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The Met Is Now Offering Sign Language Tours on Facebook Live

A trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art — known simply as the Met — can be a dream or a nightmare. 

The museum’s best exhibits are often so crowded that visitors spend more time jostling for space than actually appreciating the art, or learning about its history. 

But now, the Met is offering art lovers around the world an alternative to this — and extending this opportunity to all people, including those who are deaf and hearing-impaired. 

Since last fall, the Met has offered Facebook Live tours of some of its most popular exhibits, and now, a number of these are being offered in American Sign Language (ASL) — making it the first major US museum to livestream ASL tours, according to a report from Hyperallergic

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“Museums are often more inclusive of various people than other kinds of public spaces,” Debra Cole, who leads Facebook Live tours in ASL, wrote to Hyperallergic. “I think it is because of the nature of the service. Museums provide cultural experiences that are available mostly through aural means (speaking tours, audio tapes, etc.). So there is a high demand among Deaf patrons for accessibility.”

Popular ASL live-streams include the “Rodin at the Met” exhibition and Umberto Boccioni’s “Unique Forms of Continuity in Space,” which was viewed nearly 20,000 times in 24 hours. 

Offering tours in ASL, as well as English and other languages, according to another ASL guide Emmanuel von Schack, “increases visibility of and awareness about American Sign Language, Deaf identity, and the Met’s commitment to accessibility and inclusion.”

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In the US, about two to three children out of every 1000 are born with a hearing disability, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Globally, it’s estimated that 34 million children, and 466 million adults, suffer from disabling hearing loss. 

The global burden of preventable hearing disabilities falls on low- and middle-income countries. According to the World Health Organization, preventable hearing loss is about 25% more likely in low- and middle-income countries than in high-income countries because of childhood illnesses like mumps, measles, rubella, meningitis, and cytomegalovirus infections. 

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For people with hearing disabilities, museums like the Met are setting an example of inclusivity — and hope that other institutions will follow suit. 

“We hope other museums take this on, too,” Kimberly Drew, the Met’s social media manager, said