Disability in Museums: Then and now

Front cover of the book.Representing Disability in Museums: Imaginary and Identities is an e-book about how disability has been, and currently is, portrayed in museums. The aim of the publication is to show empathetic and ethical ways of representing difference in museums of all types. Chapters cover the representation of disability in museum collections, the link between museums and disability, and cultural accessibility. The open access e-book comes from Europe where museums have a long history and play a large part in tourism activity. 

From the Introduction:

“Although in recent years the representation of disability in museums has raised much interest among the academic community as a social group, disabled people are still sub-represented in museum narratives and overall this remains a subject touched upon with some caution by the cultural practitioners. The discussion about these issues has been regarded as an important way to better understand disability, showing, in particular, its potential to gradually counteract forms of oppression and exclusion of disabled people in the museum context. Integrating narratives on disability in museums’ discursive practices seems to prompt their audiences to carry out deeper analyses on how through historic-artistic heritage the socio-cultural imaginary has been shaped and has influenced the attitudes and social values towards disabled people. The ways disability is represented in museums show how identities and specif social categories were assigned to this social group, being conducive, over time, to discriminatory and exclusion practices. In this sense, the social function of the museum also refers to ways to deal with these shortcomings and has significant impacts both on the cultural approach to disability and on the construction of more positive identities which aim for the inclusion of disabled people in today’s society.

The title of the book is: Representing Disability in Museums: Imaginary and Identities; it is a 15MB PDF file.

Taming the wilderness with inclusive design

A boardwalk traverses a rocky slope down to the lake making it accessible for everyone.The natural landscapes of Norway conjure up pictures of fjords and wilderness with steep slopes. For some people, walks and bike rides in this natural environment aren’t possible. So one municipality of 1287 residents took up the challenge to create an activity park for everyone – locals and visitors of all ages. It was managed as a joint effort between the community and private and public partners. 

A man sits in a bike taxi which is being driven down a section of the boardwalk.Residents had input into all the elements of the park including information signs and a BMX park. Local businesses were invited to tender for contracts. Some thought the investment too much. However, when tourism increased and the cafe trade increased the criticisms receded. The award winning Hamaren Activity Park now gets 10,000 visitors a year.

 

A child rides a BMX bike on the BMX track in the park.The article on the DOGA website provides more information: methods, observations and lots of pictures. There is also a video where the designers and users explain their experiences. It’s in Norwegian but has English captions. Below is a YouTube video without words.

 

Universal design and gardens

A public garden with brightly coloured flowers and plants set around a water feature. Community and botanical gardens are a place of relaxation and enjoyment. They provide an opportunity to experience nature. There are many physical and mental health benefits to experience nature.  Applying universal design principles in the planning a design process allows many more people to enjoy the benefits of a public garden. The American Society of Landscape Architects lists some important aspects to consider:

    • Frequent, flexible seating with arm and back rests throughout the garden. Seating that is light enough to be used encourages social engagement.
    • An obvious inclusion is to limit the level changes, but where they are necessary they should be well signed with multi-sensory wayfinding.
    • Toilets are a must and should be located within easy line of sight, not hidden. Clear signage throughout the garden is also a must.
    • Secluded areas are also helpful, not just for people with autism or other cognitive conditions, but for private contemplation. 

There’s more on the ASLA website on this topic with some useful case studies.  

 

Going outside for inclusion: An education perspective

Four people paddle their brightly coloured canoes .The current theory and practice of outdoor environmental education is failing to include the voices of marginalised people and communities. So writes Karen Warren and Mary Breunig. In a thoughtful paper they argue that the historical background of white privileged males in this field still underpins current thinking. The arguments and thinking in this paper could be applied in other educational settings and the broader community. At the end of the paper they advise that instructors should use the language that students use to self-identify:

“Critically conscious use of language in educational environments can prevent the othering of students who self-identify outside normative boundaries. Asking all participants to share their preferred gender pronouns can prevent the misgendering of students. Mirroring the language that students use to name their identity allows the educator to advocate for inclusion. In a canoe trip for queer students one author recently led, participants were given an opportunity to self identify if they chose to. Even within the queer community, there was a diversity of identity – gender non-binary, lesbian, questioning ally, and trans- and cisgender gay were some of the responses. Educators aware of the power of language to oppress by renaming, disnaming, and misnaming participants will consider adopting the words students use to refer to themselves.”

The title of the easy to read paper is, Inclusion and Social Justice in Outdoor Education. It covers gender, race and ability from a social justice perspective.

Playspaces: Adventurous and Inclusive

A small boy crawls over a branch laying on the ground. He is in a woodland setting and wearing winter clothes. Concepts of play can be designed into many different places – not just the standard urban park. Making play areas inclusive is becoming the norm now – not singling out specific play equipment for children with disability. And not calling them “all abilities” play spaces either. If they are inclusive they don’t need a special name. We need to add adults into the design as well. Younger children only get to go if an adult takes them. And that adult might have a disability. That means moving away from the modular play equipment found in catalogues as the total solution.

Sanctuary magazine has a great article on nature play in parks and home gardens. Play for All Australia, based in the northern beaches of Sydney, is mentioned in the article titled, Playspaces: Child’s play gets serious. Touched by Olivia has achieved many of its aims and is now part of Variety which is continuing advocacy for inclusive play spaces. The NSW Department of Planning has followed up on this movement with the development of the Everyone Can Play guideline and a second year of funding for local government authorities in NSW. 

Note that there will be two presentations on inclusive play spaces at UD2020 universal design conference.

For academics, the article is also available from Informit.  

Swim, Sail and Relax

Front cover showing two people surfing in black wet suits. One is laying down on the board the other is standing on it.Having fun in the sand and surf is the iconic Australian pastime. But not everyone gets an opportunity to join in the fun. The Association of Consultants in Access, Australia newsletter features articles and case studies on beach access, sailing, a resort for people with spinal cord injury, and provisions for people with autism. Plus the general news of the association. The articles mainly feature specialist activities and designs, such as the resort. But that is all part of creating an inclusive society.

The newsletter is available online where you can choose to view online through Issuu or download a PDF version (7MB).

 

Inclusive Outdoor Recreation

A man with a backpack is walking down a path on a hillside. What does the international research on accessible nature-based tourism say? That’s what researchers in Sweden checked out.  Nine major themes emerged:

      1. employee attitudes towards people with disability
      2. accessibility of tourism websites and information systems
      3. accessible transportation, accommodation and tourist attractions
      4. technical solutions
      5. experience, motivations and constraints in tourism settings for people with disability
      6. tourism for the families and carers of people with disability
      7. tourism and leisure activities for older people
      8. the accessible tourism market
      9. nature-based tourism and outdoor recreation

This review found that existing research took the perspective of the consumer rather and the tourism operator. The report goes into more detail on the nine factors. It includes evidence from USA, Europe, UK and Sweden. The title of the report is, Enhancing Accessibility in Tourism & Outdoor Recreation: A Review of Major Research Themes and a Glance at Best Practice.

An very academic article, but with important findings. The key point – we need more research on businesses rather than consumers. 

 

Parks for Inclusion

Open parkland with St Patrick's Cathedral Melbourne in the background.When we talk of ‘inclusion’ and ‘inclusive’, have we thought of everyone? Older people and adults with disability are usually front of mind. But older people can have many different backgrounds and capabilities. Same goes for children and young people. The Parks and Recreation Report does an excellent job of covering just about everyone in terms of age, disability, cultural background, refugee status and sexual orientation. It has statistics on each of the groups which help focus the mind when it comes to designing parks and recreation facilities.

The Report is a concise document emphasising that everyone can take advantage of facilities, programs, places and spaces that make their lives and communities great. Published by the National Recreation and Park Association. 

Also, have a look at Advancing play participation for all: The challenge of addressing play diversity and inclusion in community parks and playgrounds. This is an academic article.

Abstract: Outdoor parks and playgrounds are important sites of social inclusion in many urban communities. However, these playspaces are often inaccessible and unusable for many children with disabilities. This paper presents findings from a case study of one urban municipality in Ireland. The study aimed to understand play participation in five local playgrounds by exploring the perspectives of play providers and families with diverse abilities, through the lens of universal design.

Placemaking Toolkit

Children play with bubbles in urban area.Designing public space is seen as something for trained professionals. But the Placemaking Toolkit shows how community groups and residents can do their own place make-over. The Guide is for community-driven, low-cost public space transformation. With the support of local government anyone can change a neglected space in their neighbourhood into a clean and safe play area or park. This Guide is especially relevant for developing countries and remote communities in any country. The Guide is from the Public Space Network.      

 

Is your beer accessible?

Picture from front cover of the booklet showing two pubs and a man who is blind using his smartphone to order food.It’s a simple thing and doesn’t always take much to achieve. The British Beer & Pub Association has a straightforward booklet of advice and good case studies for accessibility. It dispels a lot of myths, and many of the adaptations are simple, such as easy to read menus. It covers physical, sensory and cognitive issues that potential customers might have. So joke-type symbols for toilets are not a good idea, as well as understanding that not all disabilities are visible. Excellent resource for any food and beverage venue. As is often the case, it is not rocket science or costly, just thoughtful.

The title of the publication is An Open Welcome: Making your pub accessible for customers. As Government Disability Champion for Tourism, Chris Veitch says, “Pubs are places where everyone is welcome. It’s where family, friends and colleagues come together and where tourists to the country feel they will see the true, welcoming Britain”. 

Editor’s note: Everyone should be able to have a beer with Duncan.