11th European e-Accessibility Forum
e-Accessible Culture

19/06/2017, 9am-6pm
Cité des sciences et de l'industrie, Paris

  Version française
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Disability and Culture: Designing differently for all

Signes de Sens

Speaker's information

Marion Boistel

Marion Boistel gained a joint degree in Art History and Law, and a Masters degree in Museum Studies from the University of Artois. While studying she worked as an outreach officer in several cultural organisations where she developed activities for disabled visitors. In 2016 she joined Signes de Sens as a project manager.

Founded in Lille in 2003, Signes des Sens works to provide innovative, accessible and educational tools and runs workshops and professional training schemes. In 2010 the charity designed an application for children, including children with hearing impairments, to discover works within a museum. It was deployed in the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris in 2010 and subsequently in the Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille as part of a three year study in partnership with three University laboratories: DeVisu, Geriico and SCALab. The application is still used in both museums today and has won several awards including a "Trophée de l'Accessibilité" in 2014, a "Sésame de l'accessibilité positive" in 2014 and the "Label de l'Observeur du design" in 2015.



Signes de Sens was founded in Lille in 2003 to build educational solutions for all on the basis of the needs of people with disabilities. At the time there were very few educational tools available for people with hearing impairments, and those that did exist were far from inclusive. Rather than focusing on a negative reading of disability, Signes de Sens decided to see it as a source of innovation, a way of thinking outside the box to develop interesting projects that cater to as wide an audience as possible.

While working on a series of books designed to provide a shared family reading experience for children with hearing impairments, Signes de Sens made an interesting discovery: the books were purchased not only by families with deaf children, but also by families who had children who struggled with reading for other reasons altogether. Barriers to learning were not to be understood simply terms of a particular disability, but rather in terms of particular skills. Put another way, a disabled person in an accessible environment is an abled person and an abled person in an inaccessible environment is disabled.

In 2010 Signes de Sens developed an application for the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris for children from 8 to 12 years old with hearing impairments. Like the books before it, it soon became apparent that the playful and interactive nature of the Muséo app appealed to a far larger audience than the target audience. In 2012 a Muséo + prototype was developed for the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille in partnership with three research centres (DeVisu, SCALab and Geriico). Intended to reduce levels of stress associated with entering and visiting museums for children with autism, it was tested on 75 children, of which 23 had no disability. Interviews, drawings, shadowing and observation exercises, eye-tracking sessions and an Affectiva emotion recognition bracelet were used to test the effectiveness of the application. It was found that levels of stress went down considerably for most children and that they became more involved and engaged, managing to work together and take ownership of the museum visit. Parents also remarked a change in the behaviour of their children who showed greater autonomy in the museum.

Muséo + is still available at the Palais des Beaux-Arts and is by no means offered as an application for people with disabilities. Families with and without disabilities continue to use it to support their visit.

Watch Marion Boistel's presentation on YouTube (in French). For subtitles, please use the CC button, and if you require a transcript do not hesitate to contact us at contact[at]


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