Combating Stigma

How can a gallery or museum program reduce stigma?  Everyone has a role to play.  The best ways to fight against stigma are to think of the person first, to model positive attitudes and actions, to encourage and celebrate participation, and to amplify the lived experiences of people living with dementia.

When people living with dementia feel understood, supported, and included, they participate in their community.  Seeing them as active participants in gallery and museum programs or as regular visitors can change their own sense of ability and (inclusion) as well as the perception that others have of them.

When organizations become educated about dementia, they are able to create opportunities for participation and inclusion.  When they centre the experiences of people with dementia in their mandates, operations and activities, they become inclusive.

When members of the public see people living with dementia as active members of a community, the public’s preconceptions change, and stigma-based ideas are reduced.  Here’s how you can be welcoming to persons with dementia:

  • Embrace the idea and work of building Dementia-Friendly spaces and communities
  • Train staff to better understand and respond to the needs of persons with dementia
  • Make your exhibitions and programs as accessible as possible
  • Adjust communications, signage and processes to accommodate those with different needs and abilities with dignity
  • Offer specialized programs and also make regular programming more inclusive

There is a saying that is used across many inclusive practices: “Never about us, without us”.  Persons with dementia must have a voice to share their lived experiences to inform decisions and designs about and for them, to teach others, and to inform our understanding of their interests and needs.

  • Use focus groups to understand and improve your programs
  • Create advisory opportunities to inform decisions and questions
  • Listen to your participants (and those who do not currently participate) and ask what they would like to see and do in your institution
  • Adjust language and processes to support positive attitudes and environments
  • Create opportunities to participate in the planning and facilitation of programs