‘Bringing Museums to Life’ event success

Around 40 blind and partially sighted (BPS) people attended the Museum of Liverpool for Merseyside Sight Loss Council’s (SLC) ‘Bringing Museums to Life’ event on 25 November 2023.

During the event, held in partnership with National Museums Liverpool, participants explored how to make arts and culture more accessible.

They also learnt about other collaborations between Merseyside SLC and National Museums Liverpool to increase accessibility. This includes vision awareness sessions for staff to raise awareness and understanding of the needs of BPS customers.

Iris Sirendi, a Curating for Change (CfC) fellow, gave a presentation about the Museum of Liverpool’s CfC programme and the work it does to improve accessibility. Matt Exley, from the Learning and Participation team, then spoke about the museum’s desire to become more inclusive for BPS people.

Blind and partially sighted delegates are sat around tables listening to a key speaker at the event. A presentation slide says ‘Disability Awareness Month’ 2023 and there is a Sight Loss Council banner in the background.

Delegates listening to a presentation during the event

The power of lived experience

BPS attendees then shared their experiences and aspects of museums they found inaccessible to inform future developments. Sight Loss Councils share their lived experience of living with sight loss with partners to increase the accessibility of services. Their main feedback was that too many of the exhibits are obscured behind glass.

Delegates then took the opportunity for people to handle some objects on display and go on the Ken Dodd Happiness tour. This is an exhibition celebrating the life and career of Liverpool’s iconic comedian Sir Ken Dodd and his connect with today’s comedic stars.

A delegate at Merseyside SLC's accessible museum event during the touch-tour element of the event. He is holding a typewriter. Other props can be seen on the table, and his guide dog's head is poking in the corner of the image.

A delegate examining tactile props from the museum

Building on our success

Following the success of this collaborative event, the museum is looking forward to further events next year. This includes an event aimed at families, where one or more members are BPS.

SLC Engagement Manager, Kelly Barton, said:

“It was fantastic to have so many BPS people attend this event. A number of people hadn’t been back to a museum since losing their sight. Gaining everyone’s feedback was invaluable, so we can work together to address their accessibility concerns”.

Michael Allaen, an attendee of the event, said:

“We often think that museums and art galleries are out of reach for visually impaired people. This event gave us the opportunity for these thoughts to be dispelled, and to discover either through touch, sound, or audio description, that we can access so much. Don’t think it’s not for you. The more we speak up about these accessibility issues, the more people are going to start listening.”

Matthew Hughes-Paton, Merseyside SLC member, said:

“I could see how the museum was trying to work towards a more inclusive experience and good progress has been made, for instance, tactile maps of the museum. But it was evident that further improvement is still needed.”

Kelly Barton, Engagement Manager for North West England, addressing delegates during the event. A presentation slide says ‘Disability Awareness Month’ 2023 and there is a Sight Loss Council banner in the background.

Kelly Barton, Engagement Manager for North West England, presenting to delegates

Mick Spriggs, from Merseyside SLC, said:

“The event was well organised, and it gave people the opportunity to look at the past, whilst thinking about the future and the further changes that could be made for BPS people.”

Iris Serendi, a CfC fellow, said:

“It is so vital for museums to do the important work of engaging with local BPS people, so we can continue expanding our offer and making our venues more welcoming and enjoyable spaces for all.

“We look forward to continuing to BPS people to share the work we are doing and invite you all to enjoy our museums and galleries in the future.”

Two delegates pictured using audio description during the Happiness tour. A gentleman is holding a headphone up to his ear whilst a female attendee looks on, smiling.

Delegates pictured using audio description in the Ken Dodd exhibition

About Sight Loss Councils

Sight Loss Councils are led by blind and partially sighted members and funded by Thomas Pocklington Trust. We advocate the needs of visually impaired people in our communities and work to improve access to goods and services at a local and national level.

If you would like to collaborate with Merseyside Sight Loss Council on a project, please get in touch.

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Publication date: 14 February 2024

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