Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,
“To make the capital works of humanity accessible […] to as many French as possible” is, as you know, the ambitious programme assigned in 1959 by André MALRAUX to the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, which he had just created with General DE GAULLE. Half a century later, as we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of this ministry, what do we see? That much has been accomplished; of course much remains to be done; but that considerable progress has been made. This is particularly true of access to our museums for people with disabilities.
“Accessible” must be understood in every sense of the word: literally, literally and daily, figuratively, socially and culturally. It is, first of all, for everyone, to be able to go to the places and perceive the works in order to enjoy them.
The reception of disabled people in all fields of social life has become, in recent years, a great national cause and this is a considerable advance of civilization. From this point of view, the 2005 law "For equal rights and opportunities, participation and citizenship of persons with disabilities" is an essential moment of awareness and constitutes an ambitious and achievable programme of action. Just one month ago, on 4 November last, as you know, an Interdepartmental Committee on Disability chaired by the Prime Minister, Xavier DARCOS and Nadine MORANO, was created at the initiative of which replaced the previous Delegation and will make it possible to fulfil all the commitments made by the President of the Republic at the 2008 National Disability Conference, by translating into practice each of the objectives of the 2005 law. More than any other area, success is measured by concrete achievements. Otherwise, I would be tempted to say that the famous Zazie parrot in the QUENEAU metro, which appeared just 50 years ago, can be blamed for “You talk, you talk, that’s all you know how to do…”. Action must follow intent, and that is what the government is doing.
In the cultural field, in particular, a National Commission on Culture and Disability was created in 2001 and, in 2003, a Mission on Culture and Disability, which were reinforced by the 2005 law and crowned by a National Convention in 2006. And it is in this spirit that the “Museum for All” award was founded two years ago, which I have the honour and pleasure of presenting this evening, for the third time in its history.
This award recognizes an exemplary achievement in accessibility for visitors with disabilities, regardless of the type of disability – motor, sensory or mental – they suffer from. It rewards sustainable development in the areas of scenography and museography, visitor assistance materials and information for people with disabilities – all initiatives that allow or facilitate access to our museums.
This year again, the operation was a remarkable success: among all the files submitted, spread over nearly half of the French regions, it was difficult to determine which museum would be distinguished this year for its particular efforts, so much ingenuity and imagination in the service of generosity. That is why we have decided to award this prize to two equal winners – the Angoulême Museum and the Nancy Museum of Fine Arts – which I quote here in alphabetical order. Moreover, I know that each of the museums is not in competition or competition, but driven by the healthy emulation of altruism.
Both have been awarded the «Tourism and Disability» label, of which the Ministry of Culture and Communication is a partner, because of the implementation of accessibility works and specific equipment, including the provision of wheelchairs. Both have set up visits in sign language – visits that are even danced, I believe, at the NANCY museum, where there is also, among other innovations, a “discovery case” of painting and sculpture for the mentally handicapped. but also where the paintings are hung at a height adapted to certain physical disabilities. As for the museum of ANGOULÊME, which has precisely the beautiful motto «A museum for all, accessible to all», are proposed a guide in Braille and in large print, a «tactile path», as well as a track game without written support. All these initiatives allow deaf-mutes, blind or visually impaired people, people who cannot move or those who have psychic illnesses to come into contact with these essential cultural mediators, museums. Personally, I am particularly in favour of the mixed activities planned by these museums, which bring together people with disabilities and those lucky enough to be exempt from them, because museums are also indispensable places for dialogue, meeting and exchange, discovering difference and its riches.
The accessibility of museums also requires digital technologies and the Internet, as exemplified by the specific efforts made by the NANCY museum in this area. Digital is of course a very important project and I have made it a priority of my action, even if virtual worlds cannot of course replace direct access and physical presence in the museum; but they can of course serve as an adjuvant, support and encouragement for an effective visit of people with disabilities.
Through this award, and of course below and beyond, the Ministry of Culture and Communication – also known as the Ministry of Culture Communication and Accessibility – is fully committed to achieving this goal. It works closely with museums, through the Direction des musées de France and the Centre des musées nationaux, with local authorities and numerous associations, particularly through a training plan, seminars and workshops which could open in 2010 on a European horizon.
As I said, it’s about making museums accessible to everyone: I will go further and say “accessible to everyone”. As you know, I have made this “culture for everyone” the essential objective of my work as head of the department. “Culture for everyone” and not just “for all”, means that everyone, regardless of their social origin, their level of education, and their potential disability, must have the right and the effective possibility to access museums throughout our territories.
That is why I would almost be tempted to rename this award, which I am very pleased to award to you, as the “Museums for Everyone” award.
Finally, I would like to congratulate the two winners, all the teams and partners, very warmly on their collective efforts in this area, which is particularly important to me, and I urge them to continue along this path. I hope, and have no doubt, that their success will serve as a just example for many museums in France and Europe, so that disability will no longer be an obstacle to everyone’s right to culture, and especially to museums. Know that the State, and in particular the Ministry of Culture and Communication, pays special attention to this need, and makes every effort to ensure that our living together becomes more harmonious because we are more united.