The importance of accessibility in museums
According to the latest Brazilian census, 45.6 million Brazilians stated to have at least one of the deficiencies surveyed, which represents almost one fourth of the country’s population. In addition to that significantly high number, we all may, during our lives, suffer from reduced mobility due to overweight, fractures, injuries, pregnancy or old age.
As far as political issues are concerned, according to the Municipal Basic Information Survey – Munic (2014), most local governments do not promote accessibility policies, with accessible tourism and the promotion of digital accessibility ranking among the least recurrent policies.
According to Museums in Numbers (Museus em Números), only 50.7% of museums stated to have facilities accessible to physically impaired visitors. The situation reflected by that number may be even more serious, considering that about half of the museums surveyed did not answer the questionnaire that originated the statistics. Considering the evolution showed in previous years, the target of 100% proposed by the 29th Goal of the Brazilian National Culture Plan can hardly be achieved:
“By 2020, 100% of public libraries, museums, theaters, archives and culture centers meeting the legal accessibility requirements and actively promoting full access to cultural media to physically impaired people.”
Still according to Museums in Numbers, the percentages, classified by type, are as below:
- Access ramp: 78.8%
- Adapted restrooms: 48%
- Exclusive parking spots: 38.2%
- Adapted elevators: 24%
- Braille tags/texts: 7.4%
- Braille signaling: 5.7%
- Others: 5%
Museums are, according to the definition of the International Council of Museums (ICOM), non-profit institutions at the service of society, committed to its development. Therefore, the museums’ social function is in the very core of their existence. In that sense, it becomes critical to have issues related to social inclusion and accessibility treated as priorities.
Interactive Interface Accessible Circuit
The Wise Stones Circuit is the result of an international research agreement involving the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG/LavMUSEU Virtual Laboratory), the Mines and Metal Museum and the Polytechnic Institute of Bragança (IPB – Portugal), in an effort to carry out the IT (Information Technology) Project for High-Complexity Museums. While still in the prototype stage, it had also the participation of professors from the Aveiro University (Portugal).
The Interactive Interface Accessible Circuit originated from that research work, having received, in 2016, an award from the Ibermuseums Program. With the funds from the award, three new accessible interfaces were implemented for permanent exhibition, with the name of “Wise Stones”, as well as this Guidebook (online, PDF and printed versions).
Having physically impaired people as its chief target group, and considering the Universal Design principles (accessibility for all), this Guidebook includes two items:
- One Visitor’s Guide, presenting the collections that form the Wise Stones Circuit.
- One Guidebook for Professionals working in museums and cultural spaces, with the purpose of assisting those institutions in the planning and implementation of permanent interactive and accessible exhibits.
The intention of the institutions involved is that the Project reaches other museums and cultural spaces, encouraging and promoting inclusion and accessibility in its exhibits!