Cabinet of Curiosities: How Disability Was Kept in A Box ~ Mat Fraser and Research Centre for Museums and Galleries, University of Leicester

Critically acclaimed actor and performance artist Mat Fraser was commissioned by the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries at the University of Leicester to create a new artistic work, shaped out of a collaborative engagement with museum collections, research and expertise in medical history, museums and disability. This was a key part of the Stories of a Different Kind project (July 2012 – Feb 2014). Cabinet of Curiosities: How Disability was kept in a box reassessed the ways in which disability and disabled people are portrayed in museums.

To see Mat’s Keynote Speech at the Museums Association Annual Conference and the Cabinet of Curiosities project, please see here:

http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/museumstudies/rcmg/projects/cabinet-of-curiosities/cabinet-of-curiosities-how-disability-was-kept-in-a-box

Social Media 101 for Community of Persons with Disabilities ~ Debra Ruh, @debraruh

I am often asked why I adore social media.  Why?  It has the power to change lives and connect the community of persons with disabilities.  It is critical for the billion people with disabilities globally to come together on social media.  If our community came together on social media – we would be hard to ignore.  My daughter Sara has Down syndrome and she has made many friends on social media.

Social media is all about connecting, engaging and being social.  People do not want to be ‘talked at” or not ‘followed.  People want to follow someone that is real and engages back with others.  They want to get acknowledgment when they share your work.  They want to ask questions, get answers and have the ability to learn from each other.

I am still surprised by the number of people that will not follow others back.  Social media is SOCIAL.  I am blessed by my followers and enjoy engaging with these amazing people.  I have a pretty solid following and always try to follow back.  If I have missed you – just send me a note on social media and I will follow you.  However – I do not follow accounts that are up to mischief, porn, nasty posts.  I believe in free speech but do not want to contribute to negative or hurtful chatter on social media. I like @TedRubin advice and his hashtag #BeKind.

I believe that social media can be used for great good and great evil.  This medium cannot be ignored by the community of individuals with disabilities.  We must engage and empower with each other.  Plus show solid examples of how and why persons with disabilities add value to society and the workforce.

I use social media to chatter about Inclusion, Digital Divide, Disability Inclusion, ICT Accessibility, Digital Media, Women’s Issues, Civil Rights, Social Business, Robotics, Wearables, IoT, 3D Printing, Smart Cities and Social Good.

I believe that our community is starting to find our voices via social media.  However, there are some accessibility problems with social media.  Individuals with disabilities are often left out of the social media conversation because the social media platforms and apps are inaccessible.  Social media has to be accessible or we continue to widen the Digital Divide.  For example, video needs captions, graphics and pictures need text equivalents.

The Internet and Social Media has opened many opportunities and has improved the quality of life for these users, but many still face barriers.  If social media tools are not accessible those platforms stand to lose out to competitors that make the tools accessible for everyone.  Accessibility should be built into the system, website, app and platform just like privacy and security.

The good news is that social media applications can be made fully accessible allowing everyone to use them. Those efforts will support persons with disabilities, individuals that speak other languages, ICT novice and older users too.

Tips for engaging on social media and finding your voice:

ENGAGE

It is critical to engage on social media to take full advantage of these powerful mediums.  For example: use the requote option on twitter to share good content and comment on the content.  Even saying – ‘good content – worth a share’ is appreciated by the authors of the post.  Or Say – “hello – thanks for the follow”.

FOLLOW

Please follow others back if you like their content. Following and engaging are critical on social media.

SHARE 

Share content that speaks to you.  If you like the content – chances are others in your network will also enjoy it. Help spread the word about good content by sharing with your network.

HASHTAGS

It is critical to use #hashtags to help others find your content.  Hashtag important words in your posts like #disabilities, #socialgood, #accessibility and other keywords that people are tracking.  That way others can find your posts. Also this is a great way to find good people to follow.

MULTIPLE PLATFORMS

Join multiple social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In, G+, Instagram, and Pinterest are a few common ones) to help build your network and following.

TOOLS

Use tools like Buffer App, Manage Flitter, KLOUT, Tweet Deck or Hootsuite to help manage activities and posts

REWARD

Create a post to reward companies that are including us.  If a company includes a person with disabilities in their post – reward them by doing a post that reinforces their good behavior. Or a corporation gets recognized in the media for employing persons with disabilities.  Give them a positive shoutout on social media. When @Toyota supported the @SpecialOlympics. I tweeted their content and thanked them for supporting our community.

DON’T SELL

Often people join social media and start pushing their services or products (books, public speaking).  It is okay to share a little about your services but keep it to a minimum.  It is better to offer good content, share others content, engage and only occasionally talk about your services.  If you share good content people will take the time to learn about your services.

PROFILE

Take the time to set up a good profile that tells followers about your work.  Include your website if you have one and use keywords to describe yourself.  A good profile is worth its weight in gold.  

BOTTOM LINE

Social media can be used to help the community of individuals with disabilities find our voice.  We can break down the barriers that prevent us from being taken seriously as a community and market.

AXSChat

I had the pleasure to start #AXSChat with two partners from the UK, Neil Milliken @neilmilliken and Antonio Santos @akwyz.

AXSCHat is an open online community of individuals dedicated to creating an inclusive world; we believe that accessibility is for everyone. Social media has great power to connect people and we hope to accomplish and encourage in-depth discussion and spread knowledge about the work people are doing to enable greater access and inclusion through whatever means.

We host weekly video interviews and twitter chats with people who are contributing to making the world a more inclusive place through technology or innovating to enable wider participation in society for people with disabilities.

The topics will be wide ranging and we want to encourage discussion and ensure everyone has a voice on social media so we encourage you to take part by tweeting and using the hashtag #axschat.

We hold the chat every Tuesday at 3pmEST and 8pm GMT.  #AXSChat is a popular chat and is joined by people that are interested in accessibility, disability inclusion and empowerment from all over the world.  We would be honored for you to join the chat. You can learn more and view accessible and captioned videos of past guests at www.AXSChat.com

Also want to know more about this topic – consider my book.  “Find Your Voice using Social Media” http://ow.ly/kxglR and please follow me @debraruh and I will follow you back.

 

Remember as @tedcoine a brilliant leader that also has dyslexia says, ‘Be a Giver not a Taker’.

 

To learn more about Debra Ruh, visit our website at www.ruhglobal.com or via social media @debraruh or @sararuh.

Definition of Dyslexia

‘Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling.
Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed.
Dyslexia occurs across the range of intellectual abilities.

It is best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category, and there are no clear cut-off points.
Co-occurring difficulties may be seen in aspects of language, motor co-ordination, mental calculation, concentration and personal organisation, but these are not, by themselves, markers of dyslexia.

A good indication of the severity and persistence of dyslexic difficulties can be gained by examining how the individual responds or has responded to well founded intervention.’

‘Identifying and Teaching Children and Young People with Dyslexia and Literacy Difficulties’ Sir Jim Rose (2009)
http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/dyslexic/definitions

Participatory Exhibition Design: The Case of the Indianapolis Museum of Art ~ Silvia Filippini-Fantoni

In response to the ongoing technological revolution, as well as the increasing competition from other leisure time activities, the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) has recently undertaken a significant shift toward becoming a more visitor-centric institution. Key to this approach is the implementation of a more collaborative and participatory exhibition development process. This new process has the objective of ensuring that:

  • exhibitions are accessible to visitors, including those who have little or no knowledge of art;
  • a deeper engagement with artworks and the institution is supported;
  • repeat visitation, high visitor satisfaction and the development of new audiences are guaranteed.

Characteristics of the new exhibition development process

Until about two and a half years ago, exhibition development at the IMA was very much an individual process, centered on the curator, who would come up with the idea, select the objects, create the content, and decide the layout (fig 1). Only at later stages would the curator work with designers and interpretation specialists on aspects related to layout and learning.

Indianapolis-Fig1Indianapolis-Fig2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fig 1 and 2:  The old vs. the new exhibition development models
Since March 2013 a new collaborative process has been implemented. This process is characterized by:

  • The development of a core team: Rather than by the individual curator, the new process is managed by an exhibition team (called “core team”). This includes a curator, an interpretation specialist, an evaluator, a designer, and an exhibition manager, who meet regularly to make all relevant decisions (fig. 2). The team convenes in the early stages of the process, when the idea is still in its infancy.
  • The creation of a big-idea document: The core team works as a group to identify the exhibition’s main thesis and key messages (big-idea). These are then used to develop an interpretive plan, which maps the identified outcomes with the various interpretive tools, to create the gallery design and layout and to finalize the artwork list, thus ensuring that the many elements of the exhibition are strategically chosen, cohesive, and well-integrated.
  • Incorporating testing and evaluation: Another key aspect of the new model is evaluation, which is carried out at different stages of the process. Feedback is collected from visitors and non-visitors to test the initial concept for the exhibition, refine the big idea and learning outcomes, and gauge people’s preference for marketing material. Concepts for hands-on and participatory activities are also tested, along with prototypes, wireframes, and designs, to guarantee that the final product is easy to use.

Benefits of the New Exhibition Development Process

The implementation of this process, which has been applied to eight past exhibitions, with five others currently in development, has already resulted in a number of positive outcomes. These include:

  • Higher exhibition attendance: In 2013 before the new process was implemented, we had 44,000 visitors to our temporary exhibitions vs. 81,000 in 2014 and over 92,000 in 2015.
  • Higher visitor satisfaction levels: Visitors’ satisfaction with the exhibition experience has also increased going from a range of 4.49 to 4.62 out of 5 for exhibitions developed with the old model, to a range of 4.67 to 4.82 out of 5 for exhibitions developed using the new model (fig. 3).Indianapolis-Fig3-Updated

 

 

Fig 3: Graph showing the increase in guests’ satisfaction with exhibitions developed using the old vs. the new models.

  • Better integration of interpretive tools: Not only has the number of interpretive tools increased, but they are also easier to use and better integrated into the exhibition, thus resulting in high take-up rates. For the Face to Face: The Neo-Impressionist Portrait 18861904exhibition (June–September 2014), for example, we developed an app which allowed visitors to take a “selfie” and turn it into a pointillist painting. The app was used by over 60% of the visitors at the IMA, while the take up rate was much lower when installed at another institution.

Indianapolis-Fig4

Fig 4: Visitors using the Pointillize Yourself app at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

  • Better communication of key messages: Given the more structured exhibition-development approach and the better integration of interpretive tools, it is not surprising that the new process has also resulted in the more effective communication of key messages, as evident in fig. 5.

Indianapolis-Fig5Fig. 5: Graph showing how key messages (learning outcomes) have been communicated more effectively using the new exhibition development model.

Challenges of the New Exhibition Development Process

Despite the encouraging results that we have had so far with this process, its implementation has not been without difficulties. The new process, in fact, represents a relatively radical departure from the way in which exhibitions have been developed at the IMA for a long time; so it is not surprising that there has been some resistance towards this model. This includes:

  • Fear of dumbing down: The main concern that has been expressed by some staff members is that by attempting to integrate elements that respond to visitors’ interests and by including non-art experts in the decision-making process, the academic soundness of the exhibition could be compromised, resulting in an experience that panders to public or popular interests and may appear to be “dumbed down.”
  • Distraction from the works of art: Another concern is that the increased use of interpretive tools, and their installation in proximity to the art as a way to maximize impact, may distract visitors from experiencing the actual works of art.
  • The challenge of adapting canned exhibitions: Organizing institutions of travelling exhibits are unfamiliar with our development process and have often been uncomfortable with the idea of adapting the show to respond more specifically to the needs of our audience.
  •  The process is more time-consuming and contentious: Another point to consider is that this new exhibition development process has required more staff time, as it involves more meetings to work collaboratively and to reach consensus on issues where team members hold different viewpoints. This can be a challenge in an institution where resources and staff are limited.

While these concerns have been somewhat mitigated by the successful implementation of our most recent exhibitions and the positive feedback from the public, some opposition still persists. Our hope is that in the next few years, as we continue to use the model, refine it, and assess the more long term effects of this approach, we will be able to eliminate the remaining resistance and extend the scope of the new approach to our permanent collection galleries as well.

 

Silvia Filippini-Fantoni
Indianapolis Museum of Art

 


Additional material

Dyspraxia Dynamo: Working with Dyspraxia: A Hidden Asset

As part of the project Key 4 Learning and the Dyspraxia Foundation have developed an Employers Guide providing information to enable employers to better recognise and support people with dyspraxia in the workplace. This document was written by professionals with extensive experience of supporting adults with neurodiverse conditions in the workplace and incorporates feedback from workshop participants and those who attended the Dyspraxia Dynamo Stakeholder event in March 2012

For the Employers Guide ‘Working with Dyspraxia: A Hidden Asset’ and accompanying video please see here:

http://www.dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk/dyspraxia-adults/dyspraxia-dynamo

An Employer’s Guide to Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, ADHD ~ Dr Sylvia Moody, Practitioner Psychologist

Please note:  The term specific performance difficulties is the general term used in a workplace context to denote dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD. 

Dyslexia

Dyslexia is often regarded simply as a difficulty with reading and writing, but in fact these literacy difficulties are ‘surface symptoms’ of weaknesses in more fundamental cognitive abilities, i.e. short-term memory, visual processing, phonology. The literacy (and numeracy) difficulties associated with these weaknesses may be severe and obvious; or they may be more subtle, manifesting themselves in general slowness rather than inaccuracy in performing workplace tasks.

Among the difficulties most often reported are:

  • reading quickly with good comprehension
  • writing memos, emails, letters and reports
  • being accurate with numbers
  • following and remembering written and spoken instructions
  • remembering telephone numbers and messages
  • formulating thoughts rapidly enough to take part in discussions
  • note-taking
  • filing and looking up entries in directories or dictionaries
  • meeting deadlines.

Dyspraxia

 The term ‘dyspraxia’ denotes difficulties with co-ordinating movement and judging distance, space and time. General organisational skills and social skills are often also affected.

Workplace difficulties include:

  • presenting written work in a neat manner
  • analysing complex tables of figures or diagrams
  • using office equipment, e.g., calculator, photocopier
  • getting lost even in familiar surroundings
  • timekeeping
  • organising work schedules
  • keeping papers in order.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

ADHD is characterised by poor concentration, distractibility and procrastination. Impulsivity and physical/cognitive restlessness are often also evident.

People with ADHD will find it hard to work in a noisy or busy environment, e.g., an open-plan office and they may have difficulty following set procedures. They will have difficulty in sitting still and concentrating for long periods and so will find meetings difficult. Their social skills may be poor: they may talk in an unfocused way and be inclined to interrupt people, sometimes blurting out irrelevant or inappropriate remarks. They may also be prone to sudden mood swings and may suffer anxiety or depression.

Difficult emotions

By the time people with the above problems reach adulthood they may have been struggling for many years with difficulties which have never been recognised or understood. In such cases the original difficulties are likely to be bound up with a constellation of unpleasant, and perhaps debilitating, emotions: anger, confusion, embarrassment, anxiety, depression. Confidence and self-esteem will also be low.

Social interactions

People whose problems have not been recognised are a mystery not only to themselves, but also to those for whom, and with whom, they work. They may be withdrawn and seem unwilling to pull their weight, or they may be oversensitive and aggressive. In general such employees are often difficult to ‘place’: they seem ambitious to progress in their career but are constantly hindered by inefficiency and a baffling inertia.

Positive aspects of specific performance difficulties

People with these difficulties are often motivated to succeed in their work despite their difficulties. They know the meaning of hard work, long hours and determination. They may excel in lateral thinking, and be creative and innovative. They often have good powers of visualisation, excellent practical skills, and an untaught intuitive understanding of how systems work.

Diagnostic assessment

A diagnostic assessment should be arranged through one of the main advice organisations or with a private practitioner who has relevant qualifications.  A referral to a hospital psychology department is not recommended.

Equality Act

If a dyslexic person’s difficulties are severe enough to impede his/her efficiency in everyday activities, then s/he may be covered by the Equality Act. The employer would then be obliged to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to reduce or remove any substantial disadvantage caused to that person by any of the employment arrangements in force.

For example, care would need to be taken that the employee was not unfairly disadvantaged in such things as: making a job application, interviews, proficiency tests, terms of employment, promotion, benefits, transfer or training opportunities, and dismissal or redundancy procedures. It is also usually appropriate to commission a workplace needs assessment to identify the type and level of support (in the form of skills training, IT support and reasonable adjustments ) that would be useful to the employee in his/her particular job.

Workplace needs assessment

This can be arranged either through the government’s Access to Work scheme or with a private practitioner or organisation specialising in workplace dyslexia consultancy. Please note that Access to Work assessors may not be experts in dyslexia, dyspraxia or ADHD and may not provide comprehensive recommendations or offer a consultancy service to the employer on reasonable adjustments.

Sources of information

For general advice, help and information about dyslexia:

British Dyslexia Association    0845 251 9002     www.bdadyslexia.org.uk

Books which explain how dyslexia and associated difficulties affect working life:

 

            Dyslexia: How to Survive and Succeed at Work by Sylvia Moody. Random House.

Dyslexia in the Workplace: An Introductory Guide by Sylvia Moody and Diana Bartlett. Wiley-Blackwell.

 

For general advice, help and information about dyspraxia:

Dyspraxia Foundation   01462 459 986   www.dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk

Dyspraxia UK      01795 531 998    www.dyspraxiauk.com

 

The following books may be useful:

            Living with Dyspraxia by M. Colley. Jessica Kingsley.

            That’s the Way I Think – dyslexia, dyspraxia and ADHD explained. David Grant.

David Fulton Books.

 

For general advice, help and information about ADHD:

Simply Well Being   020 8099 7671   simplywellbeing.com 

AADD-UK    aadduk.org

 

The following books may be useful:

How to Succeed in Employment with Specific Learning Difficulties.

Amanda Kirby. Souvenir Press.

Smart but Stuck: Emotions in Teens and Adults with ADHD. Thomas E Browne.

Jossey Bass / Wiley.

 

 

Dr Sylvia Moody
Practitioner Psychologist
symoody@aol.com
sylviamoody.com

© Sylvia Moody. This article may be reproduced with due attribution of authorship.

 

Definition of Dyspraxia

Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), also known as dyspraxia, is a common disorder affecting fine and/or gross motor coordination in children and adults. DCD is formally recognised by international organisations including the World Health Organisation. DCD is distinct from other motor disorders such as cerebral palsy and stroke, and occurs across the range of intellectual abilities. Individuals may vary in how their difficulties present: these may change over time depending on environmental demands and life experiences, and will persist into adulthood.

https://www.dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk/about-dyspraxia/dyspraxia-glance/

Disability Access Day

We’re asking disabled people and their friends and family to visit somewhere they’ve never been before on Disabled Access Day (12th March 2016). To help make this happen we are working with venues across the UK (and further afield) to encourage them to hold an event, activity or offer on Disabled Access Day. Last year over 250 venues across the UK and Europe held events, from behind the scenes tours to entrance fee discounts to BSL demonstration kitchens plus much much more.  We would love you to join us on Disabled Access Day 2016 and help us make it even bigger and better than our inaugural event, find out how you can register at DisabledAccessDay.com.

Danger! Men at Work ~ Ed Watts

Danger Men at Work Sign in displace case.

Founded in 1889 as the first English gallery in a park, the Whitworth has been transformed by a £15 million development. This is a gallery whose visitor numbers have climbed spectacularly in the past five years, whose contemporary exhibitions programmes have given new life to international collections, and whose risk-taking curatorial team has gained global attention.

Part of the University of Manchester, the Whitworth is a gallery that is a place of research and academic collaboration, and whose education and learning teams have generated new approaches to working with non-traditional arts audiences.

Yet despite its ambition and change, the Whitworth is also a gallery that has retained a sense of the personal, the intimate and the playful. It is a place that its visitors love, and feel that they own. For them and for us, the Whitworth is simply the gallery in the park, one of the most remarkable galleries in the north of England.

Over the last year the Whitworth, part of the University of Manchester, turned our attention to addressing a traditionally under-represented audience within cultural activities, older men. This May was the focal point for this work as we launched publications, research, programmes and an exhibition, exploring older men’s participation in society and culture.

The presence of older men within activities at the Whitworth, or lack of, has been apparent for some time. Despite being in Manchester, a city known nationally and internationally for its Age Friendly credentials, older men still fall into a minority within such activities at the gallery. Through conversations with fellow programmers from other cultural organisations, big and small, it became clear this was not just a problem in Manchester.

The closure of the Whitworth for a major fifteen million pound redevelopment gave a unique opportunity to explore this is in further detail, in anticipation of engaging this audience in all of what the new Whitworth has to offer. To understand why older men were not getting involved in such activities, you first need understand what made those activities, that did appeal, so successful. The gallery also wanted to ensure that older men’s voices were at the heart of this research, speaking with those that participate and those that do not. To get their views on why they get involved and possibly more importantly, why they choose not to.

“It’s a lot harder to get through to men. I think men in general are hesitant about joining anything, and I think word of mouth is better from a member than someone who’s running it.” – Participant

The findings of this report, A Handbook for Cultural Engagement with Older Men, were all been gathered through conversations, with groups, artists, organisations and most importantly with older men. Whilst the Whitworth has been closed Ed Watts, Engagement Manager, took to the road, travelling the breadth of the United Kingdom from Glasgow to Bethnal Green, from Rhyl to Belfast and meeting some real characters along the way. These conversations highlighted the diversity of this group that is often too readily described as simply “older men”. These groups are made up of men of all shapes and sizes from a variety of cultural and social backgrounds. It’s clear that an over fifties group can often work “intergenerationally” without the need to involve any primary school. These discussions opened up an array of wider debates, from funding and the role of the NHS to opening the can of worms that is gender stereotypes. It was these notions of “being a man” that made the diversity of the selected case studies so important.

“I can hardly draw a breath, never mind put pen to paper!” – Participant

This handbook, funded by the Baring Foundation, features six case studies of existing best practice from across the UK.  The case studies were selected to show the diversity of this work and included, Burrell for Blokes in Glasgow, a Men’s Shed in Rhyl, a Bengali men’s dance group in London, Out in the City, a LGBT group in Manchester, Equal Arts in Gateshead and the Live and the Learn project with National Museums Northern Ireland. The handbook outlines key findings, including recruitment and barriers, programming and participation, what kind of activities and models of participation older men would like cultural organisations to offer and impact, exploring the motivations and self-reported benefits for older men of engaging in cultural group activities.

At times these conversations were been side splittingly funny and spine tinglingly emotional in equal measure. It was moving to hear these men talk passionately about the impact these activities have had on the quality of their lives. Whether through improved health and wellbeing or simply making friends and developing new social networks, each story emphasised the importance of this work and the need to spread the word to the more isolated older men within our communities.

“That’s the one thing that’s kept me alive. I would not be here today. I’ve discovered all sorts of things. I mean my main objective is meeting people, that’s what it’s involved. I love all the groups- I’m part of it”  – Participant

Alongside this research, a special exhibition was developed with a group of older men in our new Collections Centre, a public space where visitors can gain access to our collections more easily. This new space is where we can show, share and care for our important collections – opening them up for research and display in new ways. Danger! Men at Work, has been co-curated with a group of older male residents at Anchor Housing Trust’s Beechfield Lodge care home in Salford. The residents were visited by a artists, curators and conservators from the Whitworth and consulted about the new exhibition, which explores notions of masculinity, identity and ageing. The group, made up of a retired postal worker, a civil servant, teacher, crane engineer and bus driver, had full control to decide which exhibits and artefacts should feature in the exhibition, which has been funded by the Baring Foundation to tackle isolation and loneliness in older men. The exhibition has been open since May and has proven so popular with visitors it has been extended until October, five months longer than it had originally been programmed for.

 

Ed Watts
Engagement Manager
The Whitworth
Manchester

My House of Memories app – partnership case study

National Museums Liverpool recognises that museums are experts at recording and caring for people’s memories – whether they are thousands of years old or within ‘living memory’. Museums enable people to explore and connect with their personal history and engage in relevant and meaningful cultural activity.

The root of the House of Memories training is to acknowledge and understand that an individual’s personal history and memory is of great value and significance. Museums are great at looking after memories and House of Memories is an imaginative education resource, increasing dementia awareness in communities and access to new skills and resources.

My House of Memories app

‘My House of Memories’ is a digital memory resource for iOS and Android tabletsCo-created by National Museums Liverpool and people living with dementia (Innovate Dementia), this app is the first of its kind. When downloaded, it provides access to a wide range of content linked to Liverpool and the wider UK (South East) and connects users with museum collections. The initiative involved working specifically with the cultural and health sectors to deliver a memory product that improves the lives of people living with dementia and their carers. 

The purpose of the app

The app was created for people living with dementia and their carers to use in their own homes and care settings. Dementia affects people differently, affecting communication, self esteem and confidence, often leading to social withdrawal and isolation. Maintaining communication and conversational opportunities are immensely valuable for the person‘s wellbeing, quality of life and sense of staying connected. It is also of great value for family members and health and social care professionals, who can also struggle to communicate effectively as people’s needs change, and usual methods to engage people in meaningful activities become more difficult as dementia progresses. To address the increasing societal challenges that dementia presents, the app was developed as a tool to support communication interactions, engagement, cognitive stimulation and involvement in meaningful activity, whilst also providing communication ‘toolkit’ guidance for the health and social care sector.

Content

The app contains objects from National Museums Liverpool, British Museum, Bexley Heritage Trust, the Cinema Museum and Brighton Royal Pavilion and Museum. The content is selected to be relevant (time line circa 1920 -1980) and the design allows people to browse objects from across the decades; brought to life with music and film to prompt discussion and reminiscence about every day memories and events (e.g. school life, sport, food and transport). The app can be personalised to individual and multiple users, enabling them to save favourite museum objects to their own digital memory tree, and enriching the experience for the user. Advice and information on dementia and memory activities is included for family, health and social care supporters.

Design and consultation

To ensure the resource was effective, a dementia-friendly, user-centred design process was followed. This tested model of co-creation brought people living with dementia and their carers together with the development team, throughout the whole design, creation and testing process.  Service users from Mossley Hill Hospital Memory Clinic and Innovate Dementia’s regional stakeholder group were identified through the project to participate. This user-centred approach has been integral to the app’s success, with dementia friendly functions, including stripped back design, easy to navigate content, voice over and subtitles.

Using a ‘Living Lab’ methodology, the app was explored, adapted, tested and evaluated so that its design and content was locally relevant, to support the wellbeing of those who use it.  Originally containing objects from Liverpool, the app has since been developed to contain objects from regional museum partners. The collections have both local and universal appeal, broadening the relevance nationally.

Partnership working in the South East

Expanding the project nationally, to involve health and cultural partners in the South East of England has enabled the project to be scaled up, to the greater benefit of communities across the UK. Cultural partners have benefited from a greater understanding and awareness of the challenges facing those living with dementia and their carers. Their involvement in the app has enabled them to think about new ways of interpreting their collections for people with dementia, and creating memory resources that can be enjoyed in the museum or care setting.

The digital app has enabled carers and people living with dementia to connect with the internationally acclaimed collections of National Museums Liverpool, British Museum, Bexley Heritage Trust, Royal Pavilion & Museums Brighton and the Cinema Museum to support compassionate and meaningful conversations, and dignity in care.

The training sessions

As part of the partnership with museum in the South East, a free House of Memories digital dementia awareness training programme was offered to health and social care professionals in those localities. The brand new free digital training uses the My House of Memories app to show how resources from museums and cultural venues can be used effectively to enrich and improve the lives of those living with dementia, their carers and families.

Training sessions took place at Hall Place and Gardens, Bexley, the Cinema Museum in Lambeth and the British Museum, Bloomsbury. The sessions provided participants with essential information about dementia and equipped them with practical digital skills and confidence to use the app in their settings.

Feedback on the training and the app was incredibly positive, as demonstrated in the following quotes:

“I think how valuable this resource can be and how it can be used in a wide range of settings. I think its fantastic and will definitely let people know about it.”

“Great potential to work individually with service users in a truly person centred way.”

Along with other cultural venues in the South East, Bexley Heritage Trust added a range of fascinating objects from their collections to the My House of Memories app.

The benefits of the project

National Museums Liverpool passionately believes that My House of Memories can play a significant role in a society that supports people with dementia and their families. The museum partners involved in the programme were able to create a safe and supportive environment for the dementia community to share ideas and experience first hand how memory activities can have a positive impact on their lives. Some of the benefits of developing the app have been as follows:

  • creating opportunities to promote independence among carers and the people they care for, by encouraging participation in consultation activity
  • creating a focus for those involved by capitalising on what they have and enabling them to make a positive contribution, rather than focusing on what they have lost
  • allowing users to capture precious memories and ‘favourite’ objects, to be preserved for reference at home or in a care setting, ensuring continuity along their care journey
  • promoting wellbeing and resilience within the community by firmly focusing attention on the person living with dementia and providing opportunities to make reference and connections to their life experiences, dreams and shared memories
  • an ability to export personalised memory activities between users, helping to build on connectivity, and bringing family members together through digital technology to combat social isolation.

Levels of engagement

More than 4500 carers have downloaded the app since its launch in June 2014. Independent evaluation carried out by the Institute of Cultural Capital reported the app promoted interaction and engagement, providing an effective communication and reminiscence resource. The content was shown to be relevant, provoking personal and happy memories for users as objects related to local and UK wide museums. The app has had a direct impact on the service users involved in the programme, increasing their knowledge, engagement and enjoyment.

 

Service user feedback:

“You often only see people in the later stages [of dementia] but in the years leading up to that, if you can get people used to using these technologies, it can help keep isolation away.” 

 “Technology can be a lifeline… it can be a great companion and keep people in touch.” 

“I would love all those people who say people with dementia can’t learn anything new to see us using the app… to see the joy on their faces because they realise they can learn.” 

Future plans

The app shows that museum resources can be used effectively to help enrich and improve the lives of those living with dementia, their families and carers. Using a simple format to stimulate memory, it allows and enables meaningful conversation, special moments and shared memories between parents, sons and daughters, carers and their clients.

This free app is unique and the first of its kind in that it provides a person-centred reminiscence museum collection experience as a memory resource for people living with dementia.

The ambition for My House of Memories is boundless and following the successfully testing the apps capabilities to create new content with South East partners, the next step is to work with diverse communities and museum partners across the UK and internationally.

You can find out how to download the My House of Memories app on the website:

http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/learning/projects/house-of-memories/my-house-of-memories-app.aspx

SEN Work Placements at the RAF Museum: Ambitious About Autism ~ Alison Shean

Royal Air Force Museum

 

 

The Royal Air Force Museum has recently embarked on an exciting new partnership with Ambitious About Autism. In June 2014 we were the first museum to receive the Autistic Society’s Autism Access Award, and were keen to build on our efforts to become more accessible.  We began working with Ambitious College when we were approached by their Employment specialist, Katie Wake, about the possibility of providing work placements for some of their students.

Ambitious College is a specialist further education provision for adults with autism. Located on the Grahame Park campus of Barnet and Southgate College, the college provides specialist support to enable young people with autism to access further education and supported employment in their local community. The needs of their students are complex and many find communication and social understanding very challenging.

Getting started

Part of my role as Education Officer at the museum is to develop and run our work experience programme for young people. The museum is committed to accessibility and I offer a number of work experience placements within our Access and Learning team for students with special educational needs. However, this was the first time we would be working with students with severe and complex autism, which was a little daunting.

Ambitious College were brilliant. They really make the effort to get to know the workplace so that they can find the best fit for the employer and student. After an initial meeting where Katie and I discussed timings and tasks students might do at the museum, Katie spent a day with the Access and Learning team getting to know our working environment.

The museum’s formal learning activities are quite resource heavy. Visiting school groups can make replica gas mask boxes, evacuee labels, mini helicopter rotors, rockets or parachutes. All of these workshop resources need to be prepared in advance, and in large numbers. With up to 240 children visiting per day we get through them very quickly! Katie and I had identified resource preparation as a task that would suit her students and be very helpful to the museum.

During her time with our team Katie shadowed staff, took photographs of the resources students would be working with, and of the office environment itself. We provided her with the museum’s health and safety and risk assessment information as well as our guide for visitors with autism.  This enabled her to put together an information pack which ensures that Ambitious College staff and students can be fully briefed before they come into the museum.

The museum agreed that we would take on one student for one afternoon per week on a rolling basis.

During the placement

Before each placement Katie sends me a profile of the student detailing their specific needs, likes and dislikes, and how they communicate. During their placement students are accompanied by at least two specialist college support staff who know the student well and coach and support them at all times. Students have their own desk in our open plan office. I provide a series of tasks for them to complete, and the support staff work directly with the student to encourage and assist them with their work. At the end of their placement students get a certificate of achievement together with a record of the tasks they have completed.

We took on our first Ambitious College student, Mary, between February and April 2015, and our second, Conor, from May to July. So far the partnership seems to be working really well. Both Mary and Conor coped brilliantly with the Museum environment. They took to the work we gave them very quickly and did a fantastic job.

Feedback from the College has been very positive. The students benefit from gaining experience of a new environment and meeting new people. As well as building confidence, they are also developing new skills and an understanding of the workplace.

The museum benefits by expanding its range of partnerships, improving accessibility and by having the chance to learn from highly trained and experienced SEN professionals. In addition, the work these students do preparing resources for our learning activities makes a real contribution to our schools programme.

Lessons learned

We are all adapting and learning as we go along. Early on I discovered that a good approach was to provide students with a variety of different tasks to complete so that they could be encouraged to choose what they did, and in which order.

As an employer, being a little bit flexible can be helpful. There are occasions when students are not able to attend their allotted placement time and have to cancel on short notice, for example. Above all, I think maintaining good communication between partners has been vital to the success of this project.

Working with Ambitious College has been personally very inspiring. Observing how the support staff work with their students, motivating and encouraging them, has been a real education. Their skill and professionalism gives me complete confidence that we can offer work placements for students with complex needs. I also feel that I am learning a great deal from their staff that I can apply in my wider role as an Education Officer. This can really help us improve the museum’s provision for SEND audiences.

I very much hope we can continue to develop and expand this relationship. In November this year Ambitious College and the RAF museum will be delivering a joint presentation at the Museums Association Conference about our experiences of providing work placements for students with autism.

I look forward to taking on more students when the new term starts in September. Working with Ambitious College has been beneficial in so many ways. We are all learning from this partnership and that is extremely positive and exciting.

 

Alison Shean
Education Officer
RAF Museum London
Email: alison.shean@rafmuseum.org

Jodi Awards for accessible digital culture

The Jodi Mattes Trust promotes barrier-free access to cultural collections for disabled people. Museums, galleries, archives, libraries and heritage sites use technology ever more to serve their audiences.The Trust fosters the cultural equality of disabled people by celebrating best practice through the Jodi Awards.

Disability Arts in the Mainstream

DASH Arts

DASH are instigators and initiators of the commissioning of new work by Disabled visual artists within mainstream galleries since 2009, enabling Disabled artists to create new work and collaborate with new institutions.

In collaboration, we seek to commission work by leading national and international disabled artists, examining the way in which diversity is an intrinsic part of the creative process and enabling these artists and venues to transcend barriers.

In 2009, DASH undertook a survey of UK galleries to establish a baseline on how Disability Arts and Disabled Artists were exhibited in mainstream museums and galleries in response to the views expressed by numerous disabled artists about the lack of representation of Disability Arts in these venues. Of the 1100 galleries asked to take part, many did not hold the information we needed, or said it was not relevant to their gallery, or simply did not respond. In fact only seven said that they had shown work by Disabled Artists since 2000.

In response to this DASH created a pilot project called ‘Outside IN’, partnering with New Art Gallery Walsall, Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Oriel Davies, to commission  three new works by disabled artists. The artists were sean burn, The Disabled Avant Garde and Noëmi Lakmaier. As well as the commissioning and creation of new work by Disabled Artists, the programme also explored how these organisations could adapt and respond to the needs of working with Disabled Artists

To reflect on the success of the pilot project,  DASH changed the name of the project to ‘IN’,  IN 2012. ‘IN’ was an ambitious project, commissioning five new works by disabled artists, with five new partners:

Sound Canvas

The first ‘IN’ commission was, Zoe Partington’s Sound Canvas, which won a 2013 Jodi Award ,a Commendation for Innovation. The multi-sensory exhibition created by artist Zoe Partington in collaboration with sound artists Andrej Bako, uses sensors and digital technology to enable visitors to access art in an innovative way.

Initially shown at The Public , on its closure, Sound Canvas began an impromptu touring exhibition, visiting The Hive in Shrewsbury, Celf o Gwmpas in Llandrindrod Wells, The Courtyard in Hereford and mac Birmingham.

Zoe Partington has recently been awarded an Arts Council Grants for the Arts award to make Sound Canvas II.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8AgfORJsLvQ

Walls with Wounds

Dale Vn Marshall, Walls with Wounds, was the second commission in partnership with the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum. Marshall’s stunning, evocative work is inspired by a dramatic memories, each one representing a healing journey through physical destruction and repair. H

The exhibition was seen by over 2500 visitors.  In addition to the exhibition Marshall and The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum  offered an artists talk and workshops in mark making techniques, the workshops were so popular additional dates were added.

Disrupted

The third commission to be realised was a curatorial commission, in partnership with mac Birmingham, Noëmi Lakmaier presented ‘Disrupted’ a group exhibition that was conceived for mac birmingham to directly respond to, and interact with, the arts centre venue, the building and its audiences. The exhibition at mac birmingham was on show between Saturday 14th March and Sunday 3rd May 2015.

Curated by Noemi Lakmaier during her year-long residency at mac, the exhibition explored the sense of awkwardness such encounters can bring, and the unique experiences and unexpected insights that can emerge from them.

Disrupted brought together both established and emerging artists working in the realm of Disability Arts, including the Swedish performance artist Anna Berntdson, London-based artist and activist The Vacuum Cleaner, Martin O’Brien and up and coming sculptor Anna Smith from Wolverhampton.

In Conversation with the Past

In April 2014 disabled artist-filmmaker Nicola Lane was commissioned by DASH and Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery to create a film reflecting on the life of deaf Romany Bill Lock, who lived and worked in and around the villages of Clun and Bishop’s Castle in South Shropshire.

At the film’s premiere in Clun, a small Shropshire village near the Welsh border, 140 people came to see the film, bringing with them photos and fond memories of Bill.  The film is planned to be shown in small museums in Shropshire and Film Festivals worldwide.

Almost a Score

International artist Christine Sun Kim was the last, but certainly not least, of the five IN commissions – with a residency at Arnolfini in Bristol. Christine’s exhibition was shown between 20th March and 5th May 2015.

During her residency in Bristol, Kim created a new film installation work in Arnolfini’s intimate Dark Studio exploring the themes of language, sound and silence. This was the first time that the artist had created a film work of this size and in a residency setting.

The residency and exhibition was complemented by a performance lecture with the artist and a specialist panel discussion, focused on the relationships between language, sound and listening, followed by an evening showcase of performative works that were inspired by the themes discussed.

The work was successful in bringing new audiences, especially those from the deaf community, to Arnolfini.

Again the purpose of IN was to create innovative and intriguing new works by Disabled Artists but also cemented a developing relationship between the galleries and disabled artists, creating a knowledge sharing between curators and artist.

The three year project culminated with a symposium at mac birmingham called Awkward Bastards, exploring the creative case for diversity, with speakers representing Disability Arts, LGBT artists and the Black Arts movement.

http://www.museumsassociation.org/museums-journal/museums-journal-blog/18032015-celebrating-diversity

“Recognising their considerable expertise, leadership and track record in the realm of disability arts, DASH’s support is a great enabler. They play an integral role in bringing diversity in professional practice to this organisation and our audiences, and setting the bar for excellence in this arena.”

Craig Ashley mac birmingham

 

“It is really great to see an opportunity for a Disabled curator. I have felt for a long time that this was overdue and that establishing Disabled curators is one of the most important steps to bringing Disability Arts and Disabled artists into the mainstream and keeping them there.”

Noëmi Lakmaier commissioned curator mac birmingham

“Working with DASH has allowed the Herbert to recommit to accessibility in a time when all areas of work are being squeezed because of lack of money or time. Their supporting style is open, relaxed and non-judgemental which is vital when addressing accessibility issues.”

Jess Pinson The Herbert


INSIDE 2016-2018

Inside is the new  major development from our previous programmes, Outside IN (2009-12) and IN (2012-15). The scale and scope will be much broader, working with Museums and Libraries as well as Galleries to widen the scope of commissioned opportunities for disabled artists and for more audiences to engage with the work.

Applications are open to galleries, museums, archives and libraries to apply to be an INSIDE partner, until 5pm on Friday 16th October 2015.

There will be 3 commissioning venues across the Midlands. Each venue will have a partner venue, which will mean that the commissioned work will be seen in 6 settings.

We will look favourably on applications where the commissioning or partner venue is based in an area of low arts engagement.

The aims of Inside are:

  • To change the culture of Galleries, Museums and Libraries through a practical partnership with DASH.
  • To work with a number of Galleries, Museums and Libraries across the Midlands.
  • To increase the number of Disabled and Deaf artists exhibiting and/or developing curatorial skills in mainstream Galleries, Museums and Libraries.
  • To promote and develop Disabled and Deaf People as an audience, and as participants in the Visual Arts.

We will achieve these aims by offering three commissions each for £7000:

  • One to a mainstream Gallery to select a Disabled artist to ‘exhibit’ or select a Disabled artist as a curator, who will develop an exhibition or exhibitions.
  • One to a Museum to select a Disabled artist to work with their collection/audience/archive.
  • One to a Library to select

 

More information and the application form can be found at http://www.dasharts.org/projects/inside.html

 

Other links

https://www.youtube.com/user/DisabilityArts

https://www.facebook.com/groups/102071596512318/

https://twitter.com/DASH_ARTS

Sensory Objects

What we wanted to do

To create a series of multisensory interactive art works that respond to museum collections, to generate alternative ideas for museum interpretation, developed through art and electronics-based workshops by people with learning disabilities in collaboration with an interdisciplinary research team.

How we worked together

The Sensory Objects project brings together artists, engineers, experts in multimedia advocacy, museum workers and people with learning disabilities as co-researchers in the design of interactive multisensory objects that replicate or respond to objects of cultural significance. Through a series of staged multisensory art and electronics workshops, people with learning disabilities work as co-researchers in exploring how the different senses can be utilised to augment existing museum/heritage artifacts or create entirely new ones. The project has worked with the Tower Project exploring collections in The Enlightenment Gallery at The British Museum where we created Sensory Labels, with Reading College students from the LLD/D exploring the University of Reading’s Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) where we created interactive farm animals, and with Mencap Liverpool Access to Heritage Forum at the National Trust’s Speke Hall where we made Sensory Story boxes. Each museum became the focus for developing unique sensory objects in response to our co-researchers perspectives of the collection.

The Sensory Objects Research Team

Co-Researchers

  • Mencap Liverpool Access to Heritage Forum: Paul Lorde, Angela Green, Stephen Hogg, Elle Rice and Tracy Cleaver, Derek Connelly, Chris Griffiths and Terry Beech, Patrick Cowley. Support workers: June Jenkins, Geraldine Regan.
  • Reading College students from the Learners with Learning Difficulties and/or Disabilities (LLD/D) department: Sian Nicholas, Skye Cuthbert, Luke Brown, Rumena Begum, Rachel McGowan, Rachel Hallissey, Guillermo Hart.  Reading College Lecturer: Qian Chen.  Support workers: Li Hao, Matthew Ivey and Tasha Croshaw.  Reading Mencap Coffee Club, including Miranda Fox and Support Worker Ali Carroll.
  • The Tower Project, London: Sam Walker, Judith Appiah, Tim Elson, Adalana Ojo, Julie Ryan, Adjoa Weidemann, Ryan Burns, Michael Tapps, Katy Wollard, Justin Grimes, Ashley Mason, Kelly Woods. Support workers: Minos Papdimitriou, Ferhat Salman , Reshma Khan, Debbie Hudson.

Researchers 

  • Kate Allen (Art Department), Nic Hollinworth and Faustina Hwang (School of Systems Engineering), University of Reading
  • Andy Minnion (Director) and Gosia Kwiatkowska, Rix Research University of East London
  • Ticky Lowe, Consultant, Artist and Coordinator of Mencap Liverpool Access to Heritage Forum and Director of Making Sense CIC

Heritage and Museum Partners

  • Speke Hall, National Trust, Liverpool
  • Museum of English Rural Life (MERL), University of Reading
  • The British Museum, London

How we shared our work

We have an accessible webpage www.sensoryobjects.com, a how-its-done technical page https://extrasensoryobjects.wordpress.com, a wiki created by our co-researchers https://www.klikin.eu/page/view/cat/18533  and a twitter account @SensoryObjects

We have held three showcase events with an accompanying seminar at each museum. During 2014 our co-researchers and research team have presented workshops and papers at national and international conferences and events including Engage 2014 Bristol and the Diversity in Heritage Meeting London, Museums and Heritage Show Olympia and the Inclusive Museum Conference, Los Angeles USA

How the project was funded

Funded from 2012-2015 by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC, project reference AH/J004987/1).

Outcomes and evaluation

The project has been very successful in developing co-research with people with learning disabilities and workshop activities.  Our participants have been highly-engaged in the activities, and the feedback has been very positive.

The project has developed workshop tools to make working with electronics and interactive technologies more accessible, which we have called “littleBits go LARGE” (see https://extrasensoryobjects.wordpress.com/littlebits-go-large/).

We have developed custom devices that can be used to enhance a museum visit with multisensory experiences, i.e. an easy to use “sound box” that can be carried around a visit and that plays sounds at an appropriate part of the collection (see https://extrasensoryobjects.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/extending-the-sound-box-further/).

The project has produced a series of webpages https://www.klikin.eu/page/view/cat/18533  created by co-researchers with learning disabilities, documenting their experiences.

We presented our Sensory Labels at The British Museum on 11th Feb 2015 this was so successful we were invited back as an event for the half term holidays with our co-researchers showing their Sensory Labels to hundreds of adults and children in the Enlightenment Gallery.

Sensory Objects project won the International Design for All Foundation Award Trophy 2014 for ‘littleBits go Large’, customising littleBits to make them more accessible and again in 2015 for our ‘Sensory Labels at The British Museum’. We were runners up in the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) Engage Competition 2014 award. We have also been invited to contribute ideas to the development of new interactive displays for the Museum of English Rural Life’s Heritage Lottery funded redevelopment.

We have developed and refined methods and approaches of including co-researchers with learning disabilities in the research and design process.  This has included designing and simplifying workshop tools and activities in order to empower co-researchers to make choices, express their opinions, and actively participate in the design process. Our co-researchers from the Tower Project are sharing their workshop activities, creating Sensory Postcards, with others from their centre with PMLD (profound and multiple learning disabilities).

We have observed that consulting and working with an individual’s perspective of a museum collection also created a valuable experience for a wider user group. Apart from creating some fantastic artworks we have found our sensory objects provided opportunities for positive interaction for our co-researchers with museum workers and the public. Our co-researchers commented on how they felt they were treated with greater respect by the people when presenting their sensory objects, support workers noted how individuals displayed greater confidence interacting with the public and feedback from museum workers mentioned our interventions bringing a lively, engaged atmosphere for visitors and staff in the museum.

A book of sensory activities has been developed to encourage and support other museums and groups to explore sensory activities. We are currently working on a grant bid to create a sustainable scheme for people with learning disabilities to continue working within the museums and heritage sector.

 

 

Neurodiversity in Employment by Sean Gilroy and Leena Haque

So, what is Neurodiversity and why are we interested in it?  Well, Neurodiversity refers to conditions which cause a person to process information differently; Autism Spectrum Condition, Asperger’s, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and other neurological conditions are becoming increasingly known by the term Neurodiversity and they affect at least one in 25 people.

We started working together around 3 years ago, after I (Leena, Hello) joined the BBC through the Extend Scheme – an employment scheme aimed at people with disabilities.  This is when I met Sean, who was to be my line manager (Hello.)  Now, while we each had relevant experience of each other’s respective fields, we noticed that there was a lack of information regarding Neurodiversity from the perspective of the new employee and for the employer.

Specifically, we felt there was a lack of information regarding awareness of hidden conditions and the effective management of neurodiverse individuals. Likewise we felt that there was similar lack of resources for people with hidden conditions to access when facing the prospect of applying for roles or starting employment.   Basically, where was the consolidated best practice for employers to draw on which provided support for both managers and staff.

So, we set up an anonymous, online survey to explore both the employment experiences for people with hidden disabilities and the knowledge and awareness of line managers. We promoted the survey via social media – an excellent forum often frequented by Neurodiverse individuals and anonymous so as to encourage people to tell us how they really feel.

We managed to get an excellent response to this, 470 people completed the survey broadly split 70/30 between staff and managers.  There were positive stories out there from people that replied, citing the individual creativity of line managers and where people felt they were being actively supported.  But there was also the message that Stigma is still a concern for people and that managers didn’t always know where to go for support and information.

Until recently the disadvantages and negatives of hidden disabilities (if not all disability) have been focused on, while the special talents that often come with these conditions are overlooked. From our perspective on this project, the need to increase awareness is mainly about dispelling the myths, perceptions and even prejudices people may have about these conditions, especially in employment.

This situation is possibly easier to understand if we consider that the conversation around diversity in the work place usually concentrates on visible differences; race, religion and physical disabilities. Increasingly though, more companies are now recognising the need to embrace, nurture and facilitate those with hidden disabilities, especially in those areas where Neurodiversity tends to excel – Creativity and Technology.

While organisations are increasingly aware of the broadest spectrum of what Diversity means, there are still those barriers to employment which Neurodiverse individuals have to overcome in order to get the chance of employment.

Take for example the application and interview process, once you have managed to find a job you’re interested in.  The first barrier is having to complete an application form, which is often full of employment jargon, non-specific descriptions of responsibilities and hidden expectations.  The type-face and font may not be easy to read and decipher and it can be unclear as to who and how you might ask for assistance.  There is also only the one way to apply – in writing, which is not necessarily someone’s preferred method.

Then, if you manage to be selected after deciphering the application, the second barrier is having to suffer a face-to-face interview.  How best to cope with the protocol of maintaining eye contact, answering open-ended questions based on hypothetical scenarios or being invited to give a brief history of your experience to date.

To be fair, as well as anyone with ASC for example, this process is something many of us will probably relate a certain sense of anxiety to.  Which brings us on to a rather interesting side-effect of our research…

When we highlight some of those aspects we’ve identified as being problematic for Neurodiverse conditions, we often receive a positive response from Neurotypical people.  Whether it be the anxieties of applications, the patterns on the wall or floor being distracting, social cues at work being misunderstood, buildings being difficult to navigate or emails difficult to read; it appears that we all share certain things that we would like to change, that perhaps we are all on the spectrum?

So, if we can make changes to help people with Neurodiverse conditions the payback could be larger, in that these changes are likely to help a wider population.  If we can review our recruitment practices, we may begin to identify new streams of talent.  And if we look at making the working environment accessible for all, considering both physical and hidden disabilities, that retention rates and working efficiency could improve for everyone.

We believe it is important to keep in mind that an individual is a unique learner; that no two people are exactly the same and no two people learn and work in exactly the same manner. If we can open up to new ideas and allow individuals to demonstrate skills and talents in a way they feel best able, might we not be able to find more appropriate ways to identify and retain key talent in the workplace.

 

This network is for charities, museums, academics, art galleries, groups and you

Disability Coi-operative Network

The Disability Co-operative Network is for museums, art galleries and other cultural venues to seek and share knowledge to break down social barriers.

But the network is not exclusively for the Heritage and Culture Sector.

We want people outside the sector to also join this network to share knowledge on creating strategies in the workplace, promoting the talents of people with neurodiversity, funding opportunities, living and working with disabilities and talent.  We also want to hear from people who are working and creating projects in their communities.

If you want to be part of the network, please follow us on @museumDCN and contact us.

Do you have a report or case study to share?  Great, please go to contact us for further details.