SMA participates in 15th Intl Inclusive Museum Conference

April 25, 2022 / 1:14 PM
Sharjah24: The dedication of Sharjah Museums Authority (SMA) to providing accessible and inclusive experiences to all visitors was highlighted at the 15th International Inclusive Museum Conference held in Philadelphia, USA.
Manal Ataya, Director General of SMA delivered a presentation titled “Accessibility is not a Privilege but a Right: A Case of Sharjah Museums’, followed by a conversation with Dr Amareswar Galla, UNESCO Chair on Museums and Sustainability Heritage Development.
Ataya, elaborated on the various programs and initiatives the authority is providing to expand their access and outreach to all its audiences.
“We understand the significance of accessibility and social inclusion in building our community and will continue to ensure we do all we can by identifying barriers and implementing solutions and considerations to accommodate people with disabilities within our museum spaces. It is imperative that all our visitors fully benefit from services and have an overall enjoyable experience that makes them feel that they belong,” Ataya said. 
She added that SMA’s strategy focuses on engaging with children, the elderly, people with different disabilities and the Autism community. 
“We have taken a multi-pronged approach which includes launching numerous initiatives over the past few years such as “Let’s Live Together’’, the ‘‘Outstanding Guide in Sign Language”, regularly training our staff in accessibility, applying universal design in our museum projects and organizing tailored educational programs to enhance inclusion and improve overall accessibility to our museums,” she added.
Ataya indicated the importance of involving stakeholders, such as organizations that cater to people with disabilities, in order to actively listen and better understand the specific needs of targeted groups and therefore prioritise services and adjustments museums should make to remove physical and perceived barriers. 
“Being a human right granted decades ago by the United Nations, accessibility for people with disabilities is not only about making museum spaces more compliant, welcoming and convenient to those who can visit but is also about museums increasing their reach and being proactive in this. Therefore, SMA ensures that people who can not physically come to the museum such as hospitalised cancer patients or inmates have opportunities provided for them in their spaces. In these instances, it’s important for museums to think beyond their walls and to make the effort to visit underrepresented groups and deliver programs where they are,” she said. 
Recognizing its efforts, a number of SMA museums were selected as part of Sharjah’s Age-friendly Institutions initiative, while others were awarded the Accessible for Disability Certificate by The World Disability Union (WDU).
Held online and onsite between April 22 and 24 under the theme “Rethinking the Museum”, the conference brings together cultural experts from around the globe to share insights into the future role of museums and to help establish a network of perspectives that would enhance the public’s experience through better accessibility.
Other speakers at the conference included Dr Lonnie G Bunch, the 14th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., Dr Deborah A. Thomas, the Director of the Center for Experimental Ethnography at the University of Pennsylvania and Nick Merriman, Director of the Horniman Museum and Gardens, UK.  
April 25, 2022 / 1:14 PM

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