Access to culture is a universal right. However, to what extent do people with different types of disabilities – motor, auditory, visual, intellectual, have genuine access to cultural heritage? And do experts, who work at museums and art galleries, have necessary knowledge and skills to welcome such visitors in an appropriate way?
Those are the questions on the focus of our international project – “CURABILITY – Cultural Accessibility” (2021-1-ES01-KA220-ADU-000030420).
As a first step, we turned to experts working at cultural institutions, as well as to people with disabilities and asked them about the biggest challenges they face and whether cultural spaces, equipment they have and services they offer are adapted to visitors with disabilities. We also tried to identify the areas for further training and capacity building, which are important for cultural workers themselves, and what educational resources they need to be able to better accommodate visitors with different types of disabilities.
From the obtained results from the survey we did within the project, we learned that:
- In Bulgaria, educators and cultural workers themselves are fully aware about the importance of the topic of cultural accessibility for people with disabilities. However, when it comes to putting this right into practice, the country has a long way ahead to ensure that museum artefacts and art gallery works are accessible for this share of visitors, and that museum workers, guides and curators have sufficient knowledge and skills to welcome and accommodate visitors with different types of disabilities.
- Due to the adopted legislation, cultural institutions started the process of reconstructions and reshaping physical spaces to accommodate people with reduced mobility and physical disabilities. However, it is still needed to raise the awareness of staff and visitors about these opportunities and to make sure that they are really available and put in practice.
- At the same time, it is needed to focus on adaptation of museum and art gallery websites (through Web Accessibility Initiative) and how artefacts and artworks can be made accessible for people with disabilities, including through Macrotype-adapted tools, haptic planes, magnifying glasses, magnetic loupes, relief reproductions, tactile mockups, etc.
- Although all surveyed cultural workers and trainers shared that they know about Braille system and sign language, they admit their inability to use them in their daily work, so to support and engage learners and visitors with disabilities. In addition, they all claim their interest in receiving more training about accommodating people with disabilities in cultural spaces, using different types of adapted tools and resources and creating new ones.
We hope that this survey will help us to initiate a discussion how the cultural sector and people working there can ‘open’ to the needs of people with different types of disabilities, and how both sides in the process – cultural institutions and visitors, can cooperate to achieve universal access to culture for all.
If you like to see the full results from our survey, you could find them on “Are museums and art galleries accessible for people with disabilities –the situation in Bulgaria?”
The project “CURABILITY – Cultural Accessibility” (2021-1-ES01-KA220-ADU-000030420) is funded by the Erasmus + Programme of the EU, through the Spanish National Agency.
This project has been co-funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.