RECONCEPTUALIZING INCLUSION IN MUSEUM SPACES: A MULTIDISCIPLINARY FRAMEWORK
1 University of Trieste (ITALY)
2 Università della Svizzera italiana, Lugano, Switzerland (SWITZERLAND)
3 Cooperativa Sociale Trieste Integrazione a m. Anffas Onlus, Italy (ITALY)
About this paper:
Conference name: 14th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 8-9 November, 2021
Location: Online Conference
Abstract:Making culture accessible to people with Intellectual Disabilities (IDs) represents an ethical challenge that may open interesting implications for research and educational practice (Hayhoe, 2018; Austin et al., 2018).
Previous studies have mainly focused on investigating what factors should be considered in building accessible environments for people with motor and sensory impairments (Argyropoulos & Kanari, 2015; Castrodale & Crooks, 2010; Gray, Gould, & Bickenbach, 2003; Marie Lid & Solvang, 2016; Parkin & Smithies, 2012). However, the current focus on the participation for all (ICF; WHO, 2001) highlights the importance of reconceptualizing inclusion in museum spaces, considering the cognitive variability of potential visitors, and extending the concept of accessibility to all its dimensions (communicative, cognitive, cultural, social, physical, etc.; Aquario et al., 2017). In this direction, the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) may help remove cognitive barriers by encouraging flexibility in identifying multiple ways of understanding, processing, and elaborating contents.
ICTs are certainly a valuable support for increasing participation of people with IDs to cultural and social life, but simply stating that technologies are useful poses the risk of increasing attention to products rather than their applicability, usability, and effectiveness in meeting people's needs. There is a current need to investigate the processes – i.e., why, what, how - behind introducing and using ICTs within museum spaces.
In the present paper, we explored the first question: why ICTs may be helpful and functional for people with ID within museum spaces? In other words, which are the motivations behind the introduction of ICTs within museums for the scope of enhancing cognitive and communication accessibility?
By using a multidisciplinary research framework, the present research aimed to involve a group of experts with different backgrounds (i.e., psychologists, pedagogists, computer scientists, social workers, museum curators) in ten brainstorming sessions. Results showed that ICTs may serve for:
(i) providing different ways to access information (e.g., visual, auditory, kinaesthetic) within museums;
(ii) simplifying the language with which information is conveyed (i.e., supporting the use of easy-to-read language);
(iii) facilitating contents comprehension by activating or providing prior knowledge (i.e., providing materials prior to the visit by maximizing the usability of the museum website);
(iv) facilitating orientation and spatial navigation through the museum spaces;
(v) maximizing information processing and memory (i.e., providing new ways of creating memories and facilitating their consolidation and communication after the museum visit).
Results of this study allow us to reflect, from a universal design perspective (CAST, 2011), on why ICTs could be effective in empowering the full expression of the person's functioning and potential within museum spaces. In terms of future directions, two important research questions remain open in this field: how? (i.e., how to run co-design with people with IDs accounting for and respecting diverse abilities; how to avoid poor usability, cognitive overload, and techno-frustration); what? (i.e., what ICTs successfully fit with current communicating museum topics, spaces, exhibitions).
Keywords: Inclusive museums, technologies, special education, multidisciplinarity.