Art for the blind: Making Art Accessible to the Visually Impaired

For decades efforts have been made for art to be “seen” by the visually impaired. Art for the blind people is as special as much it is to a person with perfect sight and it truly is a joy to see them experience art. An organisation that has been working towards making art, art history and visual culture accessible to people who are blind is called Art Education for the Blind (ABS). They even encourage visually impaired people to paint and take pictures. This might come as a surprise to a few but the contradiction can easily be overcome when you understand that only 10% of all people with blindness can see absolutely nothing at all. They use touch and texture to create incredible paintings. Most blind people can in fact perceive some level of light and it is by applying this limited vision that many blind artists create intangible art. So much so that it is almost impossible to make out differences between an art made by a blind person and by someone with a perfect sight.

A blind person at Spain’s Prado Museum runs his fingers across 3D copy of Mona Lisa. Source: http://www.npr.org/

John Bramblitt went blind in 2001 due to complications from epilepsy

It was his blindness that actually sparked his career as an artist. With a bit of laugh John intimated that he has successfully replaced his eyes with his hands. Needless to say when he draws someone or anything per say he has to feel it with his hands. He uses textured paints to feel his way around the canvas. He also talks about the way he mixes colour; “All of the bottles and paint tubes in my studio are Brailed, and when mixing colours I use recipes. In other words I will measure out different portion of each colour that I need to produce the right hue. This is no different than using a recipe to make a cake.”

“It really is amazing how much more information you’re able to pull just by touch. I’d have never known that if I had not lost my eyesight.” he adds. More can be found on his website here.

Abhas at the India Art Fair 2016

Around the world art exhibitions are held for the visually impaired. For the first time in India one such effort was made at the India Art Fair where art for the blind was appreciated. Abhas, a pilot project by Access Logic and Logistics (ALL) presented by DAG Modern to create a tactical viewing experience for the visually impaired. Although the project was intended for visually impaired visitors, it created a platform for new analytical understandings for everyone and subtly sensitise the audience on the issues of disability. Four selected artworks (two paintings and two sculptures) were displayed for which palpable reproductions were made. Responding to the issue of physical and intellectual access to such information for the visually impaired, they designed and printed a Braille book explaining the various processes and materials used, along with the biography of the featured artists. It was the first time in India such a document on visual art was conceptualised, designed and printed.

Abhas, created by DAG Modern for visually impaired to experience art

Art for the blind in 3D

On the other side of the world people are taking advantage of technology and enabling people to feel the art in 3D. With the help of audio description and 3D recreation people are now able to feel the art. Isn’t that incredible! “You don’t need eyesight to have vision” said Tara Miller, a legally blind commercial photographer at the Winnipeg exhibit in Canada. “To be able to feel the three dimensions is absolutely amazing for me,” she added.

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