By Kica Saar, Tactile Tour Coordinator
Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi, has been offering Tactile Tours since 2009 for visitors with a range of disability. Facilitated through dialogue and touch, the Tactile Tours provide an informed and interactive experience for visitors with disabilities and their carers.
There are two key characteristics of a Tactile Tour. Firstly, there is a tactile element that enables participants to gently touch the sculptures. We encourage participants to explore the tactile quality of the sculpture, where we describe the texture’s likeness to real world objects. Other aspects that we discuss are materials, colour, size, shape, weight, movement and temperature.
Secondly, there is an audio-described element that provides a rich verbal description of the exhibition, site and artworks at Sculpture by the Sea. In the same way a great book provides the reader with a visual description or sense of the characters, setting and plot, an audio-described tour aims to create that same experience. An audio description provides a vivid image through a narration of all the visual elements of sculpture, such as colour, form, scale and texture.
This year we are providing audio descriptions of sculptures prior to the exhibition to visually impaired visitors from a number of organisations. The audio descriptions are printed in Braille for these visitors, so that they can become familiar with the sculptures prior to arriving for their tour. This will enhance the participants’ engagement with the sculptures during their tour.
Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi is fortunate to have a strong relationship with the Art Gallery of New South Wales and their Volunteer Access Guides, who dedicate their time and expertise to deliver the Tactile Tours. For this year’s exhibition, we have 36 Tactile Tours with 460 participants and 169 carers over 10 days. The contribution of 14 AGNSW Access Guides and Sculpture by the Sea Educators is invaluable to the success and delivery of this program.
I have been involved in delivering and administrating Tactile Tours (part of the Sculpture by the Sea Access & Inclusion Program) for 7 years, both as a Volunteer Access Guide from the AGNSW as well as coordinating the program for Sculpture by the Sea. It is an absolute honour and privilege to be involved in this program, especially when I see the participants faces light up with joy as they touch the sculptures and listen to audio descriptions. The Tactile Tour program aims to remove social barriers that prevent visitors with disabilities from participating fully in community events — I believe wholeheartedly that we achieve this goal.