One of the most pivotal, intended outcomes of a museum visit is informal learning. For many institutions, however, making learning opportunities available to a wide spectrum of audiences is a constant challenge, especially in the COVID era, when the implementation of inclusion policies are slowed down due to restrictions on tactile interactions. Such limitations, though, fully exclude the participation of certain marginalised groups — in particular, the blind and visually impaired.
In order to overcome barriers raised against content and the messages communicated by exhibitions, it is essential to shift to user-centred design processes that consider all the different ways visitors can participate, and thus enable more people to engage culturally. It is mandatory to step away from the preconceived notions of a ‘typical’ user, since it is estimated that there are currently 87 million people in the EU that live with some form of disability.
Tactile Studio is an inclusive design agency & workshop that promotes access to the arts and culture for everyone. Dedicated to people of all ages, abilities and cultures, it creates educational solutions enhanced by sensory experiences that primarily involve touch, but also sound, smell, or hybrid interactions. The studio has worked with numerous international museums to develop inclusive exhibits and trails that help visitors interpret the museum’s collection. Since it is common for displays to be positioned behind glass, participatory experiences such as hands-on reproductions and graphic interpretations by Tactile Studio can provide longer-lasting memories, generating a stronger emotional reaction while keeping the original artworks and artefacts protected.
In addition to following the accessibility principles in terms of ergonomics, colour contrast, and font properties, Tactile Studio also advocates the use of braille transcription. Moreover, by adhering to the principles of easy language as well as breaking the information down into sections, it enables all users, including people with cognitive disabilities, low reading literacy, and those encountering an unknown topic or language, to grasp the content in a more comprehensible way.
In order to sufficiently understand the users, it is vital for Tactile Studio to regularly conduct research and usability testing with prototypes, thereby ensuring that its solutions are all-encompassing. Thanks to this, the studio not only gives people with user-disabilities access to culture but it also enables designers to gain valuable insight into the needs of specific, marginalised groups. By the same token, these insights can lead to enhancing the experience of all users, because — from time to time — all of us encounter different kinds of situational conditions in life.author of the text: Martina Dybová
Tactile station and orientation plan of a modern interpretation of “Giardino Segreto” — a secret art garden which consists of numerous artistic sculptures, part of the multi-sensory trail in the outdoor exhibition of Schöneberg Nature Park, Berlinauthor: Tactile Studio
Interactive tactile station that allows visitors to build their own cabinet of curiosities, part of the multi-sensory trail in the temporary exhibition “Terrible Beauty: Elephant – Human – Ivory”, Humboldt Forum, Berlinauthor: Tactile Studio
Tactile and olfactory station that describes the historical journey of spices and, as an example, presents the clove branch and its scent, part of the multi-sensory trail in the permanent exhibition of MuCEM, Marseilleauthor: Cécile Brulé