ATHENS – In an effort to become more accessible and inclusive for all, the Museum of Cycladic Art (MCA) in Athens has developed the program ‘In Touch’, enabling individuals with sensory impairments to have access to the permanent Cycladic Art exhibition.
The program takes place within the framework of the European Erasmus+ Program and is implemented with the support of Eurolife FFH, a strategic partner of the MCA. It was designed in close cooperation with the Non-profit Civil Partnership (NPCP) ‘Me Alla Matia’ and HandsUp – the first sign language interpreting agency in Greece – and was launched after a successful pilot run involving focus groups with individuals with sensory impairment.
The program comprises:
-A new mobile showcase for the visually impaired
-A multisensory museum kit
-A series of actions to make the Museum accessible to deaf or hard of hearing persons.
Mobile showcase for the visually impaired
For the purposes of the program ‘In Touch’, the MCA has created a thematic tour, accessible to persons with visual impairments, creating a mobile showcase on the subject of Cycladic Culture. The showcase was created with the participation of a focus group of visually impaired individuals in collaboration with the social enterprise ‘Me Alla Matia’ and its President, Vaggelis Avgoulas. It was designed with the equal inclusion of persons with visual impairments in mind, without preventing any visitor who might want to enrich their museum experience from using it.
The showcase consists of different cases and includes a floor plan of the room, tactile maps of Greece and the Cyclades, and exhibit replicas made of marble or resin.
The tour includes appropriately formatted, descriptive texts available in Braille (for blind individuals) and in large print (for partially sighted individuals), while also incorporating acoustic elements into the experience, with audio guides for the Collection of Cycladic Art both in Greek and English . The recorded files that accompany the mobile showcase provide information and instructions on the tactile experience through the Clio Muse platform, through a mobile phone by the Museum: this application, which is free of charge, is also aimed at visually impaired individuals who use a screen reader.
The showcase can be used by at least two people and up to a small mixed group of people (with and without impairments) at once, accompanied by museum staff. The tour comprises thirteen different stopping points within the exhibition that are listed on the room’s floor plan. Each item bears a number corresponding to the printed texts or audio descriptions.
In the context of the program ‘In Touch’, a training seminar was held for the staff members of the MCA aiming at familiarizing them with the concept of disability and proper welcoming of visitors with visual impairments (reception, tour, escort, terminology, etc. .)
Multi-sensory museum kit related to the Cycladic Culture
The program ‘In Touch’ also includes a multi-sensory museum kit on Cycladic Culture designed for the visually impaired. It enables them to explore elements such as the geography and history of the Cyclades, figurines and raw materials, both inside and outside of the museum.
The museum kit contains a book with information in Braille and in large print, an embroidered map, a tactile water map, stones, threads, fragments from replicas of figurines and marble replicas of figurines. A video addressed mainly to the teacher/animator of the program explains how the material contained in the museum kit can be used for a journey through space and time.
The museum kit was originally designed for the Kallithea School for the Blind, where it is still located, while two more museum kits are being sent to special schools and to typical schools in an effort to raise awareness among students, as well as to nursing homes and other institutions. The museum kit was created as part of the Erasmus+ 2014-2017 program exclusively for visually impaired individuals and in collaboration with the University of Thesaly.
A program for the deaf and hard of hearing
Finally, the MCA’s program ‘In Touch’ includes a series of actions that aim at making the Museum more accessible to deaf and hard of hearing individuals.
Information about visiting the museum is already available at cycladic.gr in Greek Sign Language. A sign-language video can also be found at the museum entrance, providing detailed information about the museum (museum collections, opening hours, etc.).
The permanent exhibition of Cycladic Art includes a video of a recorded tour in Greek Sign Language, accompanied by Greek subtitles, and in International Signs, accompanied by English subtitles. The sign language tour covers the main themes of Cycladic Culture and is accompanied by relevant images. In this way, the Cycladic Art Collection becomes accessible to all deaf and hard of hearing visitors, whether Greek or foreign.
The sign language videos were created in collaboration with HandsUp, the first sign language interpreting agency in Greece.
The museum’s partners
‘Me Alla Matia’
Non-Profit Civil Partnership ‘Me Alla Matia’ was founded in June 2018 by a group of disabled young people, who were self-organized, with the ultimate goal of claiming inclusion and accessibility through social action. It was implemented as an afterthought of the unique, fully accessible news portal www.meallamatia.gr, which started as a blog in 2011 and continues to be a dynamic way of promoting the disabled so that they become more and more visible to society. Our vision is to eliminate the under-representation of disabled people and the dimension of disability in public discourse and Civil Society.
HandsUp is a startup company and it is the first sign language interpreting agency in Greece. It offers accessible services to deaf and hard of hearing people such as interpreting in sign language, lip-reading, news, information and entertainment through the new website: www.hands-up.org. Moreover, it advertises companies, organizations etc. Through sign language, it also provides subtitling services, and it converts websites so that they will be accessible and friendly to deaf and hard of hearing users. Last, but not least, HandsUp may also train companies and organizations wishing to be informed about the right way to address deaf or hard of hearing people and create a unique customer experience for them.
More information is available online: https://cycladic.gr/.