The Access Chain: an inclusive design tool

Think Links

The Access Chain was developed by the Sensory Trust to show that access is a sequence of events, all of which need to be considered if a visitor experience is to be fully accessible. The Access Chain describes access as it is experienced from a visitor’s perspective.

The Access Chain shows the sequence of events that begins with off-site information and decision to visit, continues through the journey to the site to the experience on site and ends with the safe return home. If any link in this chain is broken then what should be a pleasant day out, can turn to disappointment, or may never happen.

Many access improvements that have little impact on visitor numbers, do so because they have been made in a piecemeal way with no regard to this chain of events. For instance, a new accessible visitor centre may fail to increase the diversity of visitors if there is no accessible car parking nearby, and it has not been promoted in the right way to the right people. No improvement should ever be made in isolation. Think links.

The chain shows the range of management responses that are relevant at each stage. It provides a good basis for reviewing accessibility of an existing site, or planning new access improvements.

The Access Chain is not a model for the order in which improvements should be undertaken. For instance, there may be little to gain from improving public transport links to a site that is completely inaccessible. Typically, improvements to each link in the chain will be made concurrently. For instance, transport improvements can be negotiated and planned while site improvements are underway. This is particularly true of pre-visit information, which can be used to keep visitors up to date with improvements to the site and to transport as they happen.

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For a more concise summary, download our Access Chain summary (pdf 378k). Also available as Access Chain text only version.