Planning for cultural access
I have something I need help with…
We know that 20% of Australians experience some form of impairment resulting in disability. But there are many different types of impairments including physical, intellectual, sensory or mental health impairments.
People with impairments are often excluded from many of the social and cultural aspects of community life. Yet equality and diversity are the supposed yardsticks of a socially inclusive society – and these markers challenge public museums.
Unfortunately, the conventional aesthetics of exhibition design don’t always help people who are being disabled by societal attitudes and practices. Museum objects remain locked in glass cabinets, safe from harms reach. And objects labels are often unreadable, denying even basic access to information. This all results in people in impairments feeling and being alienated from museum experiences that the majority of the community can freely enjoy.
In contrast, person-centred approaches – based on participation and trust – welcome self-discovery and social connection. For example, my doctoral research explores the personal, social and sensory implications of people with vision impairment accessing different categories of museum objects. They are: accessioned object, handling collections and replicas. I am particularly interested in the latent opportunities of 3D printed versions of accessioned objects.
With the support of the National Museum of Australia, I have hosted two group workshops involving sensory encounters with 3D printed museum objects – testing their capacity to spark self-reflection and connection with others. I have been positively surprised by the response of people with vision impairment to these replica objects. Their area of fascination is partly because they are in fact 3d printed, but also because such objects invite connection into the museum experience.
I believe that digital technologies will assist museums to diversify their audiences and better understand the aspirations of distinct – but diverse – communities of people with impairment. More so, I need your help to create a national network within Museum Australia to put people with impairment at the beginning of exhibition planning processes rather than at the end.
Presented by Beaux Guarini, PhD candidate, University of Canberra.