East Sussex SLC produce ‘Top Tips for Describing Art’ guide
Art galleries, artists and museums across England are set to benefit from the launch of a describing art guide created by and for blind and partially sighted (BPS) people.
East Sussex Sight Loss Council (SLC) produced the ‘Top tips for describing art’ resource in collaboration with Zoom Arts and Royal Collection Trust. The aim is to support museum and gallery staff and volunteers to better assist their BPS visitors to enjoy arts and culture.
“Blind and partially sighted people also enjoy accessing art and museums. However, this can often be inaccessible to us. This is why we are working alongside arts organisations to make this happen.” – Iris Keppler, East Sussex SLC
Sight Loss Councils, funded by Thomas Pocklington Trust, are regional groups led by blind and partially sighted people. Together, they work with organisations to ensure what they do is accessible and inclusive.
Several SLCs across the country are working with museums and galleries to make arts and culture more accessible for BPS people, including in including in Essex, Gloucestershire, North and West Yorkshire, and Merseyside. This is so everyone can have equal access to enjoy and participate in arts and culture.
SLC members looking at art at the Walker Art Gallery
Iris, East Sussex SLC member, said:
“We created this guide to take away the worry from staff about how they can support a BPS visitor and, at the same time, make the visit more enjoyable and engaging for BPS people.
“We hope that our resource will enable staff to better understand how they can describe art with confidence to someone with sight loss, and that it’ll break down some of the barriers about communicating with BPS people. We want everyone’s experience during their visit to a gallery or museum to be more pleasurable.
“We also hope that art galleries and museums will actively promote that they can provide audio described tours and encourage BPS people to visit their exhibitions.”
Amy Stocker, Access and Inclusion Manager at Royal Collection Trust, said:
“It was a real pleasure to be asked to help East Sussex SLC with their resource. We’ve been running descriptive events at the Royal Collection for over 10 years. With some prep, thought, and research, describing art can be made much more accessible than some might think.
“The resource should make people much more confident when communicating with blind and partially sighted people. Hopefully this means more vision impaired people will have access to art and engaging with arts and culture.”
David Smith, Engagement Manager South East, added:
“Whilst working on a project with Zoom Arts Community members, we identified that there could be many ways of how they could make their art accessible to blind and partially sighted people. However, the missing piece to the puzzle was having specific information on how a sighted person describes a picture or piece of still art to someone. This provoked us to create our ‘Top tips for assisting and describing art to blind and partially sighted visitors’ guide.
“We wanted to ensure that the guide contained information that was correct but written in a way that anyone could read it. It’s designed so the reader can have a greater understanding of how to describe art to BPS people. This could be whether they work at a gallery or museum or were a friend or family member visiting an exhibition. We also wanted it to be a resource that could be used anywhere, ensuring that it benefited the wider BPS community.
“We worked with Amy Stocker from Royal Collection Trust to support us with writing the describing art section and to describe the example images in the resource. Amy and her colleagues have extensive experience of describing art through their audio descriptive tours and sessions of the royal collection. They were a great fit to produce this resource which can be shared and used nationally to help others.”
Merseyside SLC members at the Lady Lever Art Gallery
As a result of this work, Zoom Arts is hosting a tactile art exhibition called ‘Art Over Sight’. The exhibition will run in mid-October, and is designed so people with sight loss to enjoy without support.
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Publication date: 25 September 2023