Museums as “institutions in the service of society and its development” (http://icom.museum/the-vision/museum-definition) are not considered any more just as spaces, which collect, preserve and exhibit objects but as audience-centred spaces with a wide educational and social role (Hooper-Greenhill, 2007). In this framework, the access of people with disabilities to museums has become a major issue of interest for museums. People with visual impairments, which is one of the target groups of the proposed project, face many barriers regarding their access to museums (Hetherington, 2000; Weisen, 2008), although many museums around the world develop practices in order to enhance the access of people with visual impairments, (Dodd & Sandell, 1998; Krivec et al., 2014). Examples of barriers may be: a. the tendency of museums to encounter visitors with visual impairments as a homogeneous group (De Coster & Loots, 2004), b. the poor content and occasional character of special programmes (Candlin, 2003; Kanari & Argyropoulos, 2014), and c. the behaviours of museum staff’s who due to lack of training cannot make individuals with visual impairments feel welcome in the museum (Reich et al., 2011). Museums are required to address the needs of individuals with visual disabilities, enhance their access, and contribute to their educational and social inclusion. This is a challenging task for museums and requires the collaboration between museums and organizations involved in the education, the development and the protection of individuals with visual disabilities. Few studies have underlined the value of collaboration between museums and schools in the learning and inclusion of students with impairments (Vemi & Kanari, 2008). This need for collaboration and interagency partnerships is the basis of our project, which aims to bridge the gap between museums and individuals with visual impairments. Hence, the proposed project aims to address the following objectives:
• To enable the museum members become aware and update their knowledge regarding the disabling barriers that impede the access of visitors with visual impairments to museums and the techniques that can enhance the access and inclusion of individuals with visual impairments to the museums.
• To create learning, cultural and social opportunities for individuals with visual impairments and enable them acquire self-advocacy skills regarding their rights as museum visitors and the requirements of an inclusive museum.
• To promote the collaboration between museums, schools and associations of individuals with visual impairments.
• To point out the best practices and guidelines for the development of an accessible and inclusive museum for visitors with visual impairments.
The above objectives were identified though a literature review. Furthermore, an exploration of all participants’ needs will take place at the beginning of the project in order to identify their needs. A detailed review of the literature and the exploration of the stakeholders’ needs will consist the Needs Assessment Study, which may lead to the refinement of the objectives.
Five different type of organisations are included in BaGMIVI and share their knowledge and experience to address the above objectives, museums, special educational settings with students with visual impairments, associations of students with visual impairments, a company and two NGOs which protect the rights and aim to ensure equal participation for individuals with visual impairments
In relation to the education policy that BaGMIVI addresses, it aims to support the adjustment of funding and investment in education and training to new needs and the development of improved funding approaches for skills development, in particular through partnerships. Also, it aims to reduce the number of low-skilled adults, increase incentive for adult training.