Disability Equality Scheme

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Learning about the Collection

The Gallery encourages and enables the widest possible audience to study the collection. It seeks ways to improve and extend access for all to information and scholarly research.

Progress against objectives to 2006

British Sign Language (BSL)-interpreted guided tours of the collection, talks and discussions for the hearing-impaired are provided monthly. In 2006 this programme was developed to include talks in BSL by a deaf lecturer, voiced by an interpreter. This was welcomed as a positive addition to BSL-interpreted events.

Videos about the collection and the Gallery's temporary exhibitions now have subtitles.

A regular programme, Art through Words, is provided for the visually impaired and has been used by the RNIB as an example of good practice.

Large print labels are available for both the permanent collection and major temporary exhibitions.

The Gallery's website is accessible to most text browsers and provides information on every painting in the collection.

The Gallery's interactive computer system, ArtStart, was launched in 2005. Key features to aid usability and accessibility are touch-screen interface via high-resolution LCD monitors, zoom images of every painting in the permanent collection allowing visitors with serious visual impairments to look at the paintings in close detail, audio-visual content, including transcripts, high contrast text, and exoteric language. Interaction with speech browsers was audited by the RNIB.

The Gallery's Education department offers a varied programme of outreach and educational projects designed to suit a wide range of visitors and those who may be unable to visit but might enjoy the collection.

The department has built links with a variety of different groups who now regularly bring people with a range of physical and learning disabilities into the Gallery, for free sessions led by National Gallery artists and educators. These include Footsteps (who work with people with mental health issues) and Access to Art, who now bring 42 groups of people with many kinds of disabilities to the Gallery every year.

'Articulate' for secondary age students focuses on the KS3 Literacy Strategy and involves writers teaching in the picture galleries with students with learning difficulties.

The department has also worked with a school in Cardiff for students with special educational needs, a project related to one of the touring exhibitions.

'Take Art' enables young people in hospital schools to enjoy and learn about great paintings from the Gallery's collection.

Plans for 2007 onwards

The BSL programme for spring 2007 has been developed to provide a greater variety of events (BSL-interpreted slide talks on a new temporary exhibition, talks in BSL by a deaf lecturer, increased provision of lunchtime talks followed by a BSL discussion group). The Education department will be liaising with Mario Barroso, Arts Officer, Greater London Deaf Association, to discuss ways to develop events for deaf and hearing-impaired visitors. This might include the introduction of practical art-making workshops and private views of temporary exhibitions. Links have been established with deaf schools through the British Deaf Association, who have planned an initial visit with secondary school students. This pilot visit will include a tour and drawing session with a deaf lecturer. The Gallery will gather feedback from this visit in order to develop similar sessions in 2007.

Subject to confirmation of funding, the Education department also plans to set up a new outreach programme which focuses specifically on elderly people who are unable to visit the Gallery independently because of health and disability issues. The proposed programme would work with a number of partner organisations (for example care and residential homes, and specialist Alzheimer's and dementia treatment units) to provide both off-site and on-site sessions for these people, so that the Gallery and its collection is made accessible to them, and might become a part of their social life, care and treatment.

During 2007 the New Media team will be undertaking a complete renewal of the National Gallery's website. This will encompass:

  • Improved navigation to ensure information is easier to find
  • New interface designs which will allow information to be clearly presented on screen and when printed
  • Deployment of a new content management system which will provide web pages which will be fully standards compliant.

The new website will be tested in a wide range of web browsers, included alternative browsers and assistive technologies, and will ensure that the presentation of content will be as flexible as possible to meet the needs of our diverse audience.

ArtStart, the Gallery's in-museum kiosk system, will be enhanced to include a 'browse' interface, which will allow visitors to explore visually the entire collection via an interactive touchscreen.

The Access Group will investigate ways of improving the production of large print labels to make them more user-friendly.

It is hoped that detailed physical descriptions of the thirty highlights from the collection can be produced for use on the audio-guide, which provides a commentary on the Gallery's pictures. The Gallery is exploring the possibility of offering free individual sessions with 'sighted guides' whose services could be booked in advance of a visit.

The Access Group will investigate the possibility of producing the Gallery's Companion Guide as an audio book.

The Gallery also developed A Sense of Art tours in conjunction with RNIB but these have been withdrawn while sponsorship is sought for updating and repairing them. The Gallery will continue to make every effort to find funding.

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