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Art Gallery of South Australia launches an Accessible Guide


29 September 2020

The Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) has launched an Accessible
Guide, developed for Deaf, hard of hearing, blind and vision-impaired audiences. The Accessible  Guide gives these audiences the opportunity to watch Auslan videos, read transcripts and listen to Audio Descriptions of works of art.

The Guide has commentaries on thirteen pieces of art on display in the Elder Wing of Australian Art which showcases the work of some of Australia’s finest artists from 19th Century.

Designed for in-gallery use, the Accessible Audio Guide is also available in its entirety through AGSA’s website, as part of the gallery’s initiative to enable access to works of art from home, for all audiences. It has been developed for computer and handheld devices anywhere to ensure that anyone, including families and friends who may have different needs, can have an enjoyable social experience together.

Karina Morgan – Education Support Officer and Auslan interpreter at AGSA, tells us more about AGSA’s Accessible Guide.

Could you tell us a bit about AGSA’s Accessible Guide?

The Accessible Guide provides another way for our diverse audiences to be able to engage with AGSA’s collection using their own smartphones, tablets or desktop computers straight from our website, without having to download any apps.

A selection of works of art from our Australian collection is presented in three tours – self-guided audio, audio description and Auslan videos. Transcripts accompany the audio, and closed captioning for the videos.
Currently, audiences are able to engage with the Accessible Guide remotely – from the comfort of their own homes – and when the building re-opens in June, audiences onsite will also be able to use this guide in front of the physical works of art.


Why did the AGSA to create the Accessible Guide?

Over the past three years in particular, AGSA has been steadily increasing our Deaf, hard of hearing, blind and vision impaired audiences so that the artistic, historical and cultural experiences are friendly to all visitors.

We acknowledged that for these audiences rich information is often not accessible at cultural institutions, particularly in South Australia. In fact, feedback we received was that many people from these communities feel so unused to having their needs met that they have felt disengaged until regular programming was put in place.

The Accessible Guide also connects to our Reconciliation Action Plan which aims to promote understanding and respect through the power of art and provide more opportunities for the community to learn about the diversity of First Peoples art and cultures. AGSA is proud to be the first state gallery in the country to prepare a RAP – one which includes Auslan actions.


What is the AGSA hoping to achieve by developing the Accessible Guide?

AGSA designed the Accessible Guide with all users in mind so that it is enriching and satisfying for all. We are not just building for accessibility; we wish to create a social experience so that a range of diverse families and friends can enjoy the Gallery together – not just at programmed times but at any time they are able to visit.

We hope this also encourages remote users to learn about our collections with the aim of visiting in person, perhaps attending one of our regular Access Programs.

For those who are unable to visit us in person, we hope this provides a pathway to connecting in a meaningful way with our wonderful collection.


What makes you the most excited about launching the Accessible Guide?

An important part of this project was the community consultations. We wanted to ensure that we put users at the forefront. We didn’t want to just build an experience for these communities, but with them as well, allowing findings from these sessions to guide us in our next step, taking on board any feedback.

The Auslan video presenters came from the South Australian Deaf community, including a young emerging artist, William Maggs who was awarded the main SALA award for his self-portraiture in AGSA’s student drawing exhibition in 2019.

I feel that together we have created an Accessible Guide that everyone can feel proud of and I am excited about increasing engagement with diverse communities, and to expand the Accessible Guide in the coming years ahead.

I would love to turn around the initial comments about some sections of our audiences feeling like their access requirements are not met and that we see more engaged people like emerging artist, William Maggs, connecting with us and our collections.


How do you feel the Access Guide will assist Deaf and disabled arts audiences to connect with art pieces at AGSA?

The Accessible Guide allows our audience to choose their preferred method of communication – whether this is in English or Auslan, and also provides blind and vision impaired users an option to receive more information through an audio description. We hope to be able to increase access by adding an easy read/listen guide option for audiences who may have intellectual or cognitive disabilities, or for those who identify as being neuro-diverse. Ultimately this would also be useful for English as a Second Language (ESL) users as well.


What other access services does AGSA provide to Deaf and disabled arts audiences?

I am a certified NAATI interpreter and I interpret the weekly Tuesday lunchtime talks, and provide Auslan interpreted collection/exhibition tours one weekend tour every month. This audience has been continuously growing with between 5- 20 Deaf audience members participating every month. Special additional Auslan interpreted talks are also held during large exhibitions. Auslan tours will also be imbedded into other Gallery programming areas such as the Start program (for Families and Children), and Neo (for teenagers). The 2019 Tarnanthi Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art had for the first time two Deaf Aboriginal Guides leading the Auslan tours.

Another staff member, Ryan Sims who also works in AGSA Education, has undertaken Audio Description training and has developed and maintained connections with the South Australian School for the Vision Impaired (SASVI), as well as implementing a program of regular Audio described and Tactile tours.

Other Access programs we have initiated, include our Art and Dementia program run by our dedicated Gallery Guides. AGSA has also offered training to the National Gallery of Australia in 2019.  We also currently have partnerships with selected residential care facilities and anticipate building upon this program to include more members of our community.

To visit AGSA’s Accessible Guide, please click here.