Monday, 6 December 2010

In Touch With Art Conference

Conference Resolution calls for Europe-wide barriers to museum collections for visually impaired people to be removed.

A ground-breaking Conference Resolution on ‘Equal Access to Museums for Visually Impaired People’ is being presented on 3 December at the conference ‘European Citizenship: Real Benefits for Persons with Disabilities?’, organised by the European Commission and European Disability Forum. 

The ‘In Touch with Art 2010’ Resolution[i] launched on the 2010 European Day of People with Disability, calls on governments throughout the world to take the cultural rights of disabled people seriously.

It asks that governments develop ‘comprehensive access policies and action programmes designed to bring about significant and lasting improvements for all people with disabilities’, as called for as far back as1992 by the Council of Europe.[ii]

The Resolution also calls for urgent action to remove the many access barriers[iii] that blind and partially sighted people face to museum, gallery and heritage collections, so that they can participate ‘on an equal basis’ in the museum experience, as called for by the United Nations[iv].

The Resolution was passed by the delegates[v] of the conference ‘In Touch with Art – international perspectives on Equal Access to Museums for Visually Impaired People’. The conference was  held on 13 October 2010 at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, and was organised by St Dunstan’s[vi], the charity which supports blind ex-Service personnel, in partnership with the European Blind Union[vii].

Marcus Weisen[viii], ‘In Touch with Art’ Content Director, who presents the Resolution in Brussels today said:

“Vigorous action from ministries for culture is needed to make a shared museum experience for blind and partially sighted people an everyday reality. It is one of Europe’s unspoken scandals, that national and local governments are spending billions of Euros on new museums and galleries, whilst paying little or no attention to intellectual access to collections for disabled people. A high level, Europe-wide, culture shift is urgently required. We need ambition and enlightened strategies, not the current piecemeal approach.”

Andrew Jones, Director of Communications at St Dunstan’s said:

“We are fully supportive of the In Touch With Art Resolution. Through our work with blind and partially sighted ex-Service men and women, St Dunstan’s sees first-hand the impact of art in the rehabilitation process and the joy that can be derived from being able to access it. Art and culture can help blind and partially sighted people grow in confidence and develop feelings of achievement, pride and belonging, This is why St Dunstan’s encourages that more should be done to improve accessibility for disabled people in Museums.

Carol Borowski, Chair of the European Blind Union’s Culture & Education Commission, said:

“EBU, in partnership with St Dunstan’s, warmly welcomes this opportunity to bring home to the European Commission the present low levels of accessibility of museums and places of cultural interest to blind and partially sighted people.
"Of course, there is good practice, but it is exceedingly rare. Across Europe, we need significantly more opportunities for visually impaired people to experience art and culture through audio description, authentic objects for handling, tactile models and tactile images. We need to exploit the empowering potential of new technology. Exhibition design which is inclusive of the needs of disabled people has to become the norm, not the exception, as it is today.
“We invite the European Commission to energetically promote the cultural rights of disabled people in its new Disability Strategy 2020. Equal access to museums and places of cultural interest is a right of visually impaired people, not a luxury.”

For more information please contact Marcus Weisen., mobile: 0033-6-40188010

[i] ‘In Touch with Art 2010’ Resolution ‘Equal Access to Museums for Visually Impaired People’,
[ii] Council of Europe. Recommendation R(92)6 of the Committee of Ministers to Member States on a Coherent Policy for People with Disabilities, chapter VIII, section 8.5. 1992.
[iii] Major barriers remain Europe-wide: the accessible museum offer is tiny and fragmented. It bears no relationship with the significance of European cultural collections.Visitor information about the accessible offer is often hard to find and unreliable. This seriously hinders cultural tourism by visually impaired people within the European Union.

[iv] United Nations. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, article 30,
[v] 144 delegates from 22 countries and 4 continents passed the ‘In Touch with Art 2010’ Resolution. Their combined expertise was exceptional and included 6 winners of national and international access to culture Awards. The delegates were museum professionals and visually impaired people.
[vi] St Dunstan’s is the UK national charity supporting blind ex-Service men and women.
[vii] The European Blind Union is a non-governmental, non profit-making European organization founded in 1984. It is the only organisation representing the interests of blind and partially sighted people in Europe. EBU aims to protect and promote the interests of all blind and partially-sighted people in Europe.
[viii] Marcus Weisen is a museum access consultant with significant international experience. He is Director of the Jodi Mattes Trust for accessible digital culture ( The title of the talk the European Commission invited him to give is ‘Access to European museum collections is a right, not a luxury’.

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