This blog post features a story from NPR Morning Edition's Susan Stamberg.
Every few weeks, the Smithsonian's American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. helps blind and low-vision visitors experience art with multiple senses. Participants on the tour include a range of limited vision abilities, from those born partially or totally blind to those that experienced their vision loss later in life. The specially trained docents use carefully crafted language and sensory memories to engage the multiple senses of the visually impaired visitors. Some works of art are able to be touched by the visitors when using special gloves.
"The visitors move slowly through the museum, some "seeing" in their imaginations, others, with low vision, getting really close to the artwork to see it better with magnifying devices. The docents take questions about the art and the artists. Visitor Kilof Legge listens intently. He's taken lots of these tours. He has had macular degeneration since childhood and has deeply missed art.
"For the longest time I really felt angry when I came into a museum," he says. "And hurt and insulted, almost. Because these are public places and I felt I was denied access." He says he is "grateful and excited" to have the art world opened back up to him through tours like these."
The blog Eye Level gives a deeper look into these specialized tours. You can learn more about the perspective of the docents as well as the visually impaired visitors here: Art Museum Tours For Visitors Who Are Blind.