Accessibility December 3, 2020
Bengaluru’s Museum of Art & Photography promises a holistic experience with emphasis on accessibility
Starting 5 December, the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) in Bengaluru is organising the Art (is) Life festival. This is a seven-day-long festival with talks, performances, and exhibitions. One of the key elements of this online festival is the accessibility features for people with disabilities.
South India’s first major private art museum, the Museum of Art & Photography (MAP) in Bengaluru seeks to create a culture that encourages people to experience art and heritage in new ways. A key part of its mission is accessibility, and this includes people across disability types.
That will be put to test later this week during the Art (is) Life festival, starting 5 December. Over seven days, people will get to experience talks, performances, and exhibitions all online.
“We, as cultural institutions, promote inclusion, social cohesion, dialogue and collaboration; we celebrate diversity and so naturally have the responsibility to also set an example”, says Kamini Sawhney, Museum Director.
Online festival starts 5 December
MAP, adds Sawhney, is on a huge learning curve and is working hard at “trying to crack the formula”. This is no easy task and not only because of the larger lack of awareness and sensitisation in India. Museums the world over are falling behind when it comes to catering to people with disabilities.
Part of the problem, believes Sawhney, is that many of these museums were built within heritage buildings many generations ago. “It is harder to retrofit an existing building than plan one from scratch according to the desired requirements. And this is why a new museum, or any public space really, must prioritise accessibility in today’s climate”.
Designed by leading architect, Soumitro Ghosh MAP has identified four main accessibility priorities – the museum building, technology, HR, and programming. The team of architects has worked closely with specialists from the Diversity and Equal Opportunity Centre (DEOC) as well as peers from other museums.
In the process, we have taken into consideration disabilities of different kinds – not just physical or to do with mobility, but also intellectual, mental, and emotional. We have considered the needs of children and the elderly. Our consultant for digital and technology is BarrierBreak. – Kamini Sawhney, Director, Museum of Art & Photography
The MAP website will be launched in about three phases and will be fully compliant with WCAG 2.0 standards. All webinars will have live Indian Sign Language interpretations, and this is being done in partnership with the Indian Sign Language Interpreters Association (ISLIA).
Dedicated inclusion manager
Key to enabling an inclusive atmosphere is a sensitised staff. MAP’s HR policies have been reviewed by disability rights activist Jeeja Ghosh. Regular training sessions are being held for the team on aspects ranging from creating accessible working documents to welcoming visitors with disabilities.
To ensure all this is done in a seamless manner, MAP has a dedicated inclusion manager, Kunal Mehta. As person with vision impairment, Mehta says he understands the challenges faced by people with disabilities all too well.
“As a child, I rarely came across museums that were even close to being accessible”, recalls Mehta. “Apart from having an accessible facility, creating awareness within the community is important. The more visitors we have from the community, the more feedback we can get, and the easier it will become for us to learn and improve”.
Ensuring accessibility while retaining an enjoyable experience will no doubt be a challenge in many instances but by including accessibility at the conceptualisation stage, MAP is way ahead of many other social institutions.
“Everything we build for the mainstream audience has to be accessible to all and this, we believe, will facilitate true inclusion”, adds Mehta. “We are also developing a network comprising individuals and institutions that work with people with disabilities and thereby, we want to develop a community which can be our audience”.
To register for Art (is) Life visit the event website here.
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