Access patchy for people with learning disabilities, finds report

Geraldine Kendall, 14.01.2015
MA calls for case studies on good practice
A report has found that museums and cultural organisations could be doing much more to reach out to people with learning disabilities.

Re-imagine: improving access to the arts, galleries and museums for people with learning disabilities, which was published this month by the social policy research organisation Lemos & Crane, surveyed 81 museums, galleries and arts organisations across London.

The report found that while many respondents were keen to do more to improve access, 46% of the mainstream (non-disability specialist) organisations that responded offered no current or ongoing activity for people with learning disabilities.

The report said: “Very few mainstream organisations had an embedded, publicised, ongoing stream for people with learning disabilities or had facilities for those with learning disabilities to access public events. Many organisations seem to be doing little or nothing. The general landscape of provision is patchy and halting.”

Although the report noted that there were “islands of excellence”, it said: “Much more could be done, however, by arts organisations, museums and galleries – as well as in specialist disability and learning disability arts sectors – to improve access and engagement.”

The survey also found that adults with learning disabilities were particularly underserved, as cultural organisations found it more difficult to reach people outside the education system. 

In response to the report, the Museums Association (MA) is calling for case studies from museums across the UK on projects for people with learning disabilities.

“It’s important to get a broader view of what museums across the country are doing for people with learning disabilities, so I’m asking for anyone involved in this type of project to send us a short case study that we can share with others,” said the MA’s policy officer Alistair Brown.

The case studies will be published in the Museums Change Lives section of the MA website and will also inform ongoing research conducted by Lemos & Crane.

“This paper makes it clear that we need to do much to improve access, creative opportunities and cross-sector working if people with learning disabilities are to participate fully in our shared cultural heritage,” said Gerard Lemos, the head of the research team at Lemos & Crane.

“We are planning to take this work forward over several years and would be delighted to hear from museums who are interested in joining us in promoting innovation and sharing good practice.”

Send case studies on museum projects helping those with learning disabilities, including people with autism, Down’s syndrome or other learning disabilities, to by 13 February.

Case studies should set out:

  • A description of project objectives
  • How you worked with stakeholders
  • How you promoted your project
  • How the project was funded
  • Outcomes and evaluation


Re-imagine: improving access to the arts, galleries and museums for people with learning disabilities

New Practice: Museums to take part in first ever Disabled Access Day on 17 January