Creating opportunities of experience for all, the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) is leading the way by creating an Accessible Audio Guide for deaf, hard of hearing, blind and vision-impaired audiences.

The Accessible Audio Guide is an extension of the gallery’s Access Programs which are dedicated to enabling access to a range of experiences. The programs include Auslan-interpreted lunchtime talks, tours and openings, as well as interactive sessions for students from the South Australian School for the Vision Impaired.

The Accessible Audio Guide enables audiences to view Auslan videos, read transcripts and listen to audio-descriptions of AGSA’s collections. They are available for in-house use and to access from home.

“We were keen to ensure that the artistic and historical cultural experiences that are available at the gallery are available for all of our visitors,” said Education Support Officer and Auslan interpreter at AGSA, Karina Morgan.

“I am an accredited Auslan interpreter and I am a ‘coda’ which means that I am a child of deaf adults, so Auslan is my first language.

“It is the language I grew up with … That gave me all these links to community here in South Australia, so I used those links to start developing programs with the audiences to see what they were wanting to see and hear here at the gallery.”

Morgan’s colleague, Ryan Simms, developed an interest in supporting the vision-impaired whilst working at the South Australian School for the Vision Impaired.

“[He] started learning to do audio descriptions so that he could provide better tours for the school,” Morgan said.

“Between the two of us we started to, with the support of the gallery, develop programs. Out of that process we realised that a lot of the time, like a lot of people who live with disability, when they want to come to the gallery, they really need to tailor their experiences around what our programs are offering at that time.”

The guide was established from various community consultations, ensuring that the diverse needs of community were met.

First Nations voices were present during these conversations, two of which are featured in the Auslan videos.

Aboriginal women Samantha Clarke and Johanna Ages assisted in the creation and presentation of the videos. Both women have a strong history of involvement with the gallery, including leading tours during Tarnanthi last year.

“Seeing what they are looking for, what is the most comfortable use of format in terms of usability, functionality and all that sort of stuff. We have ended up going down the route of not having an audio guide that people can come and hire, [but having] a guide that is available for everyone anywhere,” Morgan said.

“In light of the pandemic … anybody can access the guide, so if you are a remote lover of art and you want to access and engage with the gallery’s collections, you can do so.”

For members of remote Indigenous communities, where lockdowns have been in place across the state for several weeks, this is good news.

Currently, the guide has commentaries on 13 artworks which are displayed in the Elder Wing of Australian Art at AGSA.

The exhibition of Australian art in the Elder Wing “explores the flexibility of identity and the fluidity of belonging” and shows Aboriginal art, colonial art, Australian Impressionism and Modernism, all with local, regional and national nuances.

Moving forward and set to reopen on June 8, AGSA is dedicated to continuing accessibility to all people.

“We are hoping to extend it to an easy read, easy listen option for people whose first language might not be English, and also for those who may have an intellectual disability or may be neuro-diverse and require a little bit more information in explaining,” Morgan said.

“We are hoping to add that element to make things more accessible for everyone.”

By Rachael Knowles