Jerusalem's Old City accessible for visually impaired on 'Blind Day'

“Jerusalem is the city of all people, and everybody should be able to tour the city and enjoy it in the same manner,” Nati Bialystock-Cohen said.

Blind day at the Tower of David Museum (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Blind day at the Tower of David Museum
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The Tower of David Museum and the Center for the Blind in Israel launched initiatives to make the Old City of Jerusalem accessible to the visually impaired through audio technology and interactive tours in honor of national Blind Day on Thursday.
A phone app released on Monday by the Center for the Blind in Israel provides guided tours and routes for the visually impaired, easily accessible by a cellphone.
Nati Bialystock-Cohen, chairman of the Center for the Blind, spoke to The Jerusalem Post about the app and its importance for the visually impaired.
“Jerusalem is the city of all people, and everybody should be able to tour the city and enjoy it in the same manner,” he explained. “So we decided to create an application that will provide access to tours and directs you from one point to another, taking under consideration the fact that people who are using it cannot see.”
The application is unique because it provides detailed and evocative descriptions of the sights, and encourages the listener to physically interact with the area through touch.
 
 
“Touch is very important when you cannot see, so the app invites you to feel out the stones and the different curves in the walls,” Bialystock-Cohen noted. “That’s how you can distinguish between different buildings.”
The Tower of David Museum uses similar technology to facilitate interactive guided tours for the visually impaired that emphasize touch. The museum also developed an audio accompaniment for its flagship sound and light show.
“We are kind of pioneers in the area of accessibility,” said Eilat Lieber, director of the Tower of David. “We established a forum of museums that are now talking about these issues because we realize that we must collect and share knowledge so everybody can benefit.”
Lieber explained that when she began working at the Tower of David seven years ago, the museum had not taken any measures to facilitate accessibility.
“About seven years ago, I came to see the night show and there was an old lady who came,” she continued. “And when the family asked for a wheelchair for her to get to her seat, I saw the staff took one of the office desk chairs that had wheels and used that to take the lady to the seat.
“I was shocked... That’s when I knew we have to change our approach,’” explained Lieber.
She noted that since then, the Tower of David staff have a deep sense of purpose because they know their work is trailblazing the field of accessibility.
“It’s not easy, but if you are willing you can make changes,” added Lieber, explaining the challenges the museum faces to balance the preservation and conservation of the unique site with accessibility measures, such as installing elevators.
“I like to say this is the most accessible museum in the world, in the most inaccessible location in the world,” said Rose Ginosar, director of development and international relations. “If we can be accessible, anyone can,” she added, laughing.