summation – DEFINATELY AVOID!
In my opinion not only can I not recommend attendance but would suggest this is an exhibition to definitely avoid. From my attempts at contact I believe the professional organisers /Model Railway Club do not appear to have any meaningful interest in mobility impaired attendees or accommodating their needs. Feedback from friends who attended in 2016 stated there was no improvement over 2015. In my opinion neither the show organisers Warners or the Model Railway Club are simply incapable of making adequate provision for visitors with disabilities.
Tandridge House School, Horsham
11th April 2015
I have included this exhibition as one to be avoided, having previously had an unpleasant greeting in 2014 where an aggressive and arrogant club member undertaking car park duty took it upon themselves to argue about our parking in an appropriate non-restricted bay whilst my car was still in motion (with inherent risk of driver distraction). This was in an otherwise near-empty parking area! Having had to remind him about reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act we choose to avoid the exhibition in future years.
The exhibition is on two levels and in terms of the gangways access and in terms of facilities the public lunching area would be difficult as the circular children’s-height tables have fixed seating.
Summation - In my opinion (and given the unfriendly welcome in 2014) I cannot recommend attendance and would suggest this exhibition is best avoided.
East Grinstead MRC
Sackville School, East Grinstead
14th March 2015
The exhibition has both remote parking and limited marshalled parking for those ‘in need’ close to the entrance. There isn’t direct step-free access from the pay-desk but the staff were friendly and helpful.
Once inside all the layouts are on one level and the gangway widths acceptable. In terms of facilities the public lunching area was limited if you can’t use the ‘bar-stool’ seating. The accessible toilet wasn’t used so I cannot comment thereon.
Summation - I may attend again but only with assistance.
2020 update – show now avoided following 2019 intransigence towards those with disabilities.
Stoke Mandeville Stadium, Aylesbury
23rd May 2015
The exhibition has dedicated parking with blue-badge bays outside the entrance. However, if (like myself) you are disabled but not a blue-badge holder parking could be a problem.
Access within the exhibition was fine and the dining tables accessible-friendly although very busy.
Staff there are very helpful. There were several accessible WCs which were kept clean by centre staff. Indeed once inside the building this is one of the most accessible-friendly exhibitions I’ve attended.
Summation - I will be attending again but driven there due to parking issues.
Medway Leisure Park, Gillingham
13th June 2015
Parking can be limited with little space available for those ‘in need’. Access into the exhibition halls is poor (long ramps both up and down) and so not recommended for user-propelled wheelchairs. There is an unadvertised side entrance but even this is best used with assistance. However, once inside access around the exhibition was excellent with generous gangways and plenty of seating.
In terms of facilities the public lunching areas were adequate and seats available for most of the day. Although the food on offer was limited it was far better than that proffered by the difficult-to-access Leisure Park’s cafe (which is best avoided).
However, the accessible toilet was disgusting – it was dirty and the floor covered in water and piss – not good in a wheelchair. This was the worst I have ever encountered at any venue let alone model railways. It was also gaining rather a lot of use by apparently able-bodied people queuing who could have used the adjacent non-accessible facilities. Repeated complaints were made to the helpful Exhibition organisers (who in turn repeatedly contacted centre staff) but it took nearly four hours to get the accessible WC cleaned – an utter disgrace by the centre’s management (a subsequent complaint was made to Medway Leisure Park).
Summation - Exhibition staff were commendably helpful although the side access really needs to be advertised (I found it thanks to a helpful passing member of centre staff). Hopefully if I attend next year (with assistance) there will be no repeat of the filthy accessible WC; certainly there would be no excuse.
Pevensey Memorial Hall, Pevensey
25th July 2015
Parking for the exhibition is restricted with the small car park and the hall’s mobility access ramp very poor. Annoyingly having been told by a marshal my car was fine where it was parked (in line with the other cars) and having been given assistance to get up the ramp as well as over the step into the hall I was then asked if my car could be moved a couple of feet just in case it was in the way later on (it never actually was). Would have I been asked if I wasn’t identifiable from my wheelchair – probably not and this rather sullied the visit!
Other club members were friendlier although access within the exhibition was in many places very tight and cramped for wheelchairs as another wheelchair user observed. However, the small eating area could be accessed and the club’s counter staff there very helpful.
Summation – As consequence of the unfriendly hassle following arrival I cannot recomment this exhibition.
St. John Payne School, Chelmsford
24th October 2015
The exhibition’s parking was inadequate for mobility impaired visitors although were fortunate in getting a space. Access within the exhibition was tight and cramped with one area being on an inaccessible stage (rather a no-no these days).
Initially nobody could find the accessible WC (it is upstairs with lift access) but the very friendly and assistive exhibition staff rapidly assisted by summoning the school janitor. The accessible WC was clean and always available for use (probably as a consequence of its tucked-away location).
To their credit the Exhibition staff were extremely helpful to the point of being the friendliest I’ve ever encountered.
Although in terms of facilities the public lunching area was cramped and not easy for wheelchair users this was made up by the assistive staff. It is worth noting the range of sandwiches on offer was particularly impressive.
Summation - Given the wonderful friendly exhibition staff I would gladly attend again although would be driven.
26th September 2015
The exhibition’s parking was adequate for mobility impaired visitors although were fortunate in getting a space as there was nobody on duty and all bays appeared to be first come – first served. Access within the exhibition was reasonable except the exhibition was on three levels; the ramp between two being too steep for a user-propelled wheelchair whilst another area was in an inaccessible pit (rather a no-no these days). Assistance was given to enter this pit by a convoluted overgrown external route that would not conform to accessibility regulations
The accessible WC was spacious and clean although gained rather a lot of use by apparently able-bodied people who could have used the non-accessible facilities.
To their credit exhibition staff were helpful although public lunching area wasn’t easy for wheelchair users. However, this was made up by the assistive staff
Summation - Given the friendliness of exhibition staff I would attend again.
2020 update – show now avoided following 2019 intransigence towards the needs of disable including a lack of Blue-Badge parking provision.
Uckfield Civic Centre, Uckfield
17th October 2015
Parking for the exhibition is in an adjacent municipal car park which is woefully inadequate for manually-propelled wheelchairs; access to the venue is equally difficult.
Access within the exhibition was tight and cramped with one area being along narrow corridors accessed by narrow single doors.
The club used large wooden boxes ‘coffins’ for children to stand on to view the layouts; these made viewing and wheelchair access really difficult as you were left a considerable distance from the layout (often blocking the gangways) whilst having parents shove their children in front of you completely ignoring blocking what limited view you had of the layout; a significant fail. In this respect I do not believe the club was fulfilling its obligations under the Equality Act and this is a much flawed arrangement.
The exhibition’s staff were helpful although the in terms of facilities the public lunching area (not under Exhibition control) was cramped and difficult for wheelchair users. In a wheelchair there is little alternative due to the venue being on the side of a hill. A few too many layouts were above wheelchair viewing height.
The accessible WC was tight and not as clean as one would expect. It also gained some use by apparently able-bodied people who could have used the adjacent non-accessible facilities.
Summation – VERY POOR because of huge ‘coffin boxes’ blocking the way I would probably attend again in a manual wheelchair but certainly not unaccompanied given the hillside location.
Hythe & District MRC
Leas Cliff Hall, Folkestone
3rd October 2015
I have included this exhibition as one I cannot recommend (from a previous visit) as the venue, whilst historically interesting really does not lend itself to a model railway exhibition; particularly as parts of that exhibition do not have step-free access. Whilst there are two very small lifts (these are not adjacent and do not serve all floors - which were numbered differently in each lift) access is tight, indirect and difficult between these lifts. Whilst it might be useable as a theatre I believe it is unsuitable for a model railway exhibition.
For the able-bodied entry queuing was being permitted down a flight of stairs; clearly dangerously and this really should have been prevented at the top of the stairs by exhibition marshals. Indeed I was surprised the both the club and hall management permitted this as they leave themselves open to potential accident-liability as in my opinion this constitutes a breach of sections 2, 3 & 7 of HSW (etc ) Act 1974 and probably breaches of section 3 Management of HSW Regs 1999. Their insurers may not wish cover such a risk either.
Even worse was several of us who were clearly mobility-impaired (and unable to use the stairs) were told we still had to go down the stairs to buy our entry tickets even though we could not physically do this – a nonsense!
In the end a member of public went and bought our tickets as the Exhibition staff simply declined to assist us. I believe this formed a straightforward breach of the Equality Act (failure to make reasonable adjustments).
I believe the model railway exhibition at this venue is simply unable to fulfil the requirements of the Equality Act.
Summation - In my opinion I cannot recommend this exhibition which is best avoided.
Seaford Baptist Church, Seaford
31st October 2015
Parking for the exhibition as almost non-existent with the small car park and adjacent street (on a slight hill) full of exhibition staff /exhibitors vehicles.
Access within the exhibition was in some places tight and cramped with two rooms being completely inaccessible to wheelchairs; this being a non-no under the Equality Act. I only found this out after I’d been asked about accessibility by a club member; when I tried to speak with him again I was completely ignored to the point of members of the public heckling him over his ignoring me (he ignored these hecklers too even though they then said he was being rude).
This was a pity as other members of exhibition staff were very friendly and assistive. The accessible WC was clean. However, a few too many layouts were above wheelchair viewing height.
There was another well-travelled wheelchair user at the exhibition who found these problems in his (powered) wheelchair. Perhaps the greatest concern was the continual need to move their entrance pay-desk which blocked the corridor – I suspect rather a significant breach of fire regulations.
Summation - In summation I cannot recommend this exhibition, mainly on the basis of the member rudeness but also the venue and exhibition not being able to fulfil the requirements of the Equality Act.
If any Exhibition managers of these exhibitions have any questions then please contact me as I am keen for accessibility of exhibitions to be improved. If you disagree with anything stated then (or how these deficiencies will be satisfactorily addressed in 2016) then please let me know exactly why /how. However, for me to take note you must include exactly how you considered the requirements of the Equality Act were or will be fulfilled.
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