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Exploring Best Practices for Accessibility in Museum Exhibits

  • 1.  Exploring Best Practices for Accessibility in Museum Exhibits

    Posted 20 days ago

    Hello Community,

    I have been diving deep into the world of museum exhibit design, particularly focusing on accessibility aspects. It's crucial for us to create inclusive spaces that everyone can enjoy, regardless of their abilities. I wanted to start a discussion here to share insights, best practices, and challenges faced when designing accessible museum exhibits.

    Here are a few topics to kick off the conversation:

    • How can we integrate universal design principles into exhibit planning to ensure accessibility from the ground up?
    • What are some innovative ways to engage visitors with diverse sensory needs, including tactile elements, audio descriptions, and interactive technologies?
    • What strategies work best for guiding visitors of all abilities through the exhibit space, considering factors like signage, pathways, and digital aids?
    • In an increasingly digital age, how can we make sure that digital exhibits and interactive displays are accessible to everyone, including those with visual or hearing impairments?
    • How can museums collaborate with local communities and disability advocacy groups to co-create exhibits that truly reflect and cater to diverse needs?

    I am eager to hear your thoughts, experiences, and any tips you have on making museum exhibits more inclusive and accessible. Let's work together to make art and culture accessible to all. I also gone through this https://www.aam-us.org/2023/11/27/tips-for-creating-accessible-museums-universal-design-and-universal-design-for-learning-flutter/ but I think that we should start a complete discussion about it.

    Looking forward to a lively discussion.

    With Regards,

    (Marcos)



    ------------------------------
    Marcos Andrew
    Software Engineer
    ------------------------------


  • 2.  RE: Exploring Best Practices for Accessibility in Museum Exhibits

    Posted 19 days ago

    A real pet peeve: Three decades after the implementation of ADA, I'm still stunned at the number of museums that present narrated video with no open captioning. And captioning not only benefits hearing impaired visitors. When lobby and gallery spaces are busy and noisy, captioning helps everyone comprehend.



    ------------------------------
    John Wharton
    Museum Docent &
    Retired Museum Professional
    Bonita Springs FL
    http://linkedin.com/in/john-wharton-9629149
    ------------------------------



  • 3.  RE: Exploring Best Practices for Accessibility in Museum Exhibits

    Posted 19 days ago
    Edited by Douglas Flandro 19 days ago

    Hey Marcos. Great topic.

    The Museum of Science in Boston is great at doing this work. Here is a poster they developed that I use constantly to check baseline accessibility requirements. 
    https://missionstem.nasa.gov/docs/MOS_UD_poster.pdf

    Here is an excellent podcast about the work they are doing:

    The Future of Accessible Learning

    Museum of Science remove preview
    The Future of Accessible Learning
    Dr. Christine Reich, the museum's Senior Vice President of Exhibits and Research, sits down with Universal Design pioneer Dr. Richard Jackson to discuss inclusive education in the museum world.
    View this on Museum of Science >



    ------------------------------
    Douglas Flandro
    Exhibit Designer
    CambridgeSeven Associates, Inc.
    Cambridge MA
    ------------------------------



  • 4.  RE: Exploring Best Practices for Accessibility in Museum Exhibits

    Posted 19 days ago

    Thank you for posting this discussion Marcos. I'll round up our offerings with more detail soon. For now I'll echo John, captioning is pretty low hanging fruit, especially with how easy the technology is to make this less cumbersome to achieve. We're employing iPad loans this coming FY as a way to offer more robust translations. It will at the same time allow us to see which languages are in the highest demand which will then inform next steps. More on that when it rolls out.

    I look forward to seeing what everyone is doing....!



    ------------------------------
    Matthew Isble
    Exhibit Designer & Founder of MuseumTrade.org
    misble@crockerartmuseum.org
    Crocker Art Museum
    Sacramento CA
    misble@crockerartmuseum.org
    ------------------------------



  • 5.  RE: Exploring Best Practices for Accessibility in Museum Exhibits

    Posted 16 days ago

    Excellent discussion. One other piece of low hanging fruit is to add as much seating as possible for older visitors or those with hidden issues creating fatigue. 



    ------------------------------
    Tony Beldock (she, her)
    Head of Exhibit Design and Production
    Bullock Texas State History Museum
    Austin TX
    [512-936-4605]
    ------------------------------



  • 6.  RE: Exploring Best Practices for Accessibility in Museum Exhibits

    Posted 19 days ago

    Thanks for starting this discussion Marcos. I encountered an accessibility issue recently at an exhibit (of disability art ironically). I was with my daughter and her boyfriend, both of whom are blind. The art pieces had QR codes so you could access an audio description but it was unclear how a blind person could find the QR code with their phone. I know there are other ways to provide audio description but wondering if someone has successfully used QR codes.

    I know some museums (Prado, SF MOMA) have started printing tactile versions of paintings, which is cool.



    ------------------------------
    Patricia Chadwick
    Project Manager
    ------------------------------



  • 7.  RE: Exploring Best Practices for Accessibility in Museum Exhibits

    Posted 13 days ago

    Hi Patricia,

    This is something we came up against as well in one of our earlier exhibitions and have since implemented using raised QR codes on signage so our sight impaired visitors can access them more easily. They are relatively inexpensive to print.



    ------------------------------
    Amalia Kozloff
    Curator
    Museum of Pop Culture
    Seattle WA
    ------------------------------



  • 8.  RE: Exploring Best Practices for Accessibility in Museum Exhibits

    Posted 11 days ago

    Thanks Amalia. Great idea!



    ------------------------------
    Patricia Chadwick
    Project Manager
    ------------------------------



  • 9.  RE: Exploring Best Practices for Accessibility in Museum Exhibits

    Posted 8 days ago

    Hi Amalia,

    I love hearing that you are using raised QR codes.  I am curious to know more.  Where do you have the QR codes made and where do you place them in the museum?  I work at a single artist museum where the paintings are abstract and very big.  I love this idea and am curious to imagine something similar at our museum.  We use QR codes with the Bloomberg Connects app.

    Thank you,

    Allyson



    ------------------------------
    Allyson Johnson
    Gallery Teacher
    Clyfford Still Museum
    Denver CO
    ------------------------------



  • 10.  RE: Exploring Best Practices for Accessibility in Museum Exhibits

    Posted 6 days ago

    Hi Allyson, 

    One of our local printers has the capacity to print the raised QR codes. We placed them directly on our didactics that are typically printed on a bamboo substrate. I've also had custom tactile panels for 2D artwork printed and that has been a great addition! I used Touch Graphics.

    Warmly,

    Amalia



    ------------------------------
    Amalia Kozloff
    Senior Curator
    MoPOP (Museum of Pop Culture)
    Seattle, WA
    ------------------------------



  • 11.  RE: Exploring Best Practices for Accessibility in Museum Exhibits

    Posted 16 days ago
    Edited by Evelyn Crende 16 days ago

    Hello Community,

    Marcos, this is certainly a very important topic.

    Regarding John's comment, videos can be a nuisance for museums: when they run with sound, they disturb visitors and staff. And whether with or without sound, they can only work in one language (two at most if they are subtitled). 

    At Nubart we have developed Nubart Sync, which allows you to play soundless videos on-site and send the associated audio directly to visitors' cell phones, via a QR code.  Perfectly lip-synchronized and in the visitor's preferred language

    In addition, Nubart Sync promotes the accessibility of your museum: the hearing impaired can access the audio of the videos from their cell phones via a T-coil and the visually impaired can enjoy an audio description without disturbing others.

    I invite you to try our demo on our web page. 

    As for Patricia's experience with QR's, we offer Nubart Guides which are accessible to visually and hearing impaired museum visitors. The QR code on our audio guide cards is printed with a slight relief so that a blind person can easily find the QR code with their phone.
    I invite you to read more about accessibility in our audio guides in this blog article.

    Feel free to contact me for further information.
    Regards,

    Evelyn



    ------------------------------
    Evelyn Crende
    evelyn.crende@nubart.eu
    +1 (305) 454-2085
    Business Development North America
    NUBART
    Berlin, Germany
    ------------------------------



  • 12.  RE: Exploring Best Practices for Accessibility in Museum Exhibits

    Posted 16 days ago

    Thanks Evelyn for the information about the Nubart Guides.



    ------------------------------
    Patricia Chadwick
    Project Manager
    ------------------------------



  • 13.  RE: Exploring Best Practices for Accessibility in Museum Exhibits

    Posted 15 days ago
    Edited by Mel Tamporello 15 days ago

    Hi everyone,

    I'm curious to hear how people are implementing audio descriptions for video content in their museums. Do most use a form of an audio guide or are some people using a beacon of some sort? And secondly, has anyone successfully implemented sign language translations of their content (media and artifact labels)? 

    Great discussion!



    ------------------------------
    Mel Tamporello
    Head of Web and Digital Media
    Bullock Texas State History Museum
    Austin TX
    ------------------------------



  • 14.  RE: Exploring Best Practices for Accessibility in Museum Exhibits

    Posted 15 days ago

    Hi Mel,

    I know the Cooper Hewitt has employed Braille in their labeling; but note there is a very small percentage of blind visitors that can actually read Braille. Here at the Huntington, we recently used tactile displays in our Sargent Claude Johnson exhibition, which has been quite successful. My one concern about tactiles is when they look exactly like the artwork on display - encouraging touch in areas where it is not permitted. I would recommend creating tactiles that are more generic, but at least it's a step in the right direction!

    In LA, we have a wonderful resource in the Braille Institute. I would suggest reaching out to your local representatives in that area for help and guidance.



    ------------------------------
    Nicole Trudeau
    Exhibition Designer
    Huntington Library, Art Museum, & Botanical Gardens
    San Marino CA
    ------------------------------



  • 15.  RE: Exploring Best Practices for Accessibility in Museum Exhibits

    Posted 14 days ago
    For American Sign Language transactions, please check with Nelson-Atkins Museum of Arts (accessibility department) as they established sign language translations using qr codes next to exhibition pieces a few years ago.  Visitors could also download the Smartify App and find translations there. 

    Yours in Deafhood,
    Chriz

    Chriz Dally, Executive Director 
    (pronouns: she/her)

    Museum of Deaf History, Arts & Culture, Inc. (MDHAC)
    Deafhood Institute (a program under MDHAC)
    455 E. Park Street
    Olathe, KS 66061

    (To contact me by phone or video, please use email to schedule an appointment. I can be reached via VP, FaceTime, or Messenger video-chat.)

    Together, we can reframe deafness, create a world free of audism and humanize Deaf people. Support our mission to advance and preserve information about Deaf people, their culture(s), language(s), and experiences in the USA and around the world.






  • 16.  RE: Exploring Best Practices for Accessibility in Museum Exhibits

    Posted 15 days ago

    In my 30 years as an exhibit designer this comes up at almost every project kick off, and yet there are no clear answers. The PDF poster shared here, from MOS, is a very nice version of the simplified ADA/ABA codes, which just is a part of the baseline minimums. Universal Design offers a approach to design but not many real tools to implement and audit you designs. These minimums should never even be a question, they are simply must haves. However, more specific practices need to be addressed; knobs on interactives, lighting levels, force required to activate a mechanical interactive, Light Reflectance Values(visual contrast) on graphics, sensory minimum opportunities vs sensory maximum opportunities, etc. etc. 

    My hope on each project is to have an earnest conversation with the team about who we are trying to accommodate, and what the priorities are. If your audience is simply "everybody" you are not working hard enough, parse it out: People with low vision, people with limited mobility, people in chairs, people with sensory integration disorders, and so on. Then to spend some time getting to know the audience(s). From there the team can set specific goals for each audience. If at all possible, let them inform the process in their own voices. This isn't easy, or cheap. So it is usually done with best intentions and not a lot of follow through. 

    So, have the tricky conversations. Ask the team/institution/community if it is ok to have a slide in your exhibit, or is that too exclusive? Do you have the resources to keep audio headphones/wands, etc. clean and maintained? Can you afford the floorspace to have a sensory minimum space, or do you do that through scheduling special hours for special audiences? And, ask the people who are affected by these choices how they would like to experience your exhibition. 

    One last thing is that it might be helpful to consider that (depending on your type of exhibit) not every component has to do everything for everyone. In my experience working with people with disabilities, they want a rich museum experience, but they don't expect everything to be just for them. So, a kid in a wheelchair understands that they can't use the slide, but if there are costume opportunities or a textured path they can roll over to bounce a little - they get to explore in the same way that we want all of our visitor to, employing curiosity and gaining experience of the world they live in. 

    Bart

    Exhibit Design

    The ExhibitsDept. 



    ------------------------------
    Bart Hays
    Principal/Operations
    Pacific Grove CA
    ------------------------------



  • 17.  RE: Exploring Best Practices for Accessibility in Museum Exhibits

    Posted 14 days ago

    Hello all - great discussion.

    At GRPM we have utilized Braille in some of our exhibits as well as 3D printed specimens on our reader rails - all much appreciated by visitors who have low vision as well as those who are very tactile individuals. We try to include all senses when telling our stories, sight, smell, touch - sometimes it's difficult to touch on all of them but we do our best. We regularly consult with occupational therapists, Disability Advocates of Kent County, Deaf & Hard of Hearing Services as well as other local organizations to improve our current & developing exhibits. We recognize the importance of providing quiet spaces & resting places within our facilities and exhibits as well as providing low-sensory Sundays on a regular basis. By reaching out & asking for feedback on early versions of design we have learned SO many things. An example is meeting with the Association for the Blind & Visually Impaired - we thought we had it all figured out but they came in & asked why we weren't an Aira Access partner. Frankly, we had no clue what it was - however, it turned out to be one of the best services we could add ( look up https://aira.io/ ). Before we signed up we were able to do a "test run" of the app in our facility. It was pretty amazing - the visual interpretation was incredibly accurate. 

    I think the main thing is to ask questions, keep trying, expect to make mistakes & learn from them.

    Best,

    Mary



    ------------------------------
    Mary Wisnewski
    Exhibits Manager
    Grand Rapids Public Museum
    Grand Rapids MI
    ------------------------------