New Issue of Disability Studies Quarterly Explores Blindness and the Museum Experience

The newest issue of the Disability Studies Quarterly was recently published. This issue focuses on the special topic of museum experiences and blindness. The Disability Studies Quarterly, or DSQ, according to its website, "is the journal of the Society for Disability Studies (SDS). It is a multidisciplinary and international journal of interest to social scientists, scholars in the humanities, disability rights advocates, creative writers, and others concerned with the issues of people with disabilities. It represents the full range of methods, epistemologies, perspectives, and content that the multidisciplinary field of disability studies embraces. DSQ is committed to developing theoretical and practical knowledge about disability and to promoting the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities in society. (ISSN: 1041-5718; eISSN: 2159-8371)"

Nina Levent, the Executive Director of Art Beyond Sight, Joan Pursley, also of Art Beyond Sight, and Georgina Kleege of UC Berkeley co-edited this issue. The Art Beyond Sight collaborative strives to bring visual art to people who are blind and visually impaired through education, training, sharing of resources, publications, and workshops.

Part 1 of this issue focuses on the best practices for making the museum experience accessible to people who are blind and visually impaired. Articles in this section include an analysis of the political and religious roots of touch exhibits in 20th-century England, as well as several articles on how to create meaningful museum experiences through touch and sound. The sustainability of museum access for people who are blind and visually impaired is also discussed.

Part 2 highlights the perspectives of curators in museums. There are three articles in this section, including "A New Model for Access in the Museum."

Part 3 features the personal accounts of people who are blind—their experiences, both positive and negative, in museums. These personal accounts range from one person's experience with described art, to the story of a blind docent. A museum professional, Joseph Wapner, who is blind, wrote the final article on his perspective concerning museum inclusivity.   

This issue and all others of the DSQ are available online at Articles are in HTML format.

The topic of museum access for people who are blind has deservedly been spotlighted in recent years. For too long, museum professionals and people who are blind alike have assumed that most museums are by nature not accessible to people who are blind. However, that misconceived notion is ever so slowly beginning to change and evolve. The Guggenheim Museum in New York City actually offers an accessible audio described tour via an app as well as Mind's Eye tours for visitors who are blind. 

In 2000, APH manufactured Art Beyond Sight's Art History through Touch and Sound series. Each book in this series focused on a different content area of art history such as baroque art of the seventeenth century and the Bronze Age. These books were meant as kind of an art history class. They included lecture tapes that described images. The book had large print and braille, as well as tactile graphics and visual images.

A guest tactually explores the braillewriter exhibit
A guest explores the braillewriter exhibit.

The Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind is accessible to visitors who are blind and visually impaired. Many of the museum's exhibits offer touchable artifacts such as an early example of a brailler or a tactile puzzle map of the United States. Additionally, the museum uses braille labels and audio wands to make the text accessible. Visit the museum's website to learn more about us and our current events and exhibits. If you're in the Louisville area, stop by for a tour!


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