Today at the National American History Museum we had a discussion about accessibility. I am currently in “Accessibility and Museums” course so this topic was incredibly interesting. I think the key to today’s presentation is that accessibility is more that just physical barriers. While the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) looks at architectural barriers in public spaces, it is important to remember that disabilities can be more than just physical.
Disabilities encompass a variety of areas such as low vision/blindness, hearing loss/deafness, developmental disabilities, and those who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. While removing physical barriers (such as cords and large rope barriers) is important, are our museums offering enough to those who suffer from developmental disabilities? I would say no.
While we are moving in the direction of considering all visitors to our museums, we must continue to create programming and spaces for those who have been largely ignored in the past. For example, I have heard of a number of new programs directed toward children with autism. During these programs, lights are dimmed, excessive stimulations are removed, sounds lowered, and space is made available for just families and other quiet areas. These types of programs are wonderful and offer many unique opportunities for both the visitors involved in the program and the museum itself.
I felt that I gained some new tools on how to create more accessible programming for my museum that I cannot wait to use upon my return home!
At National Art Gallery- note the open spaces that allow for easy movement