Museum introduces Braille, Easy English and tactile maps

The Bridgetown Police Station Museum now features Braille, Easy English and tactile maps transcribed by VisAbility’s Braille Transcriber and Easy English Creator Leone Carroll.

Bridgetown Police Station Museum in Southwest WA was built in 1880 and was, until 1973, a working police station. The museum details rural policing and the history of the indigenous community throughout the years.

Robert and Val read the Braille Guides in the museum
Robert and Val, both vision impaired, were keen to explore the museum (Image: Mary Elgar)

Testing the new accessible information

The Chairperson of Bridgetown Historical Museum, Mary Elgar secured State Heritage Funding (opens in new window) to make it accessible to everyone.

Robert Smith and his wife Val, both legally blind, took up an invitation to explore the museum and the new features.

“I haven’t come across anything like this before. I can read the Braille booklets myself, so I don’t need to rely on other people for information.”

Robert Smith – Visitor

As well as the inclusive panels, visitors can touch exhibits – items such as an old gramophone record and a typewriter used in the police office fifty years ago. The Bridgetown Historical Museum’s Chairperson Mary says the ‘Do Not Touch’ signs in the museum came down in 2017.

Robert feels the gramophone record on display. Waldo his Service dog is by his feet.
Robert was able to touch the objects on display (Image: Mary Elgar)

“I am passionate about making museums accessible and tactile, so the signs discouraging people to touch had to go.”

Braille, Easy English and tactile maps

Robert and Val enjoyed a personal guided tour with Mary. What were the highlights for them?

“For me, it was exploring the tactile map and using my sense of touch to read the Braille and get a better understanding of the route of the Blackwood River,” Robert explains.

“The river is 300km long. We could trace it from its origins near Quelarup, down through Bridgetown and Nannup to where it discharges into the Southern Ocean at Augusta,” adds Val.

“We have lived in Bridgetown for 35 years, and people have driven us past the Blackwood River many times, but now we know more about it.”

Robert and Val at the entrance to the museum
Mary, Chairperson of the Bridgetown Historical Society and pictured in the middle of Robert and Val, offers personal tours (Image: Mary Elgar)

“It’s an amazing thing to be able to touch and feel things at the museum. In years gone by, exhibits were behind glass which was restrictive for us.”

Robert Smith – Visitor

The museum also houses a police cell – set up as it would have been when the police station was still in use. Inside is a mattress on the floor and a toilet bucket in the corner. The small cell has heavy wooden panelling and a tiny window for light and ventilation.

Inclusive museums – a sign of things to come

The couple are now both in their seventies. Robert has been blind since birth because of congenital cataracts and has a Guide Dog called Waldo. Val has less than 10% vision and uses a white cane.

Robert and Val stand in front of the police cell with Waldo
The museum also houses a police cell (Image: Mary Elgar)

While the Braille, Easy English and tactile maps offer accessible information, the museum is also spacious. Wide aisles make it perfect for Guide Dogs and Service Dogs.

“The museum has a photo slideshow depicting Bridgetown through the ages with photos, an audio description of those photos would be wonderful.  Overall, it’s a very accessible museum.”

Heritage attractions are continuously working to improve their welcome for people with a range of accessibility requirements.

Why not visit the Bridgetown Police Station Museum? More information is on the Bridgetown Historical Society website (link opens in new window).

Accessibility workshops for businesses

VisAbility offer Accessible Information Services which can translate content into alternative formats such as large print. We also offer a range of accessibility training and workshops, aimed at businesses and organisations which employ or offer services for people with vision impairment or disability. These can be offered online or face-to-face (WA only).

These include:

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