Webinar: Inclusive Museums

 

 

 

 

audio version (opens in a new tab)

Introduction

Happy New Year everyone! This week, I summarize a webinar which occurred on December 9, 2021. I listened to the archive on January 5, 2022. It was moderated by the

ADA Great Lakes Center.

The topic was

“Inclusive Exhibition Design”.

The webinar archive link above includes inclusive museum design resources, as well as the event recording and presentation slides. In this blog post, I will summarize what I learned and provide my reflections on visiting a museum in the past.

 

Inclusiveness Background

The two presenters represented the

Institute for Human Centered Design.

The first presenter, Executive Director of the Institute, stated Museums must be accessible so that people with disabilities can be included in the exhibit experience. This includes universal design in architecture.

 

Exhibit Inclusiveness History and Definition

The

U.S. National Park Service

began to become inclusive of people with disabilities in the 1980’s. In 1996, the

Smithsonian Institution

Created

accessibility guidelines (PDF).

The purpose of exhibition guidelines is universal inclusiveness and accessibility. Inclusive exhibits provide everyone with equal access. This includes interactive aspects and physical spaces, not just effective communication. The presentation then shifted to the second presenter, who spoke about inclusive museum design features.

 

Features of Inclusive Design

An exhibit should be clear of obstacles. This includes quiet spaces for people with sensory disabilities and wide aisles for mobility devices. It is also important for designers to consider lighting levels to accommodate people with low vision. The height of exhibit objects also needs to be considered for access. This means exhibits should be 27 inches or higher above the floor. Accessibility features were discussed further.

 

Interactive exhibits need to be accessible. For example, digital interactives need to have tactile interfaces. Effective communication tools need to ideally be available in advance without a need for special accommodation request. Examples: audio description can help people with visual limitations understand visual content. An assistive listening device can help people with hearing challenges. Technology included with exhibits should be accessible whenever possible. Both presenters concluded their presentation by emphasizing the importance of inclusive exhibition design.

 

Blake’s Museum Reflections

When I was a teenager many years ago, I visited the

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

In Washington, D.C. I was not involved in scheduling my museum visit because other people made all necessary arrangements. Upon my arrival, I and two other people whom I knew were given a guided tour of the museum. The tour guide was very descriptive, which helped me understand exhibit content as a person who is completely blind. I also remember being allowed to touch some items, such as a train car. Although my visit to the museum occurred during the 20th century and I have not been back, I still remember being fully included during my museum visit. Bottom line: museums which are inclusive can provide a positive visiting experience for people with disabilities.

 

Question for Readers

If you have visited any museums as a person with disability, what was your experience? I will return with another article.

 

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