Assistive Technologies and Other Accessibility Accommodations
Accommodations used to create equal opportunities for all audience members:
- Mobility supports
- Sensory accommodations
- Cognitive accommodations
There are a variety of mobility accommodations available for a broad range of needs. The device most people think of is the wheelchair.
Keep in mind:
Wheelchairs come in a variety of styles and sizes, with many types of attachments available. Wheelchairs are either manual or motorized with rechargeable batteries. Only some are assisted by someone who pushes the chair.
Other assistive devices for people with mobility impairments include: Segways, service dogs, canes, walkers, and adaptive devices for gripping objects, writing or drawing, or activities of daily living like drinking, eating, etc.
Keep curb cuts, ramps, and access to elevators clear.
In room design or set-up, such as a conference room, store, restaurant and exhibition: Consider accessibility guidelines for wheelchairs or people with mobility impairments, such as height of materials and information, width of aisles, spaces between tables, and access to large enough elevators.
This does not necessarily mean rebuilding your facilities. Examples of accessible design include: providing sufficient seating throughout an exhibition, or spacing seating and rows wide enough to allow a wheelchair to be easily maneuvered.
Mariann Smith, Curator of Education at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York, on the Challenge of Old Buildings.
Definitions of Visual Impairment
Visual impairment describes vision that cannot be fully corrected by ordinary prescription lenses, medical treatment, or surgery. The term visual impairment includes conditions ranging from the presence of good usable vision to low vision or the absence of any sight at all – total blindness. The most common conditions are associated with aging: glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy.
Many terms are used when people refer to visual impairment. These terms are explained below.
Legal blindness defines visual conditions that, when present, connote eligibility for government or other benefits and services. An individual who is legally blind has a visual acuity of 20/200 in the better eye with the best correction, or a visual field of no more than 20 degrees.
Severe Visual Impairment
Severe visual impairment is a term used by researchers at the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) to describe visual impairment in people who are unable to read ordinary newsprint even with correction. This term is primarily a research term in studies of visual impairment in the population, and not used by eye care professionals in clinical references. People with a severe visual impairment may or may not be legally blind.
The term visually impaired is also used by the NCHS for studying visual impairment in the population, and describes visual impairment in people who have difficulty reading ordinary newsprint even with correction. Like the term severe visual impairment, visual impairment is used by researchers who study the population, and is not used in clinical references.
Low vision is a clinical diagnostic term used to describe impaired vision that cannot be improved by conventional eyeglasses, contact lenses, medications, or surgery in which some good usable vision remains. People with low vision can learn to make the best use of the vision available to them.
© American Foundation for the Blind
For those who have difficulty accessing visual information, accommodations include large print and Braille, verbal and audio description, tactile and sound experiences, and low-vision devices, such as magnifiers, CC-TV, computer screen reading software, and other assistive technologies.
For those who have difficulty accessing aural information or sounds, accommodations or assistive devices include: Sign language interpreters, assistive listening devices, text transcripts, audio-guides, captioning, and descriptive cues.
Sensory accommodations serve a much greater audience. They provide multiple opportunities to take in information. Specific audiences who may be benefit from information presented through sight, sound, and touch include:
- People for whom English is a second language
- People who are distracted (by their children or other visitors, for example)
- People with cognitive disabilities or learning disabilities
Best of all, well-designed multi-sensory presentations enhance everyone’s ability to remember and enjoy the experience of visiting the museum or cultural institution.
Cognitive or Learning Accommodations
Cognitive accommodations or supports present information in as many different formats as possible, using a variety of technologies. For any given audience, you will encounter a range of learning abilities.
Examples of alternate representations of content include:
- Visual: Images or diagrams, maps, charts or graphs
- Tactile: Tactile diagrams, tactile maps or graphics, Braille, other tactile experiences
- Auditory: Audio-guides, music, sound effects
- Text: Large print, digital media, captioning
During group tours or other structured programming, accommodations include:
- adjustments in pace and content,
- allowing extra time for transitions in activity or location,
- keeping group size small, and
- modifying light and sound levels.
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