Here’s something that’s pretty cool.
The art world isn’t always accessible to blind people. These innovative
Art is a universal medium of expression, bridging gaps across language,
time and culture.
But galleries and museums aren’t always accessible to everyone, often
excluding blind people and those with low vision from truly experiencing
world. With about 285 million blind or visually impaired people in the
world, that’s a sizable part of the global population being left out.
But innovations — both simple and high-tech — are making the art world
even more inclusive.
Many blind people and those with low vision have experienced art through
audio descriptions of pieces, whether it’s recorded commentary from
explanations from friends in real time. But this can prevent them from
interpreting pieces of art for themselves.
Luckily advocates have developed new solutions, creating tactile ways for
art lovers to substitute touch for sight.
Here are just a few ways art is becoming more accessible for blind and
low-vision communities around the world.
- 3D printing of fine art
3D printing is making art more accessible by creating touchable versions
of art — especially famous pieces. Blind people and those with low vision,
of whom have never viewed works like the Mona Lisa or The Scream, can
now feel their way through these iconic works.
One company at the forefront is 3D Photoworks, which makes tactile
versions of historic paintings and modern photography through 3D printing.
made by 3D Photoworks also feature sensors, which activate audio
descriptions of the work as a person feels around the piece.
3D Printworks has brought its inclusive art to museums around the country,
but it wants to eventually provide accessible options for art lovers who
see in all 35,000 museums across North America.
- Incorporating Braille into visual art
Including Braille in traditional forms of art is one way to make pieces
more accessible, while also celebrating Blind culture. And one particular
has paved the way for this innovative technique.
New York-based artist Roy Nachum creates what he calls "visual art for the
visually impaired." His work is undeniably gorgeous at first glance, even
as the cover art for Rihanna’s album, Anti. But for those who can’t see
Nachum’s eye-catching visuals, the art has a different layer of artistic
— poetic writings embossed on the artwork’s surface in Braille.
To highlight the tactile importance of his work, Nachum also lightly
covers his art in ash, which leaves fingerprint marks on the work as a
the Braille messages. The prints left behind act as a type of
documentation of human contact with his work.
Nachum’s innovative form of interactive art allows everyone to experience
the same art in different — yet equally powerful — ways.
- Extra-textured paintings for inclusivity
Making art more accessible to people who can’t see doesn’t require
changing already existing pieces. Paintings, for example, can be created
with this audience
in mind from the start, layering paint to make it a more tactile experience.
One well-known artist using this technique is John Bramblitt, who began
painting after he lost his eyesight due to complications with epilepsy and
disease in 2001. Bramblitt says losing his sight helped change the way he
thought about art and color for the better. He often creates his pieces
thick layers of paint, appealing to touch as well as the gaze of fans who
Though layering paint to create more textured work is common, artists who
use the technique specifically to make their art more inclusive are
rare. Regardless of the lack of popularity, painting with texture is a
simple, low-tech way to bring art to those who can’t experience it
- Tactile art that welcomes touch
We’re used to hearing the phrase, "Please, don’t touch the art." But
California-based contemporary artist Andrew Myers creates works
specifically to challenge
this common, disapproving phrase.
Using screws of different heights, the artist creates topographic-like
portraits by inserting the screws into wooden boards, making images with
gaps and grooves. As a result, his work has mass appeal for blind people
and those with low vision, who can touch his portraits.
Tactile art like Myers’ — which includes any art meant to be felt in order
to be fully experienced — is engaging for art lovers of all visual
From complex pottery to plastic protruding from canvas, tactile forms of
art grant a fuller experience to gallery-goers who can’t see.
Myers documented his work with tactile art in the documentary Please Touch
the Art!, which features a blind man feeling a portrait of himself for the
- Tactile tours of museums and galleries
Some major museums and smaller galleries are throwing the "look, but don’t
touch" mantra out the window — and it’s all in the name of inclusivity.
To do this, museums have begun using touch — and even smell — to give
those without vision the ability to experience art. Several museums and
have started hosting tactile tours, which serve as ways for blind people
and people with low vision to touch replicas of famous artworks.
The Louvre in Paris, and the Guggenheim and the Metropolitan Museum of
Art in New York, have all established tactile tours, where people can
of art or casts of famous works. The goal of these tours, one gallery
curator at the Guggenheim told The Atlantic, is to allow people who are
have low vision to "see" with their brains, not their eyes.
You can find a list of popular museums in the U.S. offering accessible
programs for blind people and those with low vision here.