In 2011, Historic Royal Palaces was invited to join a Grundtvig partnership project to produce a 'White Book' of guidelines and best practice on accessibility for Deaf people and the use of ICT in museums.
The aim was to help develop best practices among staff in European museums and visitor attractions. The invitation followed a Jodi Award that we received the previous year for our website information videos in British Sign Language.
All three partners have experience of working for and with Deaf audiences in a museum or visitor attraction context and all strongly believe that museums are very important places of knowledge, non-formal learning and socialisation for people with special needs, particularly the Deaf.
We started out on this project focusing on the use of ICT in museums.
We were eager to share our experience and keen to discover amazing multimedia projects in each other’s country. It didn’t take much time before we realized that most multimedia projects accessible for Deaf people in museums in Europe were either disappointing or rarely frequented by Deaf visitors. Thus in the course of the project, very naturally, we broadened our scope and shared our experience about what could be done to make a museum Deaf-friendly.
Thanks to the Grundtvig funding, we were able to travel to our three partner countries so learnt a lot about what they already offer Deaf people - at a social and economic level as well as in cultural engagement. We'd never have gained this background knowledge if we hadn't had the opportunity to meet up in each other's country.
Organizing seminars that encompassed three different sign languages (British, French and Norwegian) required some creative thinking as International Sign Language isn't widely used by the Deaf Community and we couldn't find any interpreters who knew it. We ended up using interpreters who were able to translate spoken English into their national sign languages. How the seminars were organized and the number of breaks etc. was also dictated by the provision of three different sign languages and the needs of the interpreters. We learned as we went along what would work best; for the project partners, this was probably our proudest achievement.