Saturday 16 January 2021 - 1:19:25 pm

Sharjah Museums Authority leads in accessibility with its "Autism-Friendly Museums" initiative


SHARJAH, 30th December, 2020 (WAM) -- Committed to making its museums accessible to all community members, Sharjah Museums Authority (SMA) is organising an array of sensory and educational group and individual activities as part of its "Autism-Friendly Museums" initiative that was launched two years ago.

Through its first-of-its-kind scheme in the Gulf region, SMA specifically designed the activities to create learning experiences that meet the needs of children with autism aged between 7 and 12 years, mindful of their sensory abilities and facilitating communication with their peers and surroundings within a safe enabling museum environment.

Since the launch of its initiative, SMA has succeeded in rolling out a series of learning and fun activities for autistic children, including partnerships with various centres including the Sharjah Autism Centre.

The initiative offers free workshops and specialised activities in English and Arabic, aimed at enhancing the abilities and potential of children with autism.

Manal Ataya, Director-General of SMA, said: "The initiative is based on a carefully-thought programming considering museums as places where visitors can learn through all their senses. As a result, we have designed many exhibits, programmes, workshops, and classes to be interactive, multi-sensory, and open-ended."

She spoke of how the initiative stems from SMA’s keenness to provide an enabling environment for all members of society, and its realisation of the need to offer tailored programmes to meet the needs of the children and their families and further to raise awareness for a more inclusive society.

Each workshop accommodates up to 15 persons including caregivers, while workshops for children with autism are limited to six persons only. Children aged 7-14 with different disabilities will engage in several workshops held at Al Mahatta Museum, Sharjah Archaeology Museum, Sharjah Art Museum and Sharjah Discovery Centre.

The workshops aim to improve children’s social skills and help them explore their artistic imagination and express themselves through art.

Ataya said, "I believe museums can be a positive experience for individuals with autism because of the variety of learning styles museums nurture. It is critical for us at SMA to ensure the Autism Community has the opportunity to be part of an environment that is welcoming and accepting."

Other workshops will take place at the Sharjah Maritime Museum, Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation and Sharjah Aquarium. Interested centres need to register their students and specify nature of disabilities three weeks prior to the workshop by visiting www.sharjahmusuems.ae, accessibility@sma.gove.ae or by calling 971569972968.

SMA is also keen to regularly organise touch tours for visually impaired people and provides them with Braille publications and large-print materials as part of its ongoing efforts to ensure that all its museums are disability-friendly establishments and are accessible to all. This ambitious approach has resulted in honouring two of its museums, the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation and Sharjah Maritime Museum, with the certificate of Accessible for Disability in the Museum category by the World Disability Union.

WAM/Hazem Hussein