Launching a Pilot Program

Launching a Pilot Program

This module presents a step-by-step plan to launch a pilot program, based on the short-term goals established in conjunction with your Advisory Board. Included are practical considerations for each step, which you can adapt to your needs. To facilitate planning and meetings we include checklists and agendas, as well as troubleshooting and funding tips.

Practical Considerations: Launching a Pilot Program

Sample Agenda


Troubleshooting Tips

Funding strategies! Low Cost. No Cost.


Contributors and Reviewers:


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Practical Considerations: Launching a Pilot Program

By this point, you have seen the range of possible programming, tools, and resources and you have set short-term goals with the members of the community or advisory board. Now you can outline the basic parameters of your program.

As discussed in the Advisory Board module, possible goals include:

Starting a new program for a new audience may seem daunting. But keep in mind that few museums have a staff member dedicated solely to programs for visitors with disabilities. Often, museums postpone addressing the needs of visually impaired visitors until they have additional funds and staff. However, it is possible to create a small-scale program without special funds and with limited staff. We have seen it happen in many museums.

The key is to look to resources you already have, both within the museum and in the community, and to incorporate existing programs as much as possible.

Your educators and staff have a wealth of information and skills. With training, they can adapt to the needs of visually impaired visitors, much in the way that you tailored programs for families, schools, and seniors. You may discover that your staff and docents have experience with relatives and friends who have lost their sight. Use existing staff to develop a small-scale program that can be piloted and evaluated by your advisory board. Throughout the process, ask your colleagues at other museums for advice! They are your best teachers.

Mariann Smith, Albright-Knox Art Gallery (1:50)

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Media player icon showing Mariann Smith

Mariann Smith, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York on How Albright-Knox Began an Accessibility Program


Erin Narloch, Woodson Art Museum (2:35)

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Media player icon showing Erin Narloch

Erin Narloch, Woodson Art Museum, Wausau, Wisconsin on How the Museum Launched an Accessibility Program

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Practical Considerations

Step One: Identify and Adapt Existing Materials

Below is a list of adaptations of existing materials. They are examples from other museum programs. Based on your goals, you may choose some or all of the following:

If you have:

Then you can:

Print Materials and Labels

Create alternative formats that are accessible to those who cannot use traditional print materials. These include digital media, braille, and large print. If your museum does not have the resources for professionally printed large-print brochures, consider in-house computer-printed documents in large print, which can be placed at the information desk with traditional print materials.

Local groups representing blind people can help you produce braille labels. Consider also creating a tactile graphic map of the museum's floor plan.


Add verbal description components to works on your audioguide tour. A few paragraphs added to the text for a group of well-selected works create a significant and accessible experience for a visitor who is blind or visually impaired.

Accessible Web

Make your Web site accessible to people who are blind and visually impaired through Accessible Web design. Accesssible web design considerations include font size, contrast and color, and formatting compatible with screen readers. Some museums offer visually impaired visitors online information that will prepare them for a museum experience, including background information on the artists, works, and cultural context. Your Web site is also an excellent way to provide general information about your accessibility program. Please see our Accessibility Tools training for more about these alternative formats, including resources and vendors.

Physical Accessibility of Your Facility and Exhibition Design

Our Universal Design will help you to educate your exhibition designers and curators about universal design features, provide tools for assessing accessibility of your facility, and connect you with universal design service and information providers. Some design accommodations, such as providing adequate seating, can be made without expensive reconfiguration of your physical structure.

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Practical Considerations

Step Two: Adapt Existing Programs

By definition, your accessibility program should make your existing programs and resources available to all audiences. Thus, adapting what you have is the best strategy. Below are examples of what has been done in museum programs across the country.

If you have:

Then you can:

Educator- and/or Docent-led Tours

Add verbal description into selected tours in your schedule. Choose a limited number of objects that are representative of your museum's collection. Write verbal descriptions of the objects, review them with your visually impaired advisors for effective language, clarity and length of the descriptions, and appropriate pace of the tour. Include descriptions of gallery spaces and museum architecture throughout your tour.

You can enhance your verbal-description tour with multisensory and tactile experiences. Think about objects that you might bring on your tour to assist the perception of the artwork and enrich visitors' experience. Educators have used: high-contrast reproductions, tactile pictures, props, touchable objects that are relevant to the representations, scents, and music of the period in order to stimulate discussion or enrich a verbal-description tour.

Lecture Series

Add audiodescription or verbal description, as above. In a large group or auditorium setting, individuals may access audiodescription through headsets. Other accessibility features to consider for lectures: sign language interpreters, infrared listening devices, or captioning.

Family Programs

To accommodate family members who are blind or visually impaired, add verbal description and tactiles to your family tours and programs. Touching models and props is a fun multisensory learning tool for all. If your family programs involve art making, see Art Making for adaptations and techniques. While many family programs are geared towards children, remember that adult family members, especially seniors, may also benefit from verbal description or tactiles.

We have found that sighted students also enjoy and learn from this type of experience. Because the staff/participant ratio for programs for visitors with disabilities is so high, you may want to “recruit” some family members, especially if you are doing studio art, or dedicate a special weekend for this program when you can assemble a crew of volunteers.

Teacher Workshops

If your institution already offers professional development courses/workshops for art educators and classroom teachers, invite and include teachers of visually impaired students, and art teachers who have blind students in their classes. They will also be useful resources in developing other museum programs.

Studio Program

Art-making classes that your institution already offers to children and families can easily be modified to include blind children and their parents and friends. See Art Making for more information.

Senior Programs

Add verbal description, tactile diagrams and art-making or writing activities to your existing programs through senior community centers, or independent living centers, or facilities that serve homebound people.

School Programs

Multi-session programs that include visits to the classroom and museum are excellent candidates for developing an accessibility program. Many of the tools found in the Learning Tools section of Accessibility Training are used to some degree with all students and address a broad range of learning styles. Use tactile diagrams and verbal description to prepare students for the museum visit, followed by art making and other curriculum-extension activities. Training school-programs staff to use these tools and develop these skills can benefit all students served in your programs.

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Practical Considerations

Step Three: Create any Additional Materials

As you have seen in Step One and Step Two, you can establish much of your accessibility program by adapting existing programs. One of the primary resources for any accessibility program is developing verbal-description skills and a collection of verbal-descriptions scripts that have been reviewed by visually impaired advisors.

One program that may require more specialized preparation is the touch tour or multisensory tour. Touch tours build on existing skills and knowledge to design a tour that allows a visually impaired visitor to have a comprehensive picture of your collection or exhibition.

To Create a Touch Tour or Multisensory Tour:

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Practical Considerations

Step Four: Outreach and Publicity Campaigns

When you have incorporated accessibility features into your existing programs, or established new independent programming, it is essential to simultaneously inform your public that these features are available, and welcome the public to your institution. Many people who are blind or visually impaired do not think of an art museum as a place with anything to offer them.

Some strategies for outreach include:

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Practical Considerations: Launching A Pilot Program

Step Five: Review and Revise

We cannot overstate the importance of review and evaluation.

You must consult a visually impaired or blind advisor throughout the process of developing materials and planning your program, to make sure that you are clearly communicating information and meeting the needs of your audience.

After your initial tours, lectures, or other sessions, try to get both informal, immediate reviews from participants as well as more formal, documented evaluations. Try to separately document the educator's or session leader's impressions of the audience response, organizational glitches, and any other problems or improvements to be made. Documentation is important for future institutional memory and Making The Program Last.

With reviews in hand, meet with educators and advisors and address the comments from participants and session leaders.

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Sample Agendas: Launching a Pilot

Agenda: Introductory Education Department Meeting

Program Introduction:

Why Teach Art to People who are Blind and Visually Impaired. (15 mins)

Resources We Already Have. (15 mins)

Introduce Pilot Program , & Outline Role of Each Department Member. (30mins)

Evaluation, Reviews, Revisions, Expanding. (15 mins)


Agenda: Curatorial, Collections Management and Conservation Staff Meeting

Introduce program

Conservation issues

Curatorial issues

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Checklist: Launching a Pilot Program

  1. Work with Publications Department for large-print signage and/or braille signage and materials
  1. Work with Web services on Web accessibility
  1. Meet with community partners
  1. Create contact lists
  1. Write letter of introduction
  1. Generate mailings: letter of introduction, thank-you letters
  1. Evaluate possible objects in collection for tactile tour, with curators and conservators
  1. Develop alternative tactile experiences and objects
  1. Choose objects for verbal-description tour
  1. Write verbal-description tour and review with visually impaired consultant.
  1. Develop art making, writing, dramatic play or musical exercises for tour.

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Troubleshooting Tips: Launching a Pilot Program

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Funding Strategies! Launching a Pilot Program

Low Cost

No Cost

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