Working with blind and partially sighted visitors at Garage
It is very important for Garage to create conditions where absolutely all visitors can engage in the life of the institution. We believe that contemporary art is open to dialogue and therefore operates as an excellent platform for interaction with people with and without disabilities.
Garage began working with visually impaired and blind audiences in 2014, and as early as 2015, the Museum opened an inclusive programs department, significantly expanding the field of our activities.
For a long time, art museums remained inaccessible to visually impaired and blind visitors since it was believed that art could only be perceived through seeing. Practice has shown, however, that artworks can be perceived by means other than visually. At Garage, we try to make use of our visitors' other sensory receptors, and we manage to do so effectively.
Governed by the "Nothing for us without us" principle, we paid a lot of attention to working in close collaboration with visually impaired and blind visitors from the very beginning. Representatives of the blind community consulted with us throughout the preparation of our programs. By making art accessible, we bring people together and offer them a new form of leisure. Garage's annually increasing number of blind and visually impaired visitors suggests that we are moving in the right direction by forming in people the habit of coming to the Museum. In the past few years, we have acquired regular attendees who follow the Museum's exhibition program and bring friends and family with them, expanding our overall audience.
We develop tactile models for many projects at Garage. We also provide an opportunity to get to know the materials from which a particular work is made. In 2020, a number of artists made artworks allowing tactile examination, especially for the 2nd Garage Triennial of Contemporary Russian Art. This is a big step in the development of art accessibility because the option of touching an original piece is an incredible sensory experience. We also try to accompany our projects with professional audio descriptions. Aiming to form a complete impression of a particular object, we sometimes add smells and sounds to audio descriptions.
Having started with experimental guided tours for visually impaired and blind visitors, we currently implement a variety of other programs: from courses in the history of art and architecture to all kinds of podcasts. Among other projects, in 2016, we adapted Irina Kulik's lecture cycle Dissymmetrical Similarities—you can find it on the Museum's YouTube channel.
The space at Garage is comfortable for both group and individual visits. Visually impaired and blind people can write to us to agree on the time of their visit: tours featuring tactile models and audio descriptions are free of charge. They can be delivered even for one person, and the escort service for people with disabilities available in the Moscow underground will help you get safely to the Museum building.
Every year we expand the scope of our activity by launching new programs, events, and work formats. In 2020, despite the situation with the pandemic, we have adapted Garage's Family Days program for visually impaired and blind visitors and received a lot of positive feedback about it. We have also developed an audio description to accompany the film Poor Folk. Kabakovs.
Our plans for 2021 include the realization of an external program for kids that will allow young visitors to get to know how museums and art, in general, operate.
We have accumulated sufficient experience, which we eagerly share with other institutions. We run training sessions for museum workers and publish teaching materials while also organizing the annual conference Experiencing the Museum, which brings together Russian and international experience in working with people with disabilities.