Earlier this month, we did a podcast episode with the blind artist Emilie Gossiaux who discussed everything from life as a blind artist, museum accessibility and how people with a vision impairment experience art. There’s still an awful long way to go for museums in making sure that they are accessible, but we still want to encourage everyone, no matter their level of sight, to go and enjoy the art. In that spirit, we’ve collected 10 art and museum experiences that are accessible for people who are blind or low vision in the hopes that you’ll be able to enjoy one of them, or any other museum or exhibition that you’d like to visit. And remember that if you need a little extra visual description of the pieces, you can always call one of the more than 3 million Be My Eyes volunteers, who are waiting at the other end of the line.
Museo Tiflologico is a tactile museum created by ONCE, the national blind association in Spain. The goal of the museum is to offer people who are blind or have low-vision a standard way of accessing a museum without sight being a barrier and is designed specifically for people with a vision impairment. The museum offers several different exhibitions that include models of famous buildings, the history of braille and tactile artworks created by visually impaired artists that can all be experienced through sight and touch.
About once a month, the V&A offers a tour specifically for visitors with a vision impairment. The program changes every month and focuses on some of the V&A different exhibitions. On December 7th, the V&A has a descriptive talk and tour of their car exhibition, where you can learn more about the role of the car through history and what impact cars have had on our world. The V&A’s touch and descriptive tours are free, but you’ll need to book in advance to participate, as the tours have limited spots. Besides the tours, the V&A offers extensive accessibility info online, guiding services, braille books and audio descriptions, as well as multisensory backpack that allows blind children to explore the museum through multisensory activities.
The Smithsonian is another museum that offers descriptive tours for blind and low-vision visitors. On these tours, you’ll be led by a docent and discover the highlights of the American Art Museum through detailed descriptions and sensory descriptions. Some tours are even followed by a musical performance! In the following month, Smithsonian offers an Insight tour of the American Art Museum on December 8th and of the Renway Gallery on December 22nd. The Insight tours are free to attend.
The National Gallery of Prague offers blind and low-vision visitors a VR experience that allows them to “touch” three of the world’s biggest sculptural masterpieces. With haptic feedback gloves, blind and low-vision can explore VR replicas of The Head of Nefertiti, Venus de Milo, and Michelangelo’s David by touch, allowing them to really experience the artworks for the first time.
Many museums use dim lighting to protect the artwork. That makes it difficult, however for people with low vision to appreciate the art. The Mary Rose museums solution is to host a so-called Relaxed Opening Morning once a month, where they will turn up the light and turn down the sound effects, and invite visually impaired people to come explore their collection. The next Relaxed Opening Morning is on December 20th from 10 AM to 12 PM.
The Color I Touch is an educational program for blind children hosted by Istanbul Modern. The program consists of expert-guided exhibition tours, workshops and audio described film screenings to introduce the children to art and give them an opportunity to explore and interpret it. The Colors I Touch is offered for free for blind children.
The Van Loon house is located in the heart of Amsterdam and used to be the home of co-founder of the Dutch East India Company, Willem van Loon, and his family. The house and collection is now open to the public 7 days a week. The Van Loon offers guided tours for vision impaired visitors, where you are able to touch parts of the collection. The tours happen once a month on the first Sunday of the month from 11 AM to 12:30 PM, and costs 5 € in addition to the entrance fee. The tours are only available in Dutch.
While accessibility measured are made in many museums, they are rarely found when it comes to public art. But in Santiago, people who are blind or low-vision can experience some of the city’s exciting street art. Six murals of the Barrio Lastarria neighbourhood has been equipped with touch panels, braille and an audio guide, so that vision impaired art lovers can experience the large-scale artwork through their fingers on the tactile panel.
The ancient Greek culture is rich in sculptures and artwork, but difficult to enjoy if you have a vision impairment. The goal behind the Tactual Museum in Athens, created by Lighthouse for the Blind of Greece, was to find a way for blind and low-vision people to enjoy the ancient greek artwork. All the museums pieces are copies of originals found in other museums around the country, and all pieces can be experienced by touch.
The deCordova Sculpture Park displays a wide variety of contemporary outdoor sculptures. Sight impaired visitors can experience the Sculpture Park through a touch tour from April to November. The guided tours provide unique access to experience selected sculptures through tactile exploration.