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QUT design team wins gold for bringing visual art to all

QUTs world-leading art accessibility project that turned traditional paintings into 3D models and soundscapes has won gold in the IAUD International Design Awards. QUT Design Lab and QUT Art Museum jointly received the prestigious Gold Award in the category of Inclusive Culture, for their 2019 Vis-ability: Artworks from the QUT Art Collection exhibition at the QUT Art Museum, taking out the prize alongside design giants such as Panasonic and Mitsubishi.

Project research lead, QUT Associate Professor Janice Rieger, said QUT was the only Australian recipient at the awards ceremony, which was held in Tokyo over the weekend. “This is recognition that QUT is creating inclusive design for people of all abilities. What’s especially important is that we won this award in the category of inclusive culture: it shows that at QUT we’re creating these cultures of inclusion,” Professor Rieger said. Dr Rieger said that the Vis-ability exhibition was co-designed with people with disabilities, setting a benchmark for inclusive design and establishing QUT as an international role model, driving changes in exhibition practices around the world. “A universal design practice looks at all the aspects of the exhibition: from creating inclusive materials on the website to inclusive artworks and tours. From the moment someone thinks about coming to the QUT Art Museum it means considering them, whether they’re neurodiverse, vision, hearing or mobility impaired,” Professor Rieger said.

Professor Rieger said the exhibition helped broaden audiences’ perception of ‘visual’ art and created lasting change at QUT and in galleries around the world. “Since Vis-ability in 2019 every QUT exhibition has included audio descriptions. We have also created touch tours and tactile wayfinding,” she said. “This little show turned out to be nationally and internationally award-winning and now QUT is known in the industry as creating inclusive exhibitions. I’ve seen remarkable shifts within the industry. It’s quite ground-breaking what it’s done,” she said. The International Association for Universal Design (IAUD) encourages design of spaces that are accessible for everyone, regardless of age, size, ability or disability. Professor Rieger is from QUT’s School of Architecture and Built Environment with the Faculty of Engineering.