The city’s largest museum, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, is now offering a tactile tour for the vision-impaired.
This special programme includes sculptures and artefacts that can be touched and felt, text labels in Braille and audio tours that offer detailed descriptions.
Also part of the free programme is a training module for volunteers who will guide each vision-impaired individual or group on these tours.
The volunteers will be taught how to describe items in accurate and relatable ways. The blade of a sword, for instance, is described as five times longer, and thicker, than an average kitchen knife.
The programme was designed two months ago, when social welfare organisation Anam Prem asked to conduct a field trip at the museum for 100 vision-impaired schoolchildren from across India.
The museum made a list of a few dozen sculptures, taxidermy models and prehistoric stones that the children could experience through touch, says museum education officer Bilwa Kulkarni. Fifteen objects were then shortlisted for the final tour.
The hour-long tour was followed by a craft session where the children, aged 8 to 16, were asked to model one of the items they had heard about in clay. “The objects created by the children proved that the tour was a success,” says Kulkarni. “We saw they could grasp almost everything they had touched, felt or heard about”.
Added Anam Prem volunteer Prerna Mestry: “The children were overwhelmed. A tactile tour is the best way to help the blind imagine different objects.”