Blindness, Art and Exclusion in Museums and Galleries



Drawing on interviews with blind people, this paper examines both their exclusion from museums and galleries and their responses to the art educational provision that is specifically designed to remedy that marginalisation. Blind visitors’ responses to these educational projects were polarised; respondents were either highly critical or very enthusiastic. This paper begins by outlining the interviewees’ criticisms which included; education officers’ misconception of how touch facilitates learning and aesthetic response, a lack of educational progression and blind people's exclusion from mainstream events. I then ask why, given these problems, did other respondents reply so favourably, suggest that these high levels of satisfaction had little to do with museum provision but were in fact the result of social interaction and of rare inclusion within the sighted community. I argue that, ironically, this sense of inclusion is premised on blind visitors’ structural exclusion from art institutions. Finally, the article examines those visitors who, illicitly or otherwise, already experience some aspects of the museum in multisensory terms, but maintain that until museums’ and galleries’ ocularcentric orientation is reconfigured, there will be little possibility for these rogue visitors to develop their knowledge of art. Likewise, without institutional change, educational events for the blind will continue to be an inadequate supplement to a structure that is and remains inequitable.