I am Debbi Hegstrom, and I am in the Museum Guide Programs department at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. I am an associate educator working with the docent program.
This team was created that has representation from marketing and public relations, from facilities, from security, education, human resources, exhibition design, so that we can all come together and discuss the different issues that range all the way from parking to having the educational programs that exist at the museum.
We work through the curators so, for instance, a list of approved objects was developed with the curators’ help and then periodically we have updated that. It ranges from sculpture to furniture and other kinds of 3-D objects. Having that team is marvelous. For instance, when I wanted to do public touch tours, which were related to Art Beyond Sight Awareness Week, there is somewhere I can go and say, “Okay, can we get free audio tours? Can we do some advertising of these tours?” So we did get something in Access Press, for example, a local newspaper that serves the disabilities community. “Is there any money for us to bring in sometimes some of those trainings that go on?” So the human resources budget did help accommodate the training at the Walker and the education provided for that as well. The accessibility brochure that was produced came out of human resource funds. So it’s a real endorsement from that team to say, “Yes, we have resources and people who are interested in these issues.” We talk about point sizes for labels. We talk about placement. We have talked about case placement because there are things that people could bump into or get a wheelchair caught underneath? So I think there is a real sensitivity to what are the actually physical issues as well.
One day, Roxy Bauer, our exhibition designer, and I got into wheelchairs and rolled around the museum. We happened to pass one of the employees who is in a wheelchair at the museum, and he was like, “Wow,” smiled, and stopped and talked to us. “Thank you so much for doing this so that you can get a sense of what is it that happens when you’re in a wheelchair.”
Docents who are trained to work with people with disabilities are frequently asking for refreshers. “Oh yeah, I haven’t done those tours in a while. Can we practice a little more?” So I will do refreshers. The front desk people -- I go and talk with them every so often. Are they comfortable with the assisted listening devices? Is there anything we need to do to make sure that they are making those available to people?