Accessibility Advice for Museums

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Dr. Zaborowski: The most important thing for museums to do is number one, don't assume that you know what the blind person wants or does not want. The number one thing to remember is to always ask. And then work to improve the accessibility of your facility with a multitude of methods. Audio description of exhibits is very important. To have printed material in Braille, Large Print, and on tape. To have volunteer available to help escort blind people when it's appropriate and to share with them what's there.

Some of the best examples of accessibility are already in museums. They are when you walk into the museum and there's an audio cassette that describes the exhibition that's there for everyone. And the blind person and put the tape recorder on and can move around the museum just like anyone. Now some individuals might want someone to accompany them, to describe things or help move through the galleries. And other individuals will want to do it themselves and they'll just want some verbal direction to where they start and where they end.

And always in your programming, to try and build in those accommodations so that they're right there at the point of entry for anyone else that comes into the museum. For example, if sighted individuals come to the information desk to get oriented to the museum, to pick up a map, to find out when the guided tours are, then that's where the blind person is going to come, and that's where the information should be. The ideal circumstance is that you walk up to the desk, and you'd be handed material in an accessible form, you get verbal instructions if you have questions, and if at all possible that there be a volunteer or docent to assist an individual if they want that.

Dr. Betsy A. Zaborowski
Executive Director,
National Federation of the Blind
Jernigan Institute



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