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Access to Museums in Greece. ENAT - ERASMUS+ Student Mobility Project

29/03/2015 | 0 comments

Entrance of Benaki Museum, Athens  Benaki Museum, Athens, Greece.
Photo: Benaki Museum

By Eloïse Auffret-Novice

As an art historian graduate in museology with a speciality in cultural mediation, I always had a great interest in the access to culture for all. Therefore, in 2006, I chose to become a Site Assessor for the French organisation Tourisme et Handicaps[1] which, since 2001, has been committed to giving labels to all places offering an accessible environment to the widest possible audience, including  cultural sites, hotels, sports and well-being areas, restaurants, etc.  

In September 2014, wishing to continue in this field, I enrolled in a new training programme at the INS-HEA (Disability Educational Research Institute, Suresnes, France)[2], with the view to become a Consultant in Accessibility.

In order to obtain my degree, I must carry out an internship for several weeks within a structure committed to the sector of disability. For this reason, I contacted ENAT, whose Secretariat is located in Athens and prepared an application to the ERASMUS+ student mobility programme. The NGO’s involvement at the European level, its essential role in numerous projects of raising awareness and its collaborations with various partners at the international level, created a real motivation and a real enthusiasm.

For me, the collaboration with ENAT can contribute to appraise and integrate the visions related to disability and the concept of Design For All. While this notion implies offering an accessible and secure environment for people with disabilities, it also facilitates the everyday life of all the users of a place, whether it is an elderly person who accumulates general deficiencies (difficulties in moving, hearing or seeing), very young children, mothers with strollers, a person temporarily immobilized (e.g. a broken leg in a cast), etc.

Having acquired professional experience in a Parisian museum as well as being of Greek origin, I found it very natural to choose the accessibility of museums in Greece as my area of study. As a Mediterranean country, Greece attracts a large number of tourists, particularly during the summer. It offers a hot climate, countless beaches and islands, a rich archaeological and historic heritage, all of which are major attractions for both Hellenic and foreign tourists.

According to the Federation of Greek Tourist Companies, tourism represents 16.4% of the country’s GDP, while employing 1 in 5 active persons[3]. These statistics indicate how important tourism is, particularly for a country hit by an economic crisis since 2008. Greece has signed and ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in 2010 and 2012 respectively, so it is with great interest that I am examining accessibility in relation to the presentation of Greece’s cultural heritage.

Under the guidance of Mrs Katerina Papamichail, Architect and specialist in Accessibility and Design For All, my research will focus on:

  • Developing a questionnaire on physical access to both the exhibition site and the cultural contents, and on the tools of cultural mediation such as communication, in order to obtain an objective, accurate and reliable description of the existing access conditions;
  • Carrying out a field study to validate the various points described in the questionnaire through concrete measures;
  • Drafting a report;
  • Creating a document with advice and suggestions on how to improve and provide the accessibility information, as well as the reception and comfort of the public when visiting the museums.

For this work the collaboration of Greek associations and individuals with disabilities is essential to gaining an understanding of their experience of access issues and their specific interests and requirements.

Five museums are involved in the study:

  • the Benaki museum, specifically the older, original building in the centre of Athens and the new museum in Piraeus Street;
  • the Cycladic Museum in Athens;
  • the Goulandri Natural History Museum and Gaia Centre in Kifissia;
  • the Tactual Museum in Kallithea;
  • the Folk Arts Museum of Peloponnese in Nafplio.

Following my first contacts, it appears that expectations – the will to assist and raise awareness – of these cultural institutions are great. Supported by ENAT, I hope I can contribute to a new momentum for these museums to increase awareness of the notion of cultural inclusion and serve as good practice examples for other Greek museums to follow.
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NOTES:

[1] Organisation Tourisme et Handicaps Website : http://www.tourisme-handicaps.org/

[2] INSHEA Website : http://www.inshea.fr/

[3] Federation of Greek Tourist Companies website: http://sete.gr/media/2005/simasia_tourismou_sete_intelligence_report.pdf


To Contact Eloïse Auffret-Novice, from March to June 2015,
Email: intern@accessibletourism.org

 

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