Increasing accessibility: Advice for welcoming and working with blind and visually impaired visitors.
What is relatively easy for someone with sight can be more difficult for blind or visually impaired people. Think about:
- Your entrance. Make sure you have the official sign for visual impairment in your entrance/reception so that people know it’s okay to ask for help.
- Offering assistance. If accepted, offer your arm and carefully guide person to the chair.
- Moving around spaces and rooms. Before entering through a door, inform the person of the size and material of the door, who’s on the hinge side, if we’ll need to push or pull.
- Using stairs. Let the person know if we’re walking up or down the stairs, whether there are any particular quirks, and offer your arm if they don’t want to use the rail.
Is your museum accessible? Take a tour around your museum and note all the positive and negative features in terms of accessibility for blind or visually impaired visitors. Think about:
- The existence or lack of a lift and whether it can be easily found
- Whether there are any audio descriptions in your gallery spaces
- Whether it is easy for visually impaired people to move around and there aren’t any significant obstacles around the gallery spaces which can be hazardous
- Consider the acoustics. In spaces with high ceilings it might prove difficult for visually impaired visitors to listen to your audio description
- Consider the text formatting. For people with visual impairments, it can be difficult to read small, heavy-formatted or colourful text. Make sure text around your museum is large enough and easily readable with a simple font.
Think carefully when describing objects. To avoid misconceptions, the describer needs to explain the object’s functionality, consider the order of information given and mention which angle they are describing the object from. As a general rule, the less information we provide the better. Information needs to be simple, interesting, memorable and in the right order.
Handling objects can enhance the experience of blind or visually impaired visitors. A few things to consider when using handling objects: Begin with telling them what it is they are holding and start with the basics – size, shape, whether there are any sharp corners, colour, usage. Give evidence of what you say, especially when using adjectives. Don’t forget that the story behind the object is as important as its appearance. Do your research and provide the context, or else the experience will not be memorable.
Catalyst Programme Coordinator, @YiotaLiopetriti
(The following resource has been created following the Visual Awareness Training led and delivered by VocalEyes on 27 -28 November 2017 at the Royal Cornwall Museum)
Photography credits: James Stuart