April is Autism Awareness Month. At North Lincolnshire Museum Service we are committed to improving access to our museums for everyone, including people on the Autism Spectrum.
Last month we attended a GEM workshop in Manchester on developing autism friendly cultural venues. Inspiring speakers from the National Autistic Society outlined some of the ways in which museums can help autistic audiences access their collections. They highlighted the value and importance of museum collections for people with autism as visual learners and highly creative people. Speakers from cultural venues then discussed the ways that they have made their spaces more accessible to people with autism. Manchester Museum runs an early opening each month and provides autism awareness training for staff. Manchester Art Gallery also runs a monthly early opening and focuses on developing sensory activities. The Royal Air Force Museum (recipient of the Autism Friendly Award in 2015) has developed an autism trail and set aside a dedicated quiet room. They were also instrumental in setting up the Museum Disability Cooperative Website to encourage museums, art galleries and other cultural venues to seek and share knowledge and break down social barriers.
So, how are we working to include autistic audiences at North Lincolnshire Museums? In March we piloted a new Easy Read Guide at North Lincolnshire Museum and received lots of positive feedback. These took the form of A5 flip book that introduced visitors to the museum and helped them to navigate the galleries. We are now in the process of developing it and reprinting it a sturdier format. We also plan to make this available in PDF form on our website to allow people to develop social stories and prepare for their visit. We will also develop similar guides for Normanby Hall and Country Park.
Improving the accessibility of our spaces is important to us. We welcome any feedback or advice. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any suggestions.
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