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What is True Accessibility in a Museum?

This question was the highlight of today’s journey. What does accessibility really mean and why do we need it? The talk we had today at the National Museum of American History opened my eyes to the possibilities of programs and everyday exhibit changes that I would have never thought of before. The idea that the museums need to make the inclusiveness about more than just a policy but a way of thinking. There should always be an allotted budget for the programs or accommodations in ALL exhibitions. This could be as simple as having funding for the sign language interpreters, audio tours, braille labels or interactives for the mentally impaired. There are so many options and easy ways to help ensure all visitors are able to take away something from the museum.

I really enjoyed listening to the journey SparkLabs had in creating an accessible space for all visitors, especially ones with mental handicaps. The worksheets and resources that they created for the “Morning at the Museum” event was innovative and new to me. By having these resources and knowing what to expect before ever stepping into the museum gives the parents as well as the children a firm foundation in which to base their visit on. The resource that stood out to me the most was the worksheet for both the children and parents where it told them that there might be loud noises or bright colors. The one warning that stood out to me the most was when the children were warned that when moving stations things might have to be left behind for others to use. I thought this was especially important to put in the handout because it established boundaries and expectations right away so the child can be prepared to have to leave the object or objects behind when leaving the table.

Upon leaving the NMAH I felt like I was critiquing the National Gallery of Art on their accessibility readiness and trying to come up with more ways in which different visitors could enjoy the space. As we heard in the talk at the NGA, there are many improvements that they are trying to make in their exhibits and building space. They recognize that their accessibility still has a long way to go to become inclusive to all. The labels are only in English with minimal text to explain the object, the light and visual stimulus can be overwhelming in certain sections of the museum, but the Museum is aware of those issues and are slowly going through the steps to right the situation (albeit rather slowly).


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