In July 2009, the Walker Art Center celebrated the first of two years of funding from the MetLife Foundation for its Open Door Accessibility Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to be inclusive as possible when offering guided tours of our galleries and hands-on art-making experiences. For this grant, our core audiences are people who are blind, people who are deaf, and people who have cognitive disabilities, including those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Existing access programs include:
- Contemporary Journeys, tours and art-making for people with Alzheimer’s and their care partners
- Touch Tours of the Walker collection (exploring objects through touch).
- Verbal Description Tours, using descriptive language to convey visual details (also included in Touch Tours).
- Multi-Sensory Tours, incorporating various props to allow visitors different points of entry to access artworks.
- Large Print Exhibition Labels, available at the lobby desks.
- Assisted Listening Devices for tours and events in the Cinema and McGuire Theater.
- Qualified ASL interpretation upon request (four week’s notice required for tours and art labs, two week’s notice for Cinema and McGuire Theater events).
We are also developing accommodations for these communities including: a Braille version of our visitor guide, tactile diagrams of select pieces in the Walker collection, new and more user friendly gallery stools and folding chairs, and a selection of audio described programs.
Members of local non-profit, arts, education, and disability communities along with Walker staff and volunteers have come together to form an access advisory group. On January 12, our group met to discuss access initiatives at the museum. We gathered in the Friedman Gallery, the site of Robert Irwin’s immersive installation Slant, Light, Volume. It was important to meet and discuss accessibility in the context of a gallery, exactly where we intend to expand access. As some of the members of the group are blind or have low vision, we began with a detailed verbal description of the installation. A sign language interpreter was also on staff.
This was our first group meeting, so introductions came next, along with testimonials from people about memorable experiences with art museums. This discussion was important in highlighting some of the individual needs and interests we are trying to address in the access initiative as well as the challenges we face. The diversity of the group guarantees vibrant and broad discussions.
We continued by examining the grant goals and scope and existing programs, listed above. We also mapped out future meetings and determined some essential details to be considered in our initiative, including:
- Creating a welcoming environment
- How to market our accessibility programming to the community
- Where to turn attention for future funding
More info is to come. Do you have suggestions on how the Walker can make the museum more accessible? We’re listening! Please post below. Any questions or concerns you may have regarding accessibility may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the access line at 612.375.7564. Coming next: an introduction to your accessibility group!