In the Harry Potter books, young wizards must go through a brick wall barrier at Kings Cross station in London to catch a train to the fictional Hogwarts. One doesn’t have to be a wizard at the Gare D’Orsay in Paris to be transported to the historical 19th century. However, it is no longer a train station and it is barrier-free meaning the allegorical brick wall has been removed to allow access to all visitors. Le Gare D’Orsay was built in 1900 for the temporary exposition universelle. In 1986, it was transformed, without resorting to sorcery, into the Musée D’Orsay for the permanent exposition of French Art dating from 1848 to 1914. Today, the result is magical as inclusion initiatives and the museography have made this important cultural heritage accessible to both muggles and wizards, of all ages, with or without extraordinary powers.
The roughly 60 years spanning the turn of the century seems short in terms of art history, yet it is among the most prolific periods essentially picking up where the Louvre left off. The Musée D’Orsay houses a vast collection of masterpieces by impressionist and post-impressionist painters (Cézanne, Degas, Monet…) as well as European sculptures, decorative arts, furniture, and photography from the same era. It is one of the largest art museums in Europe and one of the most visited in Paris. The two temporary exhibition spaces, auditorium, and art workshops, incite regulars like myself to return often. If this sounds overwhelming, it is precisely the motivation behind the recent creation of Orsay facile–livrets d’aide a la visite.
Orsay facile, literally easy Orsay, are booklets to help visitors with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities enjoy the museum autonomously. There are currently two documents available, at no cost, online or at the information desk. The first contains practical information and the other is a guided tour of the Musée d’Orsay around the theme “19th century Paris”click on the left. Both are in French only but, similar to a social story, they are visual tools using the easy–to-read guidelines by Inclusion Europe with pertinent photos, icons and diagrams. The online version lue, read outloud in French, is appropriate for those unable to read or visually impaired. In order to have a tool that effectively responds to the user’s specific needs, museum staff collaborated with the concerned individuals and specialised associations. It was a truly inclusive process at every stage that recognized the competence and contribution of differently-abled people. The result highlights the Musée d’Orsay’s commitment to transmit culture in an inclusive manner that is accessible to all. It also earned them the honor of being the first French museum to receive the Best Practice Award from the International Council of Museums.
The easy-to-read and understand booklets complement the rich array of services already in place. Specific groups can take advantage of guided thematic tours (Van Gogh, nature, the sculpted body…) as well as artistic workshops adapted to their unique challenges. Individuals may also request any of the numerous accommodations available in the entrance hall such as folding chairs and wheelchairs for people with reduced mobility or magnetic audio-guides for the hearing impaired. The entire museum is handicap accessible and canine assistance companions are welcome. Preparation is key to a positive experience for all and there are several tools and apps (click on icon) available from the website not to mention a wealth of visual information. One example is video presentations of artworks commented in sign language and written explanations. My personal favorites are the Google Art Project for the fascinating story of the Gare d’Orsay’s architecture, the virtual tour to familiarize oneself, and the teacher’s resources, in English, which I adapt for visual learners like my son.
Since our children grew up near Paris and frequented the Musée D’Orsay often, my son is familiar with the museum making it easier. Nonetheless, we try to get the most out of a visit in a predetermined time period as opposed to seeing the most at one time. The temporary exhibits have a specific theme and as I mentioned before, the museography is such that themed visits may occur in the same area reducing fatigue. Recently, we tried the Orsay facile themed visit Paris au 19me siècle. The square format of the booklet was a comfortable size for him to hold. It was pleasant to see the ease with which he independantly followed the directions even if I had to redirect his attention by pointing to the document in his hand and commenting the subject in front of him. It took about an hour not counting the obligatory bathroom break and a few distractions that deviated us from the intended route. I highly recommend it especially for first time visitors with a taste for life in Paris at the turn of the century.
The Musée D’Orsay is located at 1 rue de la Légion D’Honneur in the 7th arrondissment of Paris. The museum faces the Seine River on the Quai Anatole France and its entrance faces the square on rue de la Légion D’Honneur. Doors are marked A-D with C on the left for VIP including people with disabilities and their companions. Admission is free for the disabled visitor and one accompanying person. The museum’s website is excellent but the section on visitors with a disability in English is limited. Switch to the French version for more details and don’t hesitate to leave a comment or question below.
When to visit: The website indicates peak times, the busiest being the 1st Sunday of the month when its free. When possible, I prefer Thursday evening, Wednesday and Friday which tend to be quieter. The museum opens 9:30- 6:00 except Thursday until 9:15pm. It is closed on Mondays.
Restrooms: The accessible restrooms are on the ground floor in the entrance hall, on the 1st and 6th floors near the restaurants. They are not gender-specific which is especially appreciated by people needing to attend to someone of the opposite sex (like this mom). There are ample gender-specific restrooms throughout the museum.
Food and Beverage: Café Campana on level 5 with a view through the large clock is often busy and has alot of through traffic as it is near the elevators. The restaurant/tearoom on level 2 is quieter and has a nice view. For a quick bite, a café on the ground floor and a kiosk on the square outside sell sandwiches drinks and snacks. We like to get a crépe au Nutella after our visit and eat it along the Seine.
Bus : Lines 24, 63, 68, 69, 73, 83, 84, 94
RER C : Musée D’Orsay, right in front of the museum
Batobus : stop on the Seine River
Metro : Solférino (line 12)
Which option is best suited to your needs? Checkout GlobetrotTED under infomobi!
Car : The website lists 17 on street parking spaces for vehicles displaying a handicap sticker and 2 parking garages nearby. Quai Anatole France has a taxi stand and special vehicles may stop there as well.