Saturday, October 11, 2008

Polish museum developed accessibility to the visually impaired

The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum is set to become more accessible to the visually and aurally challenged. Guides will be published in two new versions – Braille and extra-large lettering.

The museum will provide these new services free of charge under the sponsorship of Krakow’s Center and School for the Blind and Deaf.

Barbara Plant, the director of the school stated, “Previous opportunities were very limiting […] up until now, we could only tell visually impaired people about Auschwitz.”

A press liason for Auschwitz, Pawel Sawicki, said that, “It was most difficult to create a Braille map of Auschwitz that would be understandable for the visually-impaired. However, the teachers from the school in Krakow were instrumental in helping us.”

One of the specialists from the school, Leszek Ogorek, highlighted the fact that “it was most important to convey the magnitude of this place and not necessarily make the most exact map […] The map of Auschwitz is quite accurate and legible. However, due to the enormous size of Birkenau, it was impossible to make such a map perfectly accurate. I was more focused on conveying the size, scope and span of the place.”

So far, the maps have been received very positively by the visually-impaired community. Przemek Kielar, a blind second-year student at the Vocational School for Piano Tuners, claims that “the maps are very well done and there is tons of information on them […] It’s possible to learn a lot from them, and blind people who have yet to go to Auschwitz will now be able to get a clear picture of the history and look of the concentration camp. Now, if someone is to go there, the experience of their visit will have a lot deeper meaning.”

The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum is one of the first in Poland to publish such a guide for the disabled. The museum opened in 1957. They publish catalogues, maps and guides in over 20 languages.


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