Like the rest of the community, people who are blind or have low vision enjoy a range of arts and cultural events, including theatre, museums and art galleries.
They have often been excluded from full enjoyment of these experiences by lack of appropriate access. This may deter them from seeking arts experiences and lead them to feel unwelcome in Arts spaces and institutions.
“Touch is how I see and without it, museums can be very dull and boring places to visit.” – ‘Many voices making choices: Museum audiences with disabilities’
Providing access services like Touch Tours, means compliance with discrimination and human rights obligations, developing untapped audiences and instigating creative solutions, which enable full and equal participation.
For people who are blind or low vision, touch is a major way to access the world at large and also to experience works of art. It allows the visitor to form a strong impression of an artwork or performance.
Touch tours are quite common in theatres that provide audio-described performances. Access services such as this are still not common enough, but they have grown and are increasing. Galleries and Museums have also become more interested in providing access through audio-description.
The purpose of galleries and museums to preserve and show, often priceless historical objects and artworks, sometimes works against allowing people to touch these items.
Some solutions have been found. It could be contemporary art that is made to be touched. It could be a sample of fabric similar to a costume. They could also be replicas of antique furniture, models and props, or specially created handling objects, such as fur or texture samples.
“I wanted to let you know how absolutely terrific the Tactile Tour was…a lovely range of costumes and props which very much added to the students’ experience of the opera; an inclusive feel and opportunity for our kids.” – Dew Lewis, Statewide Vision Resource Centre