From the depiction of the Neanderthal to the kings and princess of medieval India, up to colonial, post modern and contemporary times, disability is conspicuous by its absence in the museums of the world. Are we to think that if art and media are a mirror to and of society, then disability is fiction?
Right to barrier-free participation in cultural life is one of the mandates of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to which India is a signatory. This blog attempts to document the current status of accessibility across museums in India for persons with disabilities.
Accessibility is not restricted to physical barriers, such as building architecture or navigation routes within the premises or on the museum grounds. Accessibility is primarily about inclusion. When it comes to museums, museum professionals in India need to ensure that the exhibits, the signage, the educational programs, audio-video tours and catalogs, and other community outreach materials are accessible for visitors who are blind and/or visually impaired, deaf and/or hard of hearing, also children with developmental disabilities (autism, learning) and visitors who cannot engage with exhibits due to motor disabilities.
The blog will feature interviews of people working in museums, art galleries, cultural centers, heritage sites, and leisure spaces, across government, civil society and not-for-profit and corporate stakeholders.
The resource page will have the questions we posted to various government ministries in India through the Right to Information Act, including the Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, Ministry of Social Justice – among others – and their responses on accessibility regulations, programs, training and interventions in India’s cultural sphere. See all the RTI questions here.
Another aspect of this project will also look at curatorial practices in representing persons with disabilities in museums. It would not be a gross generalization to suggest that people living with a range of disabilities find no likeness of themselves in India’s public, cultural and art spaces.
This blog and resource page is conceptualized and edited by Nilofar Haja (she/her), a communications specialist based in India. You can reach her at: email@example.com
Follow the project on Twitter: @a11yInMuseums