Look, Touch, Listen and Smell

A visitor accompanied by her guide dog uses the braille signage
A visitor accompanied by her guide dog uses the braille signage

Heritage Grants

Newcastle upon Tyne, North East
Tyne & Wear Museums
Although the focus was on visitors with sensory impairments, the new interpretation improved the experience for a wide range of visitors.
"It was really good feeling the picture; it made me more interested in the painting. It was like a game with my mum."
Visitor, aged 8
Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums (TWAM) enhanced sensory access across five sites, transforming the visitor experience for people with visual and hearing impairments.

TWAM operates nine sites across the region. The service holds internationally important collections in a range of subjects including archaeology, social history, technology, natural science and art.

Providing access to everyone is central to the service’s vision. Much had already been achieved to improve physical access for wheelchair users and visitors with limited mobility. For example, at the Discovery Museum, a fully inclusive, level access entrance was created alongside step-free access to all levels of the building. However there was still more to do for people with visual and hearing impairments.

A staff access working group and a user-led museums and galleries disabled access group work together to improve provision. Look, touch, listen & smell improved sensory access at two museums, an art gallery and two archaeological sites. The project team worked together to develop pre-visit information packs, audio guides with descriptive tours, ‘Maps for All’ orientation points with visual and audio information, and tactile site models. Special touch tours were devised at the art galleries. Staff and volunteers were trained in how to work most effectively with disabled visitors.

People with sensory impairments now have much more engaging and meaningful visits to the sites. Staff and volunteers have the understanding and confidence to support disabled visitors, and are keen to share their experience with other heritage organisations. The partnerships developed with local disability groups will continue to help the service as it strives to be accessible to the widest possible audience.

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