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RNIB and Science Museum team up to give families of children with vision impairment a fun, accessible day out

At November’s ‘Shape and Share’ event, RNIB’s Children, Young People, Families and Education team worked with London’s Science Museum to give children with vision impairment an opportunity to carry out science experiments and take part in the museum’s activities.

Jack and his grandfather Steve exploring one of the Wonderlab activities

Fiona Slater, Head of Access and Equity at the Science Museum, said: “One of the Science Museum’s core values is to be open for all. This includes a commitment to the physical, sensory, and intellectual accessibility across the site and in our public programming.

“We held activities in the new Technicians Gallery (hands-on exhibit exploring technician careers across industry) which features a self-guided audio descriptive trail alongside a whole host of tactile and interactive exhibits, and visited Wonderlab (multisensory science arena), where we got hands on with objects from the collection. Our colleagues really enjoyed supporting the day, with one workshop facilitator commenting they have “improved as a presenter having done it.”

For Jaione, mother to Andoni (13), who also has restricted mobility and uses a wheelchair, the family event was invaluable, as he could take part in a situation where he would ordinarily be excluded.

“Children like Andoni don’t get many opportunities to do group activities. Everything has to be one-to-one, so it was great for both of us to do the activities and socialise with the other families and children.”

Dario and other attendee Ernest enjoying one of the Wonderlab exhibits

Vincenza, mother to son Dario (11), also found it a great opportunity to connect with other families and children.

“Navigating life with a child who has vision impairment can be isolating if you don’t have other people to talk to who have a similar experience, so it was great to chat with the other parents about theirs.”

Kate attended the Science Museum event with husband Mike and sons Finley, who is sighted, and Reuben, three, who has vision impairment. She said it was different to their usual experiences in public spaces: “It was so inclusive. The technician running our experiment made sure to explain who he was; what he looked like; and what he was doing - even letting them touch things that he was using.”

Rivalee doing arts and crafts in the café

Rivalee (5) is nonverbal, and has complex needs in addition to visual impairment, including Global Development Delay (GDD), Down’s syndrome, and attention span limitations. Her mum Sarah explained how the staff made accommodations to ensure Rivalee enjoyed the day.

“Even if Rivalee can hear what’s going on, she won’t engage if she can’t visualise it,” Sarah said. “Most places have a barrier that you have to stand behind, but museum staff allowed us to sit down in front, so she could see. I really didn’t think she would make it through the day, but she didn’t want to go home!”

Stephanie expressed her gratitude for the day for children like William (8): “I think it’s a good lesson for museums to make things more accessible for all people. It’s hard when you have a child that’s losing their vision and they can’t do some of the same things that they used to be able to do. Charities like RNIB are really touching lives.”

Fiona from the Science Museum added:

“The Science Museum has a longstanding relationship with RNIB, who have supported us with resources such as tactile maps and braille guides, as well as providing insight, advice, and guidance over the years. This family day was a brilliant opportunity to partner on the existing Shape and Share programme to create a fun, family day of activities - many of which are part of our regular Museum offer.”

Tom Norton, RNIB’s Children, Young People and Families Support Officer said:

“It’s common for children with vision impairment (VI) to not know anyone else with a similar condition and to need support when taking part in practical science experiments. It was a pleasure to see the families having fun and making friends while trying out the different accessible educational activities that RNIB and the Science Museum developed together. A huge thank you to the Science Museum Group for everything that it is doing for the VI community and to the staff involved for such a fantastic day.”

If you are a parent of a child or children with vision impairment and interested in RNIB’s Children Young People and Families events, find out more and explore what the CYPF team offers on the Children, young people and families main page.

If you need any help and support from the CYPF team, or would like to get in touch, please email the team at [email protected].