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Sunday, January 16, 2022

Museum and special needs people

By Ogunwole Yemisi

Museum as a public institution caters for all humans. Even people with special needs are not left out. They are considered for special education. Special education is a system of education that develops and uses special tools to be able to address the unique learning needs of an exceptional person which is individualized and aimed at compensating the either negative or positive special learning problems of the affected individual.

According to International Committee for Education and Cultural Action (CECA), an arm of the International Council of Museums (ICOM), people with special needs are those who have some disadvantages because of their academic, economic or social levels and conditions, such as busy executives, ethnic minorities, house wives, internally displaced persons, inmates, refugees, slaves, the poor and the unemployed persons.
Hence, not only the physically challenged are in the category of people with special needs according to CECA definition. Museum, being in the service of humanity, must cut across all these categories of people for them not to be left out in the society.

Museum, as an agent of change, has the responsibility of not only promoting its products and activities among the normal population but also carrying people with special needs along in all programmes, in order to meet the Millennium Development Goals.
Therefore, these categories of people need special resource materials and good museum professionals to bridge the gap between them and the regular museum visitors and audience.

Museum as a citadel of learning must provide all necessary tools like braille for visually impaired persons and projecting the gallery exhibition on the screen for the hearing impaired persons. The museum exhibition should be well arranged for the people who are physically challenged like the dwarfs and the physically disabled.
Children with autism spectrum disorder, brain injury, mental health condition and intellectual disabilities must be trained by museum professionals in the field of study. These professionals must also showcase their interest in handling these categories of children.

Museum education professionals should know that disabilities cannot be solely categorized as medical issues or problems that need fixing. Therefore, these categories of people must be considered in achieving their potentials in the museum.
It can be difficult fixing their needs in a visit Therefore, museum professionals should encourage them to return their visit when necessary.
Museum professionals can also create an organized space with minimal distractions, so as to help them feel focused without adding unnecessary structure, especially when their disability is the same.

People with special needs, especially children, can often feel like they struggle to succeed. A good museum instructor should create opportunities for them to recognize and celebrate their accomplishments. Introducing rewards can also help them stay motivated. Mobile museum with museum acquisition programmes such as soap making,dyeing of fabrics,mat making etc can help those in the CECA categories of people with special needs.

Museum education professionals should go on an outreach programme with the materials to benefit these categories of people. Museum Education can also be introduced to them. Educate them on the importance of museum in their community, what museum stands to offer them and encourage them to visit any museum nearest to them.
Yemisi writes from National Museum, Osogbo

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