Marleen Hartjes is a museum education / mediation developer and as accessibility manager responsible for the Special Guests programme at the Van Abbemuseum, museum of modern and contemporary art in Eindhoven (The Netherlands). The programme is designed to enhance the museums accessibility and inclusion for everyone, regardless of any restrictions, gender, cultural background or handicaps. She developed various programmes in cooperation with the constituencies, special tours, projects and additional services for blind, blind deaf and partially sighted visitors, visitors that are deaf or hard of hearing, non-mobile visitors, visitors with autism and visitors with aphasia, all of this next to the Alzheimer tours the museum already offered. Last but not least, she launched a museum app for the hospital based, with the inspiring stories from children about art works of the museum collection. To let them forget the world of hospitals and sickness to enter a world of possibilities and dreams. Two years ago a museum robot was implemented to the programme by Hartjes to enable a visit for people who cannot attend the museum in person.
The underlying motive of the Special Guests programme is not an emphasis on practicalities alone e.g. making the building wheelchair accessible; it is the drive to facilitate empowerment and autonomy for anybody that we welcome in the museum. It is a broadening of perspective and a diversion of social isolation. It changed not only how we mediate our exhibitions and welcome our visitors, it changes the museum itself in the way we are telling multi-layered inclusive stories together with a diverse audience.