MEXICO CITY, MEXICO — When Julio César Carballido saw online that there was a Mexican Sign Language(LSM)interpreter at Mexico City’s Popular Art Museum, his face lit up.
“When I was a boy, there were no interpreters and I couldn’t understand the exhibitions,” Carballido says. His parents tried to explain the exhibits to him, but their limited sign language made it difficult. Still, his love for art and history compelled him to return.
Now 44, Carballido follows the hands of Brenda Morán Durán, an LSM tour guide, through an exhibit of colorful textiles and clothing pieces. It’s his first time touring the art museum with an LSM interpreter, and he can’t stop smiling.
“I feel happy that there is an interpreter,” he says. “[LSM is] part of my identity as a deaf person; it is my language.”
Increasing accessibility to Mexico’s art museums has been “a labor of many years,” says Sofía García, who leads the educational and public services at the Estanquillo Museum. “It’s not as easy as publishing an activity and having 50 people arrive — it’s little by little.”
The Estanquillo Museum, known for housing the collection of celebrated Mexican journalist Carlos Monsiváis, began offering specific accessible activities such as art workshops and exhibitions with braille text in 2008. This year, the museum installed its first all-inclusive exhibit, “Scenes of Modesty and Lightness,” with guided tours in LSM and audio detailing Carlos Monsiváis’ writings on female performers in Mexican theater.
Mar García, GPJ Mexico
“All the activities have been thought through in order to allow any person to be able to do them,” says García, adding that braille text has been included at the museum’s exhibits for the past three years. For some exhibits, replicas of displays are made so patrons can even touch the art.
But the Estanquillo Museum isn’t the only museum in Mexico City taking steps to ensure exhibits are accessible and enjoyable for all patrons.
More than 50 cultural venues collaborate to create museum guides and design inclusive activities through a network called The Network of Museums and Cultural Spaces for the Attention of Persons with Disabilities.
María de los Ángeles López, who leads educational services at the Popular Art Museum, helped create the network in 2013.
“We see disability from very far away when we don’t suffer it or have it nearby,” she says. “We don’t give importance to the fact that they are people and they have a right to culture and traditions.”
Mar García, GPJ Mexico
Rita García, whose daughter, Erika García, is hearing impaired, says she’s seen the number of activities for people with disabilities increase over the years. When she read on Facebook that the Museum of Popular Art offers guided tours in LSM during their Night of Museums program, she and her daughter decided to go.
“There is more inclusion in museums and it seems wonderful to me,” says Rita García who is learning LSM to better communicate with her daughter.
Ana Belén Paizanni, who leads the education programming for Mexico City’s Carrillo Gil Art Museum, says the museum has hosted an annual inclusive activity proposed by people with disabilities since 2017.
“Inclusive activities are important because we sensitize the general public to the fact that people with disabilities don’t get a reduced offering with just specific activities for them; but rather that they can have everything the museum has to offer,” she says.
The museum works with the network to provide free LSM interpreters for visitors who request the service year-round.
Rishi Khalsa, GPJ, translated this story from Spanish.