No one feels the pain associated with social isolation and discrimination that persons with disability.
This came out clearly in the simulation exercise that was done by participants at a one-day capacity building on Disability and Inclusion for Museums and Cultural Institutions organized by the Sierra Leone Autistic Society.
The simulation exercise portrays a visit to the museum by a visually impaired, hearing impaired, physically challenged and an autistic person. The constraints they encountered could not be forgotten in a hurry. From the lack of a ramp at the museum to the absence of sign language interpreters, the simulators went through hell trying to visit the National Museum.
The exercise drew attention to the fact that, much needs to be done to have an inclusive museum that caters for all, irrespective of their physical or mental state.
The trainers, Alice Brown and Mary Pen-Timity from the Sierra Leone Autistic Society noted that the training was to raise awareness among public service staff, in particular, museum staff of issues relating to disabilities and inclusion.
“The arts have so much to offer all people and this training seeks to help staff to work more confidently with people with experience of disabilities.” Mary Pen-Timity emphasized.
Chair of the Monuments and Relics Commission, Isatu Smith underscored the need for persons with disability to have unhindered access to cultural heritage sites. She was confident that the exercise left staff with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to professionally handle issues relating to disability.
Madam Smith thanked the Friends of Sierra Leone National Railway Museum for supporting the initiative whilst appreciating the efforts of all players in the sector.
In a country where people are excluded based on their physical or mental state, the assurance from the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs that they would continue to employ persons with disability cannot be more assuring.
The participants who were drawn from the Ministry of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, the National Tourist Board, Monuments, and Relics Commission, the Sierra Leone National Museum and the National Railway Museum pledged their commitment to using the newfound skills to improve their engagement with the disabled community.
Various recommendations were made to create a friendly environment for persons with disability, including the setting up of clubs that will entice children with developmental disabilities, setting up an inclusion committee that must include people with disabilities/special needs.
Certificates of participation were presented to the 20 staff at the end of the session which took place at the National Museum on Thursday 7th June 2018.