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Access event

National Gallery holds special Director's event for those with specific access needs

Issued June 2009

Several of the National Gallery’s paintings will be temporarily lowered during a special event for those with specific access needs.

The celebrated and popular paintings to be hung lower on the Gallery’s walls for the event will be Van Gogh’s 'Sunflowers', Constable’s 'The Hay Wain' and Monet’s 'The Gare St-Lazare', enabling visitors in wheelchairs to examine the paintings at close distance. There will also be lip-speaking supported 10-minute talks and tours of the paintings throughout the evening.

The event takes place on 29 June from 6.30pm to 9pm at the National Gallery in conjunction with the charity Access to Art.

Aimed at older people including Deaf and hard of hearing visitors, blind and partially sighted visitors, visitors with a mobility impairment and those with memory loss, this unique experience will enable art lovers with specific access needs to experience the National Gallery Collection in a way that that suits them best. An audience of two hundred or more is expected on the night.

The National Gallery will also launch its newest resource that evening: a special booklet for blind and partially sighted visitors featuring tactile images, painting descriptions in large print and Braille interpretation.

Other events planned during the evening include lip-speaking interpreted talks for hard of hearing visitors, detailed verbal description and object handling sessions for blind and partially sighted visitors, and the inclusion of music and song to enhance interpretation of the collection. A new audio guide selection will also be made available.

National Gallery Director, Nicholas Penny, said:

‘The event on 29 June is a natural development of many of the initiatives that the National Gallery's Education Department has implemented in recent years, helping those with disabilities to access the collection and working with charities and organisations to further this aim.

'By doing this, we hope not only to provide a special welcome to those who attend, but to encourage other institutions to do likewise, to encourage sponsors to make events of this kind possible.’

Jane Turner, Director of Access to Art, said:

‘This is a great opportunity for disabled and older people to genuinely access the art at the National Gallery. Our charity, Access to Art, understands that access is a lot more than good building design.

'It’s about being able to get to a gallery, having support available and, of course, how the art is presented. It’s about a positive gallery experience. We have been working closely with the National Gallery to make this evening special and something our members will remember for a long time.

'Many are in their 80s and 90s and this will be a chance for them to return to paintings they may have seen in their youth.’

As part of its wider strategic objective to provide access to the collection, the National Gallery is committed to finding imaginative and illuminating ways to nurture interest in its collection among a wide and diverse public.

The Gallery encourages and seeks ways to enable the widest possible audience to study the collection and continues to consult with people with disabilities and specialist organisations on the best ways to improve access for everyone.

Access to Art makes it possible for disabled and older people to visit galleries and museums.

Booking for this event is essential. To book a place and to receive regular updates on BSL events, contact or call 020 7747 5855

For public information call 0207 747 2885 or visit

For press information contact Nicola Jeffs on 0207 747 2532 or email

For more information on Access to Art contact Jane Turner on 020 8761 3507

Art Through Words Summer Programme 2009

Sessions for blind and partially sighted visitors

Last Saturday of the month, 11.30am–12.45pm
Meet at the Sainsbury Wing Information Desk
Admission free

Each session begins with a detailed verbal description of the focus painting, and ends with a visit to the Gallery. All sessions are free of charge, but we recommend that you book in advance to guarantee a place: call 020 7747 5855 or email

Saturday 27 June

Saturday 25 July

Saturday 29 August

Art Through Words is generously supported by The BAND Trust.

About Access at the National Gallery

The National Gallery is committed to the widest possible access to the national collection of Western European painting from the late 13th to the early 20th century, which it houses, conserves and displays.

The paintings are held for everyone regardless of education, income, residence, or personal circumstances.

The Gallery's aims are to make physical access to the collection as easy as possible for all; to enable everyone as far as possible to have access to scholarship and information about the collection; and to allow everyone to enjoy and study the collection in as many ways as possible.

Physical access

The Gallery seeks to provide all visitors with equal access to the building, making alternative provision where necessary, within the constraints of a Grade One listed building. It ensures that current and future building projects provide appropriate physical access for all visitors. Expert advice is sought wherever necessary.

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 to information and scholarly research. The Gallery continues to consult people with disabilities, specialist organisations, and other museums and galleries, on the best and most practical ways of improving intellectual access.
Information and signage

The Gallery strives to provide information in forms that are accessible to all visitors and to cater for most needs. We offer information in alternative formats and review this regularly. Signage is designed and situated to be as legible as possible.

The Gallery undertakes to regularly review its methods of communication and to adopt best practice in this area, in consultation with specialist organisations.

About outreach at the National Gallery

As part of its wider strategic objective to provide access to the collection, the National Gallery is committed to finding imaginative and illuminating ways to nurture interest in its collection among a wide and diverse public.

The Gallery’s outreach programme plays an intrinsic role in delivering this objective. Outreach projects are targeted at key community groups and are designed to creatively engage audiences who may encounter physical, emotional and intellectual barriers to accessing the collection through other educational provision.

By offering a range of interactive outreach projects the Gallery seeks to ensure that people who may have traditionally felt excluded are encouraged to experience and respond to the National Gallery’s collection.

Through its outreach programmes the Gallery has developed partnerships with both London-based and regional community groups and broadly aims to support social and cultural inclusion for people of all ages from a diverse range of social, cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

All projects take as their starting point close observation and discussion of focus paintings from the Gallery’s collection. The scope and theme of each project is tailored to the specific needs and interests of each participant group.

Projects are delivered by freelance artists and lecturers, and workshops take place either in the Gallery or at a range of off-site venues. These projects provide opportunities for participants to build knowledge, learn new practical and interpersonal skills, develop confidence and explore their own creativity.

The National Gallery is committed to maintaining and developing sustainable outreach programmes as we believe that everyone – regardless of age or background – is entitled to experience, enjoy and be inspired by the paintings in the collection

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