We just returned from a five week trip to Italy. My husband is visually impaired but enjoys art, especially sculpture. I contacted various museums to inquire if there were special tours for the blind. The Accademia initially told me they did not have one, but was hoping to develop a special tour by the end of the year. I told them when we would be visiting, and volunteered my husband as a test subject. To my surprise, they took me up on my offer. Two museum personnel accompanied us throughout the museum and had selected works for him to see up close. The piece would be described and its significance. Then with a pair of gloves, my husband was able to touch. The highlight was able to feel the chisel marks made by Michaelangelo on the Young Slave! "Seeing" the statue of David was lost on my husband, but being up close and feeling the Young Slave, my husband could understand how Michaelangelo was releasing the slave from the piece of marble. It was unbelievable to watch.
The Vatican has special tours for the blind. Two museum personnel accompanied us through the museums and the Sistine Chapel. We went to a room where only people on the blind tour are taken. Again, armed with gloves, there were sculptures and a sarcophagus he could touch. A multi-sensory experience was provided to help him understand a fresco. There were fabrics to simulate the cloth draped on the angels in the piece. He was able to hold and play a stringed instrument that was in the fresco. There were scents for him to smell. He listened to a musical recording viewing the piece and it sounded as though the angels were playing the instruments in the piece. It made me teary. The frescoes in the Sistine Chapel were explained and viewed on a huge touch screen before entering the chapel. While viewing the Sistine Chapel was difficult for my husband, he had a sense of what was there due to the in-depth instruction with the touch screen. The personnel spent 3 hours with us.
While at Santa Croce, a worker noticed us (my husband had his guide dog with him). He came over and with hand gestures, asked us to follow him. He then took us to several of the tombs and allowed my husband to touch. He was able to touch the tombs of Michaelangelo, Rossini, and Galileo. This was unexpected and definitely a highlight.
For the disabled and their companion, admission to museums is free. We also get to skip the line. My husband's guide dog was welcomed everywhere. For the Vatican, you must let them know at least a day ahead that you will be bringing your guide dog.
The kindness we received was overwhelming. We are already planning a return trip to Italy.