Living Room for the City
This review is especially helpful for those who have or use the following: Powerchair
The highly anticipated V&A has opened in Dundee and I was honoured to be invited along with a few of my fellow Euan’s Guide ambassadors for a sneak peek.
Transport & Parking
There are 6 accessible parking spaces right outside the V&A, however there are only a few normal parking spaces along with the accessible ones. These are public spaces though so the V&A cannot guarantee one will be available. Within a 10-minute walk from the V&A there are 4 council car parks in every direction, blue badge holders can park here for free. Dundee’s newly opened train station is directly across the road from the V&A, which has a taxi rank beside it. The bus station is a 10-minute walk away from the V&A, there’s also plenty of bus stops nearby due to being situated in the city centre.
The entrance to the V&A is at the opposite side of the building compared to the parking spaces. It is level access to enter and easy, due to the fact that the doors are automatic. Before you go through the second door there is a staircase and lift that takes you to the first level of the V&A where the Changing Place toilet is situated, along with other toilets and their picnic room. The picnic room is where visitors can bring their own lunch to enjoy in a bright and friendly environment. The seats available are benches which I feel is a little awkward for being in a wheelchair as there is no gap at the edge of the table, however the bench can be moved along to get into the table or tucked under. The table was also at a great height for wheelchairs, with a slight difficulty with having my wheelchair controller. The only main problem I would say about the picnic room is that the doors are quite heavy to open and are not automatic, but staff that showed us around said they would look into it. When you enter the second door on the ground floor of the V&A you are greeted with a very spacious and bright interior. The visitor desk is here which is at a great height for wheelchair users to be able to speak to staff easily. There is also a café on the ground floor where the counter is at a similar height to the visitor desk which is great, however I did feel the tables were really close together to get around in a wheelchair. The gift shop is also very spacious to get around and you are able to see everything that is on sale easily at wheelchair height. As well as the lift between the two entrances there is another one in the main area of the V&A that just goes up to the second level. Both lifts are very spacious. The second level again is very spacious and is home to the Scottish Design Galleries, the guest exhibition, the auditorium, the learning areas and the restaurant. The restaurant wasn’t open yet when I visited, so I will try and do a separate review. Within the exhibition halls all the information telling you about the artefacts is at a perfect height for wheelchair users. There are a few artefacts that were displayed behind the information which meant I had to raise my wheelchair up to see them, although not everyone is able to do this. There is an interactive area in the Scottish Design Galleries where visitors are able to touch some of the artefacts and listen to a video. Apart from not being able to reach for the headphone myself due to it being secured down by magnets, it was quite light. However, the artefacts were unreachable in a wheelchair, I was able to just touch one with my fingertips, but that was it. I got told though that artefacts are able to be brought out from storage if you’re not able to reach the ones on display. I would say the only main problem I could see in the exhibition halls is that the doors have to remain closed due to controlling temperatures for the artefacts. They are not automatic, but I’ve been assured someone will be on hand to open them for visitors that might not manage themselves.
The accessible toilet on the ground floor and second floor of the V&A is very spacious, however the toilets are close to one side of the room, so you can only transfer from one side. A great facility that the V&A has is a Changing Places toilet!!! It is a massive accessibility toilet including all typical features, as well as a ceiling tracking hoist and a soft changing bench. The Changing Place toilet is on the first floor of the V&A which can be accessed by the lift beside the main entrance. Although the V&A closes around 5pm, the Changing Place toilet will be open until around 10pm whilst the restaurant is still open.
All staff that I encountered whilst visiting the V&A were very friendly and welcoming. If I asked anyone a question regarding accessibility they were always helpful and knew exactly what advice to give.
Anything else you wish to tell us?
It is free to visit the V&A apart from when visiting the guest exhibition which changes every 6 months. You are able to get a free ticket for carers. My favourite artefact in the Scottish Design Galleries is the Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Oak Room. It is 100 years old, has been conserved, reconstructed and restored to be placed inside the V&A. It is just amazing to get so close to such a historic interior, especially when it comes to accessibility.