At the Adil Shah Palace, you may be fortunate enough to chance upon a group of students on a specially curated art walk, being led by young man, who’s warmth and humour is apparent in his voice. He takes them to a foyer, where a display of photography by Chandan Khanna is has been set. However, these children pay no heed to the pictures adorning the high walls. It is only when one observes carefully that one realises they are visually impaired. This gets confirmed when you hear the young man describing to the group what they should expect and then hand out tactile reproductions of the very same pictures.
The kaleidoscope of emotions displayed on the faces of these students makes it apparent that their imagination is taking them on a journey, none of us can ever experience. It’s their journey into the world of tactile-visual art.
Siddhant Shah is trying to break the barriers to access art as he is the brain behind all the ‘Please Touch’ signage at The Serendipity Arts Festival. Visitors almost do a double take as traditionally displays of artworks come with a rather indiscreet instruction more along the lines of “Do Not Touch”. As an art access consultant, Siddhant works towards ensuring differently abled visitors, kids, and even the elderly, are given the opportunity to enjoy and engage in the arts just as everyone should. With the aim of being inclusive and accessible for all, the festival partnered with Siddhant to create a tactile experiential program called ‘Senses’.
The main aim of the Senses programme is to make the event, spaces and its artworks accessible to the visually impaired visitors along with others with special need, so that one goes back with a fulfilling experience. Tactile maps, braille books, tactile reproductions of art works on display, tactile and braille equipped signage are all a part of this. The tactile products essentially enable everyone to understand the various aspects of the art-works through multiple senses. The products and the ideas designed will allow a wide range of interaction with the artworks on display, thus making it universal to a large section of the society.
Shah has also designed ‘Kids Activity Sheets’ for the children and young minds to engage with the space and the displayed works of art. Amongst all of this, he conducted a Blindfold Photography Workshop, where the participants will be clicking pictures without seeing them. In a space for social and educational engagement, the Senses project acts as catalyst to allow Intellectual and Social Access to those demographics who are otherwise overwhelmed and do not participate in these events. Along with this one will also provide the right infrastructure for apt Physical Access in and around the spaces of the Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa
Additionally, an in depth disability access audit and consultation with the Nipman Foundation has helped the Festival provide physical access and support services at the venues for visitors with disabilities. They have also teamed up with ALL (Access Logic & Logistics) in order to make selected exhibitions accessible for visually impaired audiences and others with special needs.