Art Experiences for Everyone: Opening the Doors to the Blind and People with Low Vision

By Shirley Confino-Rehder.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

According to the World Health Organization there are an estimated 45 million blind people and 135 million people with low vision in the world. Many travel, and want to experience all of the pleasures the world has to offer to the best of their abilities. Most countries have Disability Laws for access to social programs. This includes all public accommodations, including museums and galleries of all sizes everywhere.
Museums and galleries around the world are searching for inexpensive, effective and easily adopted tours that include people with disabilities. This session demonstrates how to create a dynamic program for the blind and people with low vision of all ages that engages the visitor and is cost effective. It will help overcome the barriers of uncertainty in communication, enabling guides to teach what all museum personnel and volunteers love to teach, to an audience waiting to learn.
To meet the requirements of most Disability Acts, expand your visitor base and reach this audience, the session will provide an outline on how to create tactile graphics and extend the aesthetic experience through touch, emotion and smell. We will conclude by reviewing actual tours given and offer survey results received by both docents and visitors.
The arts are powerful tools for developing the right side of the brain, for healing, for communication, for making life’s experiences richer. It is the right of everyone to enjoy these experiences to the fullest of one’s ability. Eliminating the hurdles to accommodate people we often overlook in a museum setting can be inexpensive, easy to institute, and can result in a wonderful experience for the museum staff, volunteers and the visitor. This Tactile Tour program is written for professionals and volunteers of any size museum who give tours.

Keywords: Accessibility, Aesthetic Experience, Art, Docent Training, Inclusive Programming, Museums, Sensitivity Training, Tactile Tours

International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp.27-38. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 674.714KB).

Shirley Confino-Rehder

Voluteer Docent, Docent Education Department, Muscarelle Museum of Art, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, USA

Shirley Confino-Rehder (SCR) started as a docent for the Muscarelle Museum of Art (MM), College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA in 2004. Professionally she is a certified interior designer in Virginia, an internationally recognized author, expert and invited speaker on the subjects of Universal Design, the Americans With Disabilities Act and its Accessibility Guidelines. SCR retired from a very active design business in 2002 after 40 years and moved to Padua, Italy for a year to paint. She befriended an architect in Milan, Italy who focuses on accessibility for the blind and toured museums and churches that offered tactile images of their art collection. Returning to the States in 2003, SCR was accepted in the docent program at MM and quickly saw a need to create a way to include the blind and persons with low vision in museum experiences. She started to produce tactile images of the Masters with puff paint, give tours and promote the concept. She now creates computer graphic images and has completed a training handbook on how to give tactile tours. SCR has presented her program at relevant conferences internationally. Her handbook has received much praise and will be available in Italian soon.

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