Philly Touch Tours, a program that provides historical tours of museums and cultural attractions for the blind and visually impaired, offers its attendees a unique experience of Philadelphia’s history.
Launched in 2014, Philly Touch Tours have included programs at the Philadelphia Flower Show, the Italian Market, Wissahickon and Cobbs Creek nature centers, the Penn Museum, the Mutter Museum, and more. Trish Maunder, the creative director of Philly Touch, has worked with museums and cultural centers throughout the region to develop engaging programs for visually impaired guests. These tours allow guests to directly interact and engage with artifacts and sites in ways that are more direct than having it described; a tour group at the Mutter Museum allowed guests to handle old medical equipment and a Civil-War era prosthetic leg. The Penn Museum, which hosts up to 10 Philly Touch Tours a year, encourages visitors to explore the Egyptian Gallery, including the opportunity to trace the hieroglyphics on the Ramessees II statue.
Touch Tour participants are asked to explain how well they can see and if they would like a guide for the tour. With this information, Touch Tour can work closely with museum and cultural site hosts to develop flexible programs and ways to adapt attractions for those who cannot clearly see them.
Touch Tour docent Gene Magee spoke with Philly.com about the value of Touch Tours and being given the chance to interact with attractions using senses other than sight, stating “I love it. […] You really learn about the object more thoroughly with your touch.”