Accessing the Past from the Present: Top Accessibility Features for Heritage Buildings

Australia’s heritage buildings give us a structural connection to the past and our forefathers’ way of life. These cultural treasures let us take a step back in time and get a glimpse of how they once lived. But as ancient as these structural buildings are, they can be retrofitted to provide accessibility for all. While builders in the past may not have had our standards and guidelines to follow, it is our pleasure to open up these heritage buildings and provide accessibility features so that all may have the pleasure of visiting them and exploring its rich history.

Wheelchair Access

Entryways are the first areas where accessibility should be addressed. Whether it’s about designing an empathetic ramp that leads into the main entrance or having an alternative equitable and dignified method to approach the building should be a priority accessibility feature for heritage buildings. This is best represented by our accessibility project undertaken for Elizabeth Bay House where proposals for accessible access and access to accessible amenities were developed.


Solving entryways is just the first part to providing accessibility in any heritage building. Since most of these buildings have upper floors, elevator lifts would be instrumental in opening up the upper floors for exploration to people with disabilities. Instead of being stuck at the ground level, people with mobility issues can now go explore every nook and cranny inside a heritage building and would have the same exact experience as other visitors. Working with heritage architects solutions may be able to be identified to include suitable lift installations without disturbing the heritage integrity of the building or place.

Toilets for People with Disabilities

The lack of a suitable toilet for people with disabilities is another significant barrier in enjoying a fun day exploring heritage buildings. While we understand heritage buildings are hard  to change, its original layout to accommodate a public toilet for people with disabilities, allocating a space adjacent to the heritage building with a connecting pathway is more than enough in providing peace of mind and physical comfort for disabled visitors.

Access Aids and Appropriate Lighting

From maps printed in bold to iPads serving as a guide containing information about the heritage site and hearing aids for those with auditory impairments, these access aids help bring heritage buildings to life for people with disabilities. Aside from these access aids, having wheelchairs, audio and visual magnifiers available can also help a lot in enriching the experience for people with disabilities.

While heritage buildings usually have a quiet ambiance to them, notices for bright lights or flickering lighting systems would also be appreciated so that visitors with particular needs for a low sensory environment are catered to before their visit.

Australia has numerous heritage buildings which all Australian citizens must have equal access to, regardless of their mobility levels. By having these accessibility features in heritage buildings, we can ensure these cultural sites keep on imparting its rich history to everyone with their ease and comfort in mind.

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