Access audit and disability equality training for a Bristol based science and educational charity, as part of their transformation from a traditional science centre to a more inclusive, accessible and representative institution.
We The Curious, based on Bristol harbourside, was previously known for 17 years as At-Bristol Science Centre. It became We The Curious in 2017, and is an exciting interactive space that challenges boundaries, celebrates a culture of curiosity, and encourages its audience to ask questions.
WECIL’s work with We The Curious evolved out of an organic relationship over a number of years. In their previous incarnation as the At-Bristol Science Centre, We The Curious were increasingly aware that their visitors didn’t sufficiently represent the demographic of Bristol. To ensure that they were a safe and welcoming space for everyone, the team were conscious of the need for change both within the physical environment and their whole identity as an organisation.
WECIL’s objective was to advise We The Curious on this path towards inclusivity, accessibility and diversity, and provide valuable partnership guidance as the organisation developed and navigated this journey. There were several strands to realising this mission, including assessing the content displayed within the centre, the building itself, and both the diversity and training of the team.
Our approach was to develop a meaningful partnership with We The Curious rather than a transactional relationship. As well as a formalised audit that was delivered a year into our relationship with the institution, WECIL delivered explorative conversations and provided bespoke guidance.
The centre had work commissioned for a venue hire floor, and WECIL advised on the planned building work both during the consultation stages and project work itself. This included making sure there was a Changing Places bathroom, as part of the Changing Places network and map, which is much larger and accessible for an adult with an electric wheelchair.
However, accessibility means more than building access, and we were commissioned to help the team shortlist questions from the people of Bristol which have since inspired exhibition installations as part of ‘Project What If’, a new experience that opened in May 2021. WECIL have also worked closely with the team to increase staff awareness of disability through Disability Equality Training, working practices and engaging with groups such as the Peer Support Network.
WECIL had to be adaptable and supportive as the organisation developed their voice, often responding at short notice as unexpected issues were highlighted.
The outcome of our work with We The Curious has been deeply positive. As well as the physical changes to the building itself, WECIL have become an indispensable strategic partner for the organisation, involving mutual benefits for both parties.
Accessibility is a journey rather than a one time tick box, and WECIL have played an important role in We The Curious’ long term commitment to continuous improvement. In response to the Access Audit carried out by WECIL and the internal staff access audit, We The Curious launched a specific cross-departmental Access Action Group in 2019. This group includes representatives from across the organisation, and produces quick, easy inclusion and accessibility checklists. By helping embed internal structures like this within We The Curious, we were able to help the organisation keep inclusion and access at the forefront of what they do both now and in the future.
Crucially, WECIL have been instrumental in the centre’s pathway towards becoming a disability confident employer. Even opening up these conversations has created a safe space for more people, and helped their team open up about their own lived experience. WECIL’s work has not just been a case of one-off involvement, but has helped and will continue to help shape We the Curious’ whole culture as an organisation.