I was really looking forward to taking my daughter on a tour of the new library - but apart from the ground floor, the rest of the building is so difficult to access with a wheelchair, we gave up after two floors!
Firstly, I would expect such a new landmark building to have automatic doors throughout but from the two higher floors we managed to visit, it would appear that they do not feature beyond the ground floor. This lack of automatic doors clearly impacts on ease of access, leaving the carer grappling with doors while trying to steer the wheelchair through . . . and a wheelchair user visiting independently would have little choice other than to rely on the kindness of passers-by.
However, the main thing the planners seem to have missed is that for a building to be properly accessible, you need SPACE. The long narrow corridors are a nightmare: having been helped through a door, I turned the wrong way down a corridor and there wasn't even room to turn the chair round! The people who had initially helped us offered to hold the door open again so I could reverse the chair back in the doorway and then turn the right way, which was really kind of them, but I felt totally embarrassed and I didn't like having to depend on them. And the waiting areas outside the lifts beyond the ground floor were so small, there really was nowhere we could wait without getting in the way of people getting out of the lifts - indeed, on one of the floors, we couldn't even get into the waiting area so I had to alert the people beyond the door that we were waiting for the lift also!
We did enjoy the garden area with its magnificent views over the city and the viewing gallery (although this area again is tight for space) but overall, our visit was marred by the difficulty we faced in getting round the building - and I would imagine the difficulties we faced would be shared by parents with children in prams and buggies. While I realise the library isn't solely for the benefit of disabled people, I felt disappointed that the planners had apparently given so little thought to their needs - in fact, it made me and my daughter feel quite marginalised and ignored and we have little appetite to make a return visit to see the floors we missed.
Birmingham is a wonderful, inclusive city and it pains me to say that for us, our new library does not reflect the same generous spirit .
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