For an accessible cultural territory
In Ticino there are certain cultural itineraries and tourist attractions that are more suited than others to being visited by people with disabilities. The accessibility of these places is not limited to the absence of architectural barriers, but considers a set of multisensory experiences that, for example, include new ways of presenting information or enjoying experiences.
One of these is in the Verzasca Valley, in Sonogno, where in recent years the local museum has promoted initiatives to encourage an inclusive experience of its spaces and the Valley's cultural heritage. The latest, in chronological order, concerns the work of Natalie Bissig, a Swiss artist who was invited to produce an inclusive and participatory photographic work to be placed along the famous Sentiero delle Leggende (Legends Trail). The design of the work, dedicated to the theme of legends, involved 11 boys and girls with and without Down Syndrome and from different backgrounds, who participated in the first person in the creation of a visual imagery of local legends, presented on the occasion of the Verzasca Foto festival 2023.
SUPSI Image Focus
Nathalie Bissig, PATI, SUPSI 2023. CC BY-SA 4.0
On the occasion of International Museum Day on 21 May, a vocational training for Deaf people interested in becoming museum guides was organised in the premises of the Verzasca Valley Museum. Four male and female students from the University of Geneva learnt communication strategies to relate with the public, with the aim of acquiring the basic knowledge to conduct a guided tour of the museum, which in the future will be able to integrate this new professional figure in its offer to visitors.
Natalie Bissig's photo exhibition and the museum training for deaf people are not unrelated initiatives: both are part of the Accessible Heritage project. Inclusive Territory. (PATI) conducted by SUPSI with the active participation of the population and institutions. The project arose from the realisation that there are few open-air spaces in Switzerland that are accessible to people with disabilities, and it does not limit itself to considering the absence of architectural barriers that reduce mobility, but extends to people with other disabilities, e.g. visual, hearing or intellectual. This means rethinking the form, channels and mode of display of information, improving accessibility, perhaps presenting it in a new form: in larger fonts, or told in an audio guide or podcast. It also means creating inclusive experiences that involve the public not only in visiting places, but also in actively collaborating in the creation of artistic and cultural initiatives at specific events.
In 2019, PATI kicked off with the formation of an operational group consisting of people with different disabilities, representatives of cultural institutions and SUPSI researchers. Together they assessed the degree of accessibility of specific places in Ticino, conducting an analysis that examined various aspects of accessibility, including architecture, design and communication of information. The result led to the creation of accessibility plans for cultural institutions with indications of opportunities for improvement and existing criticalities of specific routes. Subsequently, possible actions to be taken to increase the degree of accessibility and inclusiveness of the places considered were identified.
In this regard, Marta Pucciarelli, project coordinator and researcher at SUPSI's Design Institute, emphasises how cultural institutions are 'highly motivated to enhance their historical and cultural heritage from an inclusive point of view, thus expanding not only their pool of visitors but also the possibility of proposing new experiences to a targeted and diversified public. With PATI, the cultural institutions involved have co-designed and implemented together with citizens, researchers and disability experts new ways of accessing the content and services they offer, including educational initiatives, cultural mediation activities and artistic-cultural productions. The institutions' ambition is to become central places for cultural and community life, experimenting new ways of enhancing their heritage and continuing to improve their activities over time in a sustainable and inclusive perspective'.
SUPSI Image Focus
In addition to Valle Verzasca, PATI is also present in Valle Leventina and Valle Maggia. Here, inclusive visitor routes have been created in cooperation with schools, the accessibility of heritage and routes mapped, and accessible signage and an audioguide are being planned. All this always using free Creative Commons (Attribution - Share Alike) licences, which make the content not only accessible, but usable and reusable by all, so as to encourage a free circulation of knowledge and facilitate the reuse of the content produced and the methods adopted.
PATI is a characteristic example of SUPSI multidisciplinarity: it is led by the Design Institute (IDE) of the Department of Environment, Construction and Design (DACD), the Department of Business Administration, Health and Social Affairs (DEASS), the Centre for Competence in Educational Needs, School and Society (BESS) of the Department of Formation and Learning (DFA) and the Dimitri Academy (ATD) also participate.