Making knowledge and culture available to everyone and just anyone, the notion of accessibility ponders beyond equality. The life before the 1990 American Disability Act allowed my people with different disabilities to be "legitimately" excluded from the most simple daily activities such as circulate in building and street to pursue sources of learning and knowledge.
This changed the perspective on the way equality should be, creating a conscious among our societies about how to be more inclusive.
Since the 1990s our worlds stated to adapt to this inclusion "for everyone" in a way it became a moral reason; roads, streets, and building were adapted for wheelchair users, sidewalks with high reliefs objects allowing vision impaired to "see the guiding textures" sounds emitted from lights intersections, braille signs, sign language along speakers and so on.
Almost 40 years since then, and we continue to integrate this accessibility and inclusiveness. Cultural institutions, heritage sites, parks, and museums have not remained behind on this mission. The notion and plan of actions of accessibility have been shared, and present in almost every conference, evolving beyond visitors that have a vision and/or are hearing impaired, but also adapting to younger generations, diverse cultures, audiences with specific health challenges such as autism, incorporating digital for the special needs for audiences and more and more improving this offering.
Recently, our partner Thematis attended a conference and they shared with us some very interesting information regarding this topic. Thus, we thought it be relevant to mix our thoughts about this matter in this article. During our latest exchanging, our partner Thematis found out about the « Culture inclusive » label, an initiative developed by pro infirmis, a Zurich based, non-for-profits, non-denominational, and political independent service association. Which has been existing since 2014, and since then it has been expanding to German and French-speaking cantons, as well as Ticino, the Italian speaking canton of Switzerland.
Although many cultural institutions have already incorporated an "Inclusive Culture" service, the label is open to museums from different disciplines interested in educating, informing and guiding the members - focusing on promoting inclusion, as well as their role and the society's. They are not only accomplishing this, but also improving the levels of inclusion, while working in partnerships within the member institutions...
Comprising of five areas of action, the label holders engage in making this into reality by tackling the following areas:
Architectural and other building directives promoting accessibility
Followed by implementing measurable accepted ways to evaluate the label's action fields, as well as meetings and communications between label holders... a real community commitment.
Some of the accessibility case studies discussed range from museums of different disciplines and topics, such as the case for the evaluation of the Augusta Raurica for the necessary conditions to transform a museum in an inclusive cultural institution, others such as the mediation program established by the Pully museums for children with particular minds (Autism and other spectrum disorders).
Another great case was that of the Geneve Museum of Art and History and their offering for the blind and visually impaired; they produced a visiting tour based on a TACTILE or SOUND MODEL to "see" through touch and sound the museum's collection.
Last December, the 2018 Museology workshop titled: Towards universal exhibit accessibility, questioning beyond inclusion and thoughts about solidarity? Speakers such as Nadia Sahmi, Architect DPLG in psychosociologist of architecture in Cogito Ergo Sum, stressed the need to advocate a global perspective about accessibility, putting forward the concept of humankind in general, as the center of these ideas.
On the other hand, Philippe Maffre, architect and scenographer specialized in museums and heritage sites at Maffre Architectural Workshop, expressed the fight for accessibility projects in France which continues, calling a need to synchronize legislative framework with museum design scopes.