New resources at the University of Kansas Spencer Museum of Art will make exhibitions and collections more accessible for visitors who are blind, have low vision or have visual perception disorders. The museum now offers audio descriptions of artwork and labels, tactile art tours and Braille maps.
“The Spencer is invested in creating an accessible environment for all individuals and communities of diverse abilities,” said Director Saralyn Reece Hardy.
Audio descriptions of artworks in the collection detail the imagery of the object, materials used in creating the object and its positioning so that visitors can envision what the work looks like within the gallery space. These descriptions are available through the Spencer Museum’s app, which is available for free download on Android and iOS devices. Devices preloaded with the app are also available to check out at the museum’s Welcome Desk. New descriptions will be added on an ongoing basis.
Volunteers trained in audio description worked with Spencer Museum staff to write and record the resources included in the app. The Spencer partnered with Kansas Audio Reader to host a series of audio description workshops with funding from the Ethel and Raymond F. Rice Foundation.
Spencer educator Rachel Straughn-Navarro said that although these resources are designed for people with low vision, they are available to all visitors.
“The Spencer staff works hard to make the museum a welcoming, accessible and inclusive space for our University of Kansas and Lawrence communities,” Straughn-Navarro said. “Audio descriptions help make the works of art in our collection more engaging to visitors who are blind or have low vision, and to anyone who might prefer to listen rather than read.”
The museum also offers tactile tours led by a trained staff member who can provide audio descriptions to visitors. These tours also allow visitors to touch select works of art while wearing gloves to provide a multisensory experience with objects in the Spencer’s collection. Tactile tours must be requested in advance. Tactile maps of the galleries in Braille are also available at the Welcome Desk in the Museum’s lobby.