Research paper: VocalEyes and museums, galleries and heritage sites

Feasibility study into the potential contribution of VocalEyes’ services for Museums, Galleries and Heritage sites

By Eulalia Pereira December 2009

Funded by The Paul Hamlyn Foundation

This research, carried out by Eulalia Pereira on behalf of VocalEyes, was commissioned in order better to identify what blind and partially sighted people most want out of their engagement with visual arts organisations, what is currently available and how best VocalEyes could support those organisations to provide the best possible access for the audience. The research has thrown up a number of issues, identifying many of the barriers to full access. A real problem is that the audience is currently small, and organisations find it difficult to justify major expense in providing access in a context of reducing budgets. Sustainability and ensuring that any expenditure delivers a broad range of opportunity (e.g. description to be used in more than one context) comes through as vital. Other major barriers to enticing an audience of visually impaired people into a venue include communication, confidence, transport; i.e. even before any attempt is made to offer access intellectually to the collection or exhibition, it is vital to consider and address these matters. But what ultimately comes through clearly is that if an organisation can surmount these issues, they can win a loyal and proselytising audience and their knowledge and experience will rub off on other audiences – i.e. true customer care really pays off.

The Report commences with an explanation of the methodology behind the research, which is then outlined under the two main headings – Research into the activities, plans, views and issues of Organisations; and audience views and needs. It concludes with a series of recommendations as to how best VocalEyes can support organisations in providing access for blind and partially sighted people to enjoy the best that our cultural organisations present in the 21st century. We are most grateful to the Paul Hamlyn Foundation for funding this research and to all the organisations and individuals who gave us their time to participate in it.

Feasibility study into the potential contribution of VocalEyes’ services for Museums, Galleries and Heritage sites (PDF)