One of the primary “rules” we tell Center visitors is not to touch the art. There are occasions, however, when we forgo this edict in favor of opening up the museum’s collection to all audiences, particularly those with visual impairments. Recently two of our wonderful tour guides had the opportunity to tour participants from the Traumatic Brain Injury Day Program, part of Opportunity Partners.
Through a combination of careful description and gentle touching (with gloves), the tour participants had an opportunity to experience contemporary art in a meaningful way. These tours even have an impact on the general gallery audience, as they see what’s going on and understand the unique experience of this audience. Today’s tour was also captured by WCCO Channel 4 news. Hopefully in this way, more people with visual impairments will be able to experience museum collections. The Minneapolis Institute of Arts also offers touch tours for the visually impaired.
The experience is not only for the visitors, but can have a great impact on our volunteer educators as well. As one of the guides for today’s tour, Sunny Floum, said, “…in the realm of tour guide experiences…To be able to share my love of WAC and its art with individuals who could easily be left out is the greatest gift that I could possibly receive.”
Museums constantly strive to make their programs and collections accessible to all audiences. A really useful source for accessibility guidelines is the National Arts and Disability Center.