Culture Inclusive: a bridge between cultural enjoyment and inclusion

Interview with Jörn Erkau, CEO of Sennheiser Streaming Technologies GmbH

The cultural landscape is changing because inclusive services are becoming increasingly important. Until now, there was a lack of information to comprehensively implement the notion of inclusion. The Culture Inclusive project offers assistance: you can find information about inclusive cultural institutions on a cultural map that can be filtered by disability criteria.


Photo: Jörn Erkau

Jörn Erkau; © Sennheiser

Jörn Erkau is the CEO of Sennheiser Streaming Technologies GmbH. spoke with him about the project and how it should be developed to become a self-operating project.

Mr. Erkau, you created the Culture Inclusive platform to inform about accessible cultural events. Why do we need this kind of project in the German cultural landscape?

Jörn Erkau: We have come to realize that more and more cultural institutions offer or are going to offer active inclusion and provide the respective services. The problem is that the visitors for whom this is relevant often don’t know anything about it. This resulted in the idea of a communication platform that bridges this gap and benefits all parties at the same time. Movie and theatergoers or museum visitors find out about venues and are, therefore, able to increasingly participate in cultural activities. The venues sell more tickets and increase their sales so that more accessible events are able to take place.

What is the goal of Culture Inclusive?

Erkau: The idea behind Culture Inclusive is for people to experience culture through all of your senses and to make it accessible for everyone. There are approximately 1.2 million people in Germany living with a visual impairment or blindness and about 15 million people are hearing impaired. Visiting cultural venues such as movie theaters, theaters, operas or sporting events often presents a challenge that many people are simply not willing to face. A Europe-wide study by the Sennheiser Company confirms this. This is why we combine inclusive cultural venues from all over Germany and editorial articles and information on inclusive technology solutions at this portal. Our objective is to bridge the gap between cultural enjoyment and inclusion with Culture Inclusive.
Photo: Map with culture instituts in Berlin

Cultural venues are registered in a nationwide map. They inform about special offers and inclusion criteria; © beta-web/Günther

How does the platform work?

Erkau: A nationwide cultural map is being created at Culture Inclusive. Our in-house editorial team researches inclusive and accessible venues. These venues are sectioned into four categories – movie theaters, theaters, museums and sports arenas – and include information on the cultural venues and the inclusion criteria (visual and hearing assistive services, hand signs, multilingualism, and mobility). This gradually creates new points on the cultural map that can be selected through a search from a large variety and based on individual needs. This is possible thanks to the filter functions that can be applied to the venues and inclusion criteria. The blog is an additional communication tool where articles from guest authors such as event notes or reports can be published for example.

In the future, we want every venue to post its inclusive services on Culture Inclusive on its own and for organizations and institutions to play a bigger part in this. Ultimately, our goal is for Culture Inclusive to be overseen and handled by those who view this as a helpful communication tool in their daily work. The portal can only work when everyone collaborates.
Photo: senior in cinema with her grandson using hearing App

By using the CinemaConnect app guests can utilize assistive listening technology; © Sennheiser

Is there an inclusive showcase project in Germany that you could comment on as an example?

Erkau: The Ernst Deutsch Theater in Hamburg Germany is a great example for active and comprehensive inclusion. Starting with accessible entrance and seats for various wheelchair models, the theater was just honored with the "Inclusion Trailblazer" (German: Wegbereiter der Inklusion) award for the second time. This recognizes the TheaterPlus event series where sign language interpreters translate the performances for hearing impaired visitors. The theater also offers its guests an inclusive theater experience with a streaming system featuring assistive listening technology and audio description.

What resources do you offer persons with disabilities and cultural institutions so they can participate in cultural life?

Erkau: Aside from the culture portal Culture Inclusive, we at Sennheiser also developed a streaming solution that introduces assistive listening technology and audio description to places of cultural interests such as theaters or cinemas. For the theater, this works via the free MobileConnect app and for cinemas by using the CinemaConnect app. With a one-time installation, guests can utilize assistive listening technology during every performance – and audio description during selected events. The additional hearing assistant also makes it possible to manually adjust the assistive listening technology to the individual’s hearing. All of this works with your own device – a smartphone or tablet.
More about Culture Inclusive at:
Foto: Melanie Günther; Copyright: B. Frommann

© B. Fromman

Melanie Günther
(translated by Elena O'Meara)