Subsidy application by students makes art accessible for the blind

The Escher Museum in The Hague wanted to make the art of Maurits Escher accessible for the blind and partially sighted. Pupils from Technasium ISW Hoogland consulted with the target group and developed ideas for this. Public Administration students wrote a subsidy application which allowed the ideas to become a reality.

How can you enable blind and partially-sighted people to enjoy the art of Maurits Escher? Whereas people are able to touch sculptures, artworks on a flat plane do not make any sense to them. How about using a description? However, this is rather complicated as Escher plays with visual effects. Third-year pupils from the Technasium consulted with blind and partially-sighted people and developed ideas for making Escher’s work ‘visible’ for this target group.

Promising

Meanwhile, in Public Administration Studio 7, 35 students from the Public Administration degree programme set to work on a subsidy application to the municipality of The Hague. They drew up their plans in consultation with the pupils, civil servants and the museum director. The most promising application, written by Victor Pluym and Helen Oktas, was successfully submitted to the municipality following consultation with the museum director. The funding that was made available allowed a specialised agency to develop the ideas into usable models.

Target group

The duo needed to put in a fair amount of work to make their application a success. Victor: “The municipality has guidelines for subsidy applications which are helpful. The most difficult part was tailoring the application to the target group. Why would these tools really help this target group? The challenge was to write a clear and concise narrative about this.”

Real assignment

“Incidentally, writing one of these applications is not the most exciting thing to do”, said Victor. “However, it was fun to work on an assignment that was used to make something real happen. You’re not sitting in your room working on an assignment that you hand in to your lecturer and then it is finished. It’s great to see the end products and to see how blind and partially-sighted people use these.”

Difficult

“I’ve learnt to put myself in the shoes of the target group”, said Victor. “We went to the museum where we met people with a visual disability. They were standing next to an artwork and we could ask them how they perceived the art. A partially-sighted woman asked me to explain what I could see. Then I noticed how difficult it was to clearly explain what one of these artworks looks like.”

Greater understanding

Victor drafted the subsidy application with Helen Oktas. “This project has taught me how to think differently”, she said. “I have gained greater understanding and I can now see how important it is to listen to your target group. This is a key part of our degree programme, but it only becomes clear when you are working on a real project.”

Exciting

Helen found it fantastic to work on a real project with a real client. “At the start, it was terrible. There was a certain amount of pressure. It had to go well, which made it a tense experience.” However, it did work out well in the end and Victor and Helen reflected on their successful project during the presentation of the objects in the museum. Helen: “This project had added value. I’d love to have more of these.”