AD tour at Wellcome Collection

Survey report: museum re-opening and live-streamed events

As museums and galleries begin to re-open with social distancing and other measures in place, and also seek to move some live events online, we’re keen to help them and let them know what’s important to blind and visually impaired museum visitors. We ran a survey using SurveyMonkey between 13 and 31 August 2020, with respondents recruited from our social media followers and email subscribers. Some museums also shared the survey through their email bulletins for audio description users.

All the questions were optional. Most offered fixed responses, with the majority of these also offering a field for comments. Between around 29 and 37 people responded to each of the fixed response questions. The survey did not ask any demographic questions, as we did not expect to be getting close to the numbers needed for a statistically valid survey. However, all respondents whose data was recorded answered yes to the question “Before lockdown were you a regular user of audio description services in museums or online?”.

Download the VocalEyes Museum survey report August 2020 (PDF)

Executive summary of findings

In the Museum

  • Respondents overall were concerned about several aspects of museums re-opening at the current time: with social distancing being the area of most concern, followed by using public transport (which is also connected to social distancing as well). Of less concern were temporary pre-booking and check in processes, but these obviously need to be accessible (online and via telephone), and with clear information provided beforehand.
  • A large majority of respondents were happy to use their own devices for audio description provided by the museum, but had a range of comments about what needs to be in place for that to work.
  • When asked what was needed to be in place for people to return, comments covered the following areas: audio description, booking, cleaning, events, gloves, guiding, hand sanitiser, information, layout, lighting, masks, online, queues, routes, signage, staff, time and visitors.
  • Around 3 in 10 respondents indicated that they would wait until social distancing and masks were not required before returning to museums, while around 5 in 10 indicated that they would not wait.

Online / Live-streamed events

  • The most used platforms were Zoom and YouTube. They were also the two platforms that respondents found most accessible.
  • The following aspects of a live-streamed AD event were deemed important or very important by between 62% and 73% of respondents (in order of popularity): having a subject expert as well as an audio describer; having large images of objects available; having a Q&A session; the tour leaders being present at the museum.
  • The opportunity for socializing with other participants was deemed important or very important by 41% of respondents.
  • The optimum length for a live-streamed event was one hour (66% of respondents).
  • Scheduling: weekends were preferred by more than weekdays, and fewest people ‘would not do’. Early afternoon (around 2-4pm) most preferred.
  • 85% indicated that they would be likely or very likely to listen to a recording if they couldn’t make a live event.
  • 45% agreed or strongly agreed that online events would mean they engaged with museums more often.
  • 85% agreed or strongly agreed that they would be interested in attending live-streamed events run by museums that they were unlikely to be able to visit in person, including those in other countries.
  • 58% agreed or strongly agreed that they would be happy continuing to attend live-streamed events in future, even after museums and galleries re-open
  • However, 47% agreed or strongly agreed that “they don’t like live-streamed events: it’s not the same as being at a museum or gallery in front of artworks, artefacts, and face-to-face with people.”


  • The most commonly cited way that people found out about AD events (other than through VocalEyes) was through individual museum mailing lists, checking the websites of venues known to provide AD, and word-of-mouth.


  • When asked whether there were other things that they wanted to comment on, respondents talked about consultation, proximity to artworks and artefacts, gallery labelling, the opportunities for increased access through live-streamed events, but also the potential loss of community if live AD events at venues were to cease.

Download the VocalEyes Museum survey report August 2020 (PDF)

Download the original questionnaire: Survey Large Print version (Microsoft Word, Arial 16pt)

If you have any questions, or would like to discuss how we can help you welcome and engage blind and visually impaired visitors, contact Matthew Cock, Chief Executive, [email protected].