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  • Writer's pictureLivi Adu

Embracing Neurodiversity: A Guide for Museums

As a neurodivergent museum professional, attending The Neurodiverse Museum Conference was a profound and enlightening experience. The conference provided a platform for discussions on neurodiversity and its integration within the museum sector, a topic that resonated deeply with my own lived experiences. In this blog post, I wanted to share my reflections, insights and notes from the conference, highlighting the importance of embracing neurodiversity in creating genuinely inclusive museum spaces.

The 5 Principles for Museums and Neurodiversity

From the outset, the conference emphasised the fundamental principles of neurodivergence and its significance in promoting diversity and inclusion. As someone who navigates the world with a unique neurological perspective, I found validation in the recognition of neurodivergence as an essential aspect of human diversity. It was empowering to witness neurodivergent voices centred in decision-making processes, acknowledging the invaluable insights our lived experiences offer in shaping inclusive museum practices.

The Neurodiverse Museum outlines 5 core principles to guide museums in becoming more neurodivergent-friendly:

  1. Understanding Neurodivergency: what it means to be neurodivergent personally and Professionally, the Philosophy of Neurodiversity, and unlearning bias surrounding neurodiversity.

  2.  Inclusion of Neurodivergent Voices: Adopting a "nothing about us without us" approach to decision-making, ensuring direct involvement of neurodivergent individuals.

  3.  Equitable Access and Representation: Making museum spaces, exhibitions, and collections accessible to neurodivergent audiences, while also promoting neurodivergent visibility and representation.

  4. Creating Equitable Opportunities within the Workforce: Promoting equitable opportunities for neurodivergent individuals within museum employment and volunteer programs, including providing support and reasonable adjustments throughout the recruitment process.

  5. Advocate and Activism: Collaborate to make change for and with Neurodivergent individuals sector-wide. Join the Neurodiversity Movement, a social justice movement advocating for the neurodivergent community and the shift in our society and understanding.

These principles struck a chord with me, reflecting the ongoing challenges I've encountered in navigating museum spaces as a neurodivergent person with a disability. It was heartening to see efforts being made to address these issues and foster a more inclusive environment within the museum sector.

Neurodivergence and The Social Model of Disability

One of the key concepts discussed at the conference was the social model of disability, which has been a cornerstone of my self-acceptance and confidence since becoming disabled. The model resonates deeply with me as a disabled activist and museum professional. The shift from focusing on a person's limitations to addressing societal barriers highlighted the systemic challenges that neurodivergent individuals face in accessing museum spaces and the wider society. It reinforced the importance of advocating for systemic change within museums to accommodate the diverse needs of neurodivergent visitors and staff effectively.

I was inspired by the presentations from Becky Morris and Amy Fletcher, who shared their research and initiatives aimed at making museums more accessible and inclusive for neurodivergent individuals.

Becky's personal connection to neurodiversity with having a late diagnosis mirrored my own experiences of navigating systems that are not fit for purpose. I felt so honoured she shared her narrative and the inspiring research with us; it highlights the importance of lived experiences in driving meaningful change. Her emphasis on collaboration across sectors and inclusive practices underscored the need for a holistic approach to addressing the needs of neurodivergent individuals effectively.

Similarly, Amy's research on making museums accessible for neurodivergent visitors and workers shed light on the challenges faced by neurodivergent individuals within the museum sector. Her findings reinforced the importance of developing sector-wide guidance informed by research to create a more affirming and understanding environment for neurodivergent individuals. Both presenters highlighted the significance of ongoing collaboration and sharing of best practices in embedding inclusive practices within museum operations, echoing the sentiments of unity and solidarity within the neurodivergent community.

Conclusion: The Neurodivergent Museum Conference

As I reflect on my personal journey and the discussion at The Neurodiverse Museum Conference, I am filled with a sense of hope and optimism for the future of neurodiversity within the museum sector. The conference served as a reminder of the importance of advocacy, representation, and collaboration in creating truly inclusive museum spaces. It reinforced the value of embracing neurodiversity as a strength rather than a limitation, celebrating the unique perspectives and contributions of neurodivergent individuals.

I will continue to advocate for neurodivergent inclusion within the museum sector and beyond. By amplifying neurodivergent voices, challenging stereotypes, and promoting understanding of neurodiversity, we can create a more diverse, equitable, and accessible society for all. Together, we can build a future where Neurodiversity can be welcomed, valued, and included.




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