Henshaws and MADE: Museum accessibility top tips
In May and June 2021, some of the children and young people that we support were involved in a project in which they came up with their top tips for how museums and galleries could be made more accessible to vision impaired people.
The project was in partnership with MADE, an organisation with the aim to embed creativity into the curriculum and to enable young people to thrive through access to the arts.
Find out how the project came to be, and some of the top tips our children and young people came up with.
About the project
We invited MADE to a forum we had organised for vision impaired young people to discuss access to cultural activities and venues, as a result of discussions around young people’s access to well-being opportunities more generally. We wanted to work with MADE, as they are an organisation who work with young people, and work with venues in the Manchester City Council area, including the National Football Museum and People’s History Museum, which the young people visited as part of this project. MADE were very keen to hear what the young people had to say.
As a result of the forum, we, along with MADE, agreed that venues should hear the young people’s views, and this resulted in us filming a video in which the young people shared their top tips, as well as previous experiences of accessibility when visiting museums.
Before filming the video, the young people participated in a workshop that we organised, to narrow down what had been discussed in the forum into some top tips that would be included in the video. We wanted to ensure that the tips were realistic, so we focused on solutions that would not require venues to make too much structural change, whilst also considering the needs of the young people, who all had different levels of vision and had different ideas to bring to the forum and workshop.
As well as giving young people an opportunity to share their views with venues, we also want this project to encourage vision impaired young people to visit their local cultural venues, and give young people ideas of the sorts of questions to ask before and during a visit to a museum or gallery, in relation to accessibility.
As well as filming the video, the children and young people visited two museums: the National Football Museum and Peoples’ History Museum, so that they could discover the accessibility features hands-on – prior to this project, one of the young people involved had never visited a museum before due to their concerns about what accessibility features would be present.
The young people felt a sense of empowerment when sharing their ideas, and were very keen to have this platform:
“As a blind person, my ambition is for our voices to be heard, and for our ideas to be taken into account. This is the first of hopefully many opportunities where we can express our opinions and maybe have a say in what could be improvements for museums in future.” – Alisha, 20
Young People’s Top Tips
Below is just some of what the young people had to say:
- Make all exhibits multi-sensory – “I’d like things to touch because everything just seems to be behind glass so it’s very hard for me to know what’s there.” – Amy, 15
- Provide audio description of attractions – “If you had a speaker attached to it and a button which someone could press, you could have someone speaking about the exhibit, telling you what it looks like and some history about it.” – Alisha, 20
- Provide written guide in multiple formats – “Provide it in loads of formats because some people can see large print but others need Braille. Sometimes the writing is so small, you just can’t see it in the museum.” – Hana, 15
- Use contrasting colours – “If it’s a yellow sign on a green door, I probably wouldn’t be able to see the sign. Any dark colours mixed with black, or white colours mixed with green, I wouldn’t be able to see any of them.” – Isaac, 11
- Offer sighted guides or tours – “I would like someone to describe everything to me so I understand what’s going on. A sighted guide would really help.” – Ibrahim, 11
- Ask us, then implement our feedback
Some other comments the young people made:
- For going downstairs, maybe put a yellow strip of tape at the bottom to indicate where the bottom is.
- Have replicas of artefacts that you cannot touch.
- Ensure the museum’s website is compatible with screen readers.
To hear everything the young people had to say, watch our video.
We want to thank the young people who got involved, and for their enthusiasm when sharing their ideas and filming the video.
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Henshaws rely on voluntary donations; our work just wouldn’t be possible without people like you. Your support empowers local people living with sight loss and a range of other disabilities to increase their independence, achieve their dreams, and go beyond expectations.