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Reducing passive cultural exclusion of people with disabilities, an epistemological approach

Hayhoe, Simon (2014) Reducing passive cultural exclusion of people with disabilities, an epistemological approach. In: The Second Annual Fulbright Scholars' Research Symposium, 2014-05-19.

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Over the past forty years, many industrialised countries have changed their epistemological focus of impairment and disability from that of a biological abnormality treated by therapies and separate education, to one of a problem of exclusion and social well-being, ameliorated through anti-discriminatory institutional policies, laws and inclusive environments. Since the 1980s, this has also been reflected internationally in the definitions and statements of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and more latterly the United Nations (UN). Although many museums produced touch exhibitions for blind people from the early decades of the 20th Century, since the shift to laws and definitions championing social and cultural inclusion such exhibitions have become significantly more widespread. Arguably, however, many of these exhibitions have been tokenistic and have largely assumed that blind people only need to feel exhibits – a product of philosophical writing undertaken in the 17th and 18th Centuries by the likes of Locke, Diderot and “Demodocus”. This restricts the engagement of blind and visually impaired people to a small number of art works that are allowed to be touched during separate tours, or to an even more limited number of art works which are available to the public on a permanent basis. This, it has been argued, has restricted the participation of blind people in the cultural life of communities, and has had an impact on their well-being, as many blind people regard museums, similar cultural institutions and art itself as being beyond their understanding. Having researched the concept of blind people’s understanding of visual culture in previous studies on the art education of blind people and the practice of blind computer programmers, my Fulbright research addressed questions relating to blind people who visited museums as normal members of the public – i.e. not part of separate tours - or to have pieces verbally described to them on bespoke tours. In particular, I initially addressed the understanding of untouchable art works – particularly paintings – at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. However, during the study the research expanded to address the experiences of museums by blind people in general, including students from two schools for the blind – Perkins (Massachusetts) and California School for the Blind - and addressed the question: Why do people need to visit museums to view and experience works of art when they can now see them reproduced in books or on posters or on the Web? This addressed a much larger understanding of visiting museums, and inclusion in relation to cultural well-being.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2014 The Author
Divisions: CPNSS
Subjects: L Education > LC Special aspects of education
Sets: Research centres and groups > Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science (CPNSS)
Date Deposited: 04 Sep 2014 14:29
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2021 23:39

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