Raquel has an invisible condition (chronic pain), which means she needs to lie down (a lot). Many arts institutions haven’t known how to react to her horizontality – sometimes she is left alone, but often she is questionned by security or policed by other members of the public. Why, Raquel asks, is there such a lack of understanding of her needs, especially in spaces trying to encourage longer reflection and rest times?
“I am able,” explains Raquel. “But I am disabled by a vertical culture and a built environment that is simply not designed for me”. Raquel’s first recommendation to arts professionals is to simply recognise that the need to rest is very real for many audiences. Design dictates how we can – or cannot – navigate our cultural space, so those living with impairments map their cities very carefully.
Raquel spearheaded research asking people what would make an artwork
truly accessible to them.
The top five responses were:
1. A clear invitation to rest/ lie down (69.59%)
2. A place to rest/ lie down to experience the work (62.84%) 3. A separate space to rest in before/ after viewing (56.08%)
4. A dedicated relaxed viewing (i.e. free to move around as needed) (55.41%)
5. Bean bags or cushions available (53.38%)
These findings inspired key low-tech recommendations for arts
1. Re-imagine how people could use your space
2. Extend a direct invitation to your audience to rest and recharge
3. Designate a dedicated quiet space in your building
4. Test a ‘relaxed’ programme/ performance/ event and adapt as you go
5. Consider what exhibit, which artwork would most benefit from this offer?
6. Communicate your offer through channels that disabled people use
7. Ask whether there are disabled people at decision-making levels
Raquel points to artworks using rest space as an integral part of the viewing experience including Max Richter’s Sleep, Olafur Eliasson’s Weather Project and Pippilotti Rist’s gnade-donau-gnade.
Resting spaces provide a double benefit.
– In terms of accessibility, providing, promoting and signaling resting spaces opens an institution to an entirely new audience segment.
– In terms of engagement, most if not all art can benefit from stronger ways to linger with it. Health and comfort aside, resting spaces provide visitors a new perspective, a stronger bond and a mindful engagement with the work. Not to mention – here’s the one that to win over your board – a much longer dwell time in your institution.