Earlier this month, we hosted an Arts Access Aotearoa’s Arts For All Hawke’s Bay Network meeting at MTG Hawke’s Bay. These meetings focus on ways we can make our organisations more accessible for everyone.
Led by Stace Robertson, Access, Inclusion and Participation Advisor at Arts Access Aotearoa, this meeting was lively and engaging with active participation from everyone present.
At MTG, we already have a number of features and services to assist with accessibility. There are two accessible carparks on Herschell Street near the front of the building. And there’s flat access throughout the facility and lifts to reach all levels.
However, we do have four display cases in our stairwells that are only accessible using stairs.
We have three accessible toilets: one is gender neutral in the main foyer, with one male and one female in the Century Theatre foyer. The Century Theatre foyer is also accessible via a ramp on Herschell Street and seating is made available in the front row for wheelchair users.
For people who can’t use stairs and for any support people, please phone us in advance so we can ensure suitable seating can be arranged.
The rest of the 1977 Century Theatre, including the balcony, is only accessible using stairs. There is also a hearing loop facility available in the Century Theatre.
We have one wheelchair and a number of lightweight folding gallery stools for visitors at the main reception. Many of our videos at MTG have subtitles although we are still working on ensuring this is consistent across all our exhibitions.
We provide periodic New Zealand Sign Language tours in our galleries and Sign Language taster classes during New Zealand Sign Language Week.
Following an accessibility review completed prior to the first COVID-19 lockdown, we have made various physical changes in our facility. This includes improving the accessible toilets, repositioning the height of wayfinding signage and changing the colour of certain doors to make them clearer,
However, there is always more to do. These Arts Access Aoteaora Arts For All sessions encourage us to think well beyond just our physical infrastructure and to embrace social change – changing our organisational culture and thinking about accessibility.
There is so much more that could be done with simple changes such as highlighting accessibility in our venue hire information, making our staff and ushers more easily identifiable, and creating audio descriptions of our galleries.
Some things will require deeper change and commitment, such as ensuring accessibility is considered from the very beginning of any project: e.g. public programmes or exhibition planning.
Stace always inspires me to want to think more broadly and to do more. He makes me feel excited about all the possibilities to make MTG, the Century Theatre and the services we provide more accessible for everyone.
As always, we welcome feedback from the community about what currently works well and where there are opportunities for us to make changes that could make your experience and access easier.
Laura Vodanovich is the Director of MTG Hawke’s Bay, a member of the Arts For All Hawke’s Bay Network, facilitated by Arts Access Aotearoa. Laura welcomes your feedback (T: 027 599 4422 E: Lvodanovich@mtghawkesbay.com).