Accessible Museums

Sidewalk cuts, elevators, and ramps provide museum access to people in wheelchairs.  Braille signs, audio labels, and video description provide museum access to people who are blind or have low vision.  These tools and resources are required by law, and while they don't really make the entire museum 100% accessible, they make a positive difference.

The ADA, however, offers very unclear guidance about requirements for people with developmental, cognitive, sensory, or learning differences.  As a result, few museums provide even basic accessibility tools for people who need, for example, simple signage, previews to prepare for museum engagement, small group programs, or other accommodations.  Recently, though, more museums are beginning to think about the needs of this very large group of people -- and to provide for them in various ways.

Simple tools can make a big difference for families and groups with autistic members
As you can see from the graphic above, basic accessibility is at the bottom of a pyramid of approaches that support inclusion of people with autism and related disorders. It's the least expensive, requires the least time or energy, and can make a real difference to some people. 

Basic accessibility is to autism and other developmental/cognitive/sensory differences as ramps are to wheelchair users: they get you in the door, but don't necessarily make programs, events, or exhibits fully available.  Still, accessibility tools are well worth creating, as they can be extremely helpful to a certain segment of your audience with autism and related disabilities.

Accessible Museums

Most museums that offer access tools also offer autism-only programs and events, and some also provide autism-related training to their staff.  You'll notice that most of the museums listed are children's museums, presumably because there is a bias toward supporting children as opposed to teens or adults on the autism spectrum.  Of course, people with autism are not all children, and extremely few children with autism "outgrow" their symptoms as they age.  Some of these museums include:

1 comment:

  1. Please add the Yale Center for British Art:

    Usually the third Saturday of the month, 10:30am-12pm
    A program for families with children on the autism spectrum, from ages 5 to 10 years. Families learn to look and respond to art work in the museum’s galleries. Join in group conversations in the galleries, a follow-up art project in a museum classroom, and much more. While we have taken into account the needs of individuals with autism in designing this program, it is intended to be fun for parents, siblings, and other relatives, too. Our goal is to create a welcoming, engaging, and inclusive learning environment.

    This program is conducted by the Education Department of the Yale Center for British Art, in consultation with the Yale Child Study Center. The program is free, but registration is required.


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