Community advisors were essential in designing an accessible space for all Atlantans to enjoy. Hear from one advisor, Greg Aikens, a local educator helping children with visual impairments lead vibrant lives.
By Eva Berlin, Digital Content Specialist, High Museum of Art
Outside the Lines, the High’s newest outdoor installation, provides an immersive, sensory environment that is accessible and playful for all visitors — including those with physical, developmental, and/or intellectual disabilities. Emulating a forestlike atmosphere, the gently curving steel structure of Outside the Lines supports thousands of hanging strands along the rise and fall of the frame that form both small enclosures for quiet relaxation and open environments for social interaction. The colorful, textural forms, designed by award-winning design and research practice Bryony Roberts Studio, were created with accessibility top of mind.
To imagine a space that would spark a sense of wonder for all audiences, Roberts collaborated with a group of self-advocates with disabilities and their allies in Atlanta. These community advisors were crucial to making this space come to life.
We had a chance to speak with one of our community advisors, Greg Aikens—an award-winning teacher and the program manager for Children and Youth Services at the Center for the Visually Impaired. CVI is an Atlanta nonprofit organization that works to empower people impacted by vision loss to live rich lives with independence and dignity. Hear more from Greg in the interview below.
Greg Aikens on Access and “Outside the Lines”
While serving as an advisor during the development of the Outside the Lines project, what was your priority or goal?
My goal was to help Bryony and the High Museum consider the needs of children who are blind and visually impaired so that the children we serve could have a meaningful experience interacting with the project.
What does accessibility mean to you?
Accessibility means that people with disabilities are able to engage or interact with something in the same way as their non-disabled counterparts. It often requires intentional design choices but means that everyone can meaningfully interact and have access to the same experiences.
What excites you most about Outside the Lines? What do you hope people take away from experiencing the installation?
Many museum exhibits, and particularly art exhibits, rely heavily on the visual sense. As a result, it is challenging to find exhibits that children who are blind or visually impaired can meaningfully interact with. I am excited for the project because it is an installation that includes sensory experiences that do not require eyesight to enjoy.
July was Disability Pride Month. It’s a great time for the disabled community to celebrate who they are, and it’s a great reminder for us all that spreading awareness and learning about allyship is a year-round task. How can we work to become stronger allies?
Acknowledging that not everyone experiences the world in the same way is a great place to start. Inviting others who might have different perspectives to participate in the conversation, like the High did when they invited CVI to give input on this project, is also important. Including different perspectives enriches the experience for all participants, not just people with disabilities.
To learn more about how the High partners with CVI to create tactile tours for students with visual impairments, check out our post Strictly Hands-On.