‘Football at your fingertips’: reviewing the accessibility of the National Football Museum

Alice is a University student and Henshaws volunteer. She has been completely blind since she was around eight weeks old, with only a very small amount of light perception. She recently visited the National Football Museum in Manchester, as part of our new project which looks into the accessibility of tourist attractions around Greater Manchester.

The National Football Museum claims a number of accessible features, but what is it really like to visit as a disabled guest? We put it to the test!

Planning the visit

To kick things off (football pun intended), we checked out the National Football Museum’s website. The website houses a lot of information, covering everything you need to plan your visit. There’s a detailed ‘What’s On’ guide listing all the events and exhibitions at the museum and an ‘Explore the Museum’ section, which details what’s on each floor. The website is very accessible and easy to navigate using a Screen reader (I use JAWS), with links to the key sections easily locatable and all the information clearly laid out using headings and lists.

It details access information for people with all disabilities, including ramps and lifts for all raised areas and induction loops at the reception and information desks. For visually impaired people, the website states that assistance dogs are welcome and water bowls are provided, guided tours are available upon request, and there is a large print guide available, which you can download phone and make accessible by using software such as VoiceOver.

Getting there

The National Football Museum is near two tram stops: Manchester Victoria and Exchange Square. Manchester Victoria is also one of Manchester’s major train stations. The museum is about a five-minute walk from Manchester Victoria and a two-minute walk from Exchange Square. Both routes are safe but it is recommended to take care when walking through Victoria as there are wide gaps in the tram lines.

When you come in, the door to the main entrance is automatic (although you have to press a button to operate it), there is a designated pathway which makes it easier to navigate around the museum, and there is an audio lift which lets you know what level you’re approaching. The staff were very friendly upon arrival and asked questions like ‘what team do you support?’, treating me as a visitor rather than immediately discussing my visual impairment. The staff also let me know that the museum opens for an extra hour on Sundays (9am-10am) for activities such as handling sessions.

The exhibitions

The museum has some accessibility features which I checked out during our visit. There are audio aspects including BBC Radio commentaries and managers talking tactics, and the second floor has some tactile elements including football boots, gloves and footballs from different eras, so you can really experience football ‘at your fingertips’. There’s even an area where you can sit in one of the original Wembley seats and touch one of the old Wembley turnstiles! There are touchscreen elements throughout the museum, which unfortunately isn’t accessible for a completely blind visitor like me, but if you are able to use the screens there are also interactive and audio elements that you can use. Alice feeling a footballer glove at one of their displays which has tactile fake grass, gloves and football boots.

There is an immersive cinema located on the first floor, which shows a film every half hour detailing the role of football in WWI. There’s no audio description currently available for this, but I could enjoy the first half of the film as it had narration.

Located on the fourth floor is ‘The Game Exhibition’; a temporary exhibition which is on display until March 2019, and features 55 photographs detailing 30 years of football. There is an accompanying website which hosts audio narration from the photographer to go with each photograph which you can easily get up on your phone, so even with no sight, you should be able to take a lot from it!

Summary & highlights

The museum has different pros and cons for accessibility; a lot of the content is visual but the tactile and audio aspects are enjoyable when you can access them, and I was able to travel to and around the museum with ease. If you plan your visit this year, I’d definitely recommend visiting the temporary exhibition first, followed by the second floor and explore the first floor last, and if you’re visually impaired, make sure you check about a guided tour in advance.

Make sure not to miss…

  • The history of the FA Cup section with interactive screens, located on the first floor on the museum.
  • The original wooden Wembley seats and turnstiles which you can sit on and touch, located on the second floor on the museum.
  • ‘The Game: 30 Years through the Lens of Stuart Roy Clarke’, located on the fourth museum available until March 2019. Each image has an accompanying audio clip from the photographer Stuart Roy Clarke, which can be heard on the exhibition’s page here: http://www.nationalfootballmuseum.com/exhibitions/the-game/

For more on accessibility and reviews of attractions in Greater Manchester, visit henshaws.org.uk/knowledge-village.

Want to find out more about accessibility or share your own experiences? Euan’s Guide is a disabled access review website used by disabled people to review, share and discover accessible places to visit. Visit the National Football Museum page on their website!

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Alice is the Digital Communications Officer and is responsible for producing blogs and EBooks for Henshaws Knowledge Village.
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