Museums welcome people with disabilities, offer array of creative opportunities, technology

NEW YORK — On a recent Sunday, a group of museum visitors sat in front of a large canvas by the French artist Jean Dubuffet as their guide described the work — an abstract painting created with crumpled aluminum foil tinted with oil paint.

The guide then invited them to create their own artwork using tin foil — a task the group enthusiastically embraced, creating an array of three-dimensional sculptures. The group was participating in a program at the Museum of Modern Art called “Create Ability” for people with learning and developmental disabilities.

It is one of many programs the museum offers to engage audiences with disabilities, including those with mobility, hearing and visual impairments.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination based on an individual’s disability and requires that facilities, including museum exhibitions, be readily accessible and usable to them. A Census Bureau survey found 12 percent of the U.S. population, or 39 million people, had a disability in 2013 — a number expected to grow due to aging baby boomers. Since 1990, the breadth and scope of cultural arts programming for individuals with disabilities has greatly expanded and can be found at museums large and small.

For example, the Frost Art Museum in Miami last week held a daylong event for families with children with special needs that featured wheelchairs with attachments for painting on large-scale blank canvases and other art-making adaptive tools. The aim of such programs is to help children develop motor skills, concentration, social interaction and self-esteem.

Those kinds of skills were in full view at MoMA during the art-making component of “Create Ability.”

Samuel Desiderio took great pleasure in sharing his creation of pebbles, sticks and sand with the others.

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