Stage 1 Research Project


There hasn’t been much real-world research into inclusively designed and curated exhibitions that provide
intellectual access to visitors with sight loss in the UK. While interest in making venues accessible has
increased, research in this area is still rare.

Many argue publicly funded museums and galleries need to improve their accessibility. The argument is a
strong one too. Almost 2 million people in the UK are registered blind or partially sighted. The older you
are, the more likely you are to experience some form of visual impairment. Coincidentally, since 2005, the
65-74-year-olds have been the quickest growing visitor group to UK museums and galleries.

Fortunately, a growing number of large national cultural venues are giving access to exhibits for people with
sight loss via pre-booked visits and guided tours including touch tours. Several museums are beginning to
add open-access tactile and/or audio facilities. These types of exhibits tend to be small additions to the
main collections instead of a central feature, and campaigners still say this is not enough. This research
aims to address this lack of intellectual accessibility for this group.

The key problem is that inclusive designing and curating is not being considered from the start. Even then
local and regional venues aren’t aware of the problems, and struggle to get the resources they need to
deliver an accessible experience. This is significant as people with sight loss in the UK prefer these venues
over larger national institutions because they are close to home and less crowded and intimidating.

Research approach

It is important to remove any barriers that might prevent a visitor to the exhibition having intellectual access
to the exhibits. To achieve this aim Professor Anne Chick set an overall research goal of co-creating the
exhibition design with National Centre for Craft & Design (NCCD) staff as well as blind and partially sighted
people.The inclusive exhibition was designed by Arnaud Dechelle, Anne Chick, Bryony Windsor, and partially
sighted participants.

The aim was for all participants to feel they have opportunity to contribute, improve their knowledge
and enhance their skill set. From these activities it was decided the team need to achieve the following

  • An effective multi-sensory exhibition that was inclusive for all visitors.
  • A gallery space way-finding solution.
  • Interpretive audio information for visitors.
  • Use appropriate cost-effective audio equipment which was suited to the NCCD Main Gallery.
  • Inclusively designed wall panels and object labels.
  • Large-print and Braille brochures.
  • Effective NCCD gallery visitor assistance and interpretation including: Guiding visually impaired
    visitors, offering interpretations/descriptions of exhibits, and answering questions at the NCCD
    reception desk.