My experience with museums and disability inclusion
I first noticed the issue of museum accessibility as a child while visiting an art museum with my parents. My Mother uses a wheelchair due to Multiple Sclerosis, and needs basic accessibility accommodations such as ramps, elevator access, and wide doorways to have equitable access to public spaces such as museums. Unfortunately, at this particular museum, very few of these accommodations were met; their elevator was out of order, many of their doorways weren’t wide enough to fit a wheelchair, and their front entrance had a step that we had to lift the wheelchair over.
Not only was this inconvenient for my family (and I’m sure many others) – it also violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires that museums provide accessibility for visitors with disabilities. This includes people with a wide range of disabilities, from those impacting mobility to low vision and hearing. Meeting this requirement can require wholesale changes from museums, from making entrances more accessible, to adding sign language or braille descriptions to exhibits. However, even these changes don’t make museums wholly accessible – accessibility also includes transportation, digital accessibility, and staff education on serving people with disabilities.
How can we help?
For many museums large and small, making these changes can seem overwhelming and unrealistic, requiring money, time, and other resources. That’s why the work that we’re doing at Lazarillo is so important to me – it empowers organizations to take charge of their accessibility by providing guidance and tools that simplify the process of making necessary changes, ultimately resulting in more people with disabilities like my mom having access to our shared cultural heritage.
Lazarillo has partnered with museums across the world to provide greater accessibility to guests with disabilities on a number of levels. Using the Lazarillo app, museums can provide guided tours to guests with disabilities, allowing them to safely navigate to and through museums with audio guidance, easy access to sign language descriptions of exhibits, and the mapping of wheelchair accessible routes. Lazarillo can also provide educational materials to employees on how to appropriately interact with guests with disabilities, and even consult on the digital accessibility of a museum’s website or online presence.
Why it matters
At the end of the day, access to museums isn’t only about entertainment, it’s about preserving a cultural heritage that is shared by everyone, including people with disabilities. It is our responsibility as a society to ensure that everyone has access to that culture, so that it can continue to be shared for generations to come.
If you’re interested in learning more about how Lazarillo can help you make your museum more accessible, visit our use case page here, or follow the link below to schedule a brief introductory call!
Lazarillo – breaking barriers to inclusion everywhere!