Thinking about Disabilities in the Museum setting: MOCA Leah Master-Huth EDUC 803 4/28/11
Introduction Museum exhibitions need to cater to a wide audience. What happens when they struggle to meet the demands of Universal Design? Visitors with Disabilities feel unwelcome Educators feel uncomfortable bringing their students to the museum Museums unintentionally exclude segments of the population
Principles of Universal Design http://www.ncsu.edu/www/ncsu/design/sod5/cud/about_ud/udprinciplestext.htm The design is useful and interesting to people of differing abilities The design accommodates a wide range of personal abilities and preferences Use of the design is easy to understand, regardless of the user's experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user, regardless of ambient conditions or the user's sensory abilities The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user's body size, posture, or mobility
Disabilities to Consider Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) Visual Impairments Mobility Impairments Hearing Impairments Dyslexia
Disabilities: Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder People with AD/HD may: Be easily distracted, miss details, frequently switch from one activity to another Have difficulty focusing on one thing Become bored with a task after a few minutes Have difficulty processing information quickly and accurately Dash around, touching and playing with everything in sight Have difficulty doing quiet tasks Be constantly in motion
Disabilities: Sensory Processing Disorder Symptoms of SPD might include: Over-sensitivity to stimulation such as sounds, lights, touch, taste, and odors Using an inappropriate amount of force when handling objects or writing Difficulty focusing or unable to shift attention to a new task Clumsiness Can become disoriented on stairs, elevators, or escalators Difficulty following directions, especially on sequencing of events Impulsive, always on the go
Disabilities: Visual Impairment In those with low vision, vision may fluctuate or may be influenced by inappropriate lighting, light glare, or fatigue, so colored lights, small fonts, or many things to read on one wall might be challenging People with low vision are text readers, but they might require adaptations, special equipment or materials People with visual impairments may have trouble with environmental obstacles, such as the hanging object cases in room one or the movie screens in small alcoves overlooking stairs Interactives should have clear signage or should appear obvious to visitors since those with low vision might have a better museum experience with the added tactile exploration offered by interactives
Disabilities: Mobility Impairment The term mobility impairment refers to an expansive range of disabilities which vary in severity from stamina limitations to complete paralysis and include, but are not limited to, disorders of the skeletal, respiratory, neuromuscular, cardiovascular, and pulmonary systems (http://www.accesselearning.net/mod1/1_07.php) Mobility disorders include: cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, arthritis, muscular dystrophy, temporary orthopedic injuries, Multiple Sclerosis, spina bifida, et. al. People with mobility impairment sometimes require mobility aides or assistive technology
Disabilities: Hearing Impairments Hearing loss can be partial or complete. There are several types of hearing loss: Conductive hearing loss—sound levels seem lower Sensorineural hearing loss—interferes with clarity of sound, understanding speech, and interpretation of sounds Mixed hearing loss—have both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss Background noise can make it even more difficult for those with hearing impairments to hear what is being said About 28 million Americans (almost 1 in 10) are hearing impaired or completely deaf
Disabilities: Dyslexia This wall, and others like it in MOCA, are difficult for visitors with dyslexia to read According to LD.org, some people with dyslexia can have trouble with reading and spelling, while others struggle to write, or to tell left from right. Some children show few signs of difficulty with early reading and writing. But later on, they may have trouble with complex language skills, such as grammar, reading comprehension, and more in-depth writing.
Beyond Disabilities: Comfort and the Average Visitor Surveys of walk-in visitors showed that the average visitor asked for changes to the Core Exhibition that would help disabled visitors as well, including: Larger font size Fewer objects on the wall More quiet spaces Clear signage on interactives
Some facts about MOCA MOCA used to be in an old public schoolon Mulberry Street. Its new building (opened in 2009) at 215 Centre Street was designed by architect Maya Lin. Founded as the New York Chinatown History Project in 1980, the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) began as a community-based organization. MOCA describes itself as a dialogic museum, meaning that they want to have a dialogue with the audience. MOCA’s collection includes artifacts, personal histories, and personal objects from businesses and residents of Chinatown in Manhattan, but it also has objects from Chinese-Americans around the country. MOCA’s audience is diverse and includes people of all backgrounds and ages. They want everyone to relate to the Chinese experience in America.
Using a Virtual Tour of MOCA The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) is a great space with an engaging approach and a unique collection. However, it makes some mistakes that lead to potential discomfort or confusion for visitors with disabilities. This virtual tour is a way to highlight some of what MOCA does right and some of what they get wrong.
Maya Lin and MOCA Maya Lin describes her design of MOCA: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=976o62w45zg
What MOCA gets right MOCA is a beautiful, welcoming space
What MOCA gets right MOCA is a beautiful, welcoming space It has an easy-to-use, wide entryway for people with mobility impairment
What MOCA gets right MOCA is a beautiful, welcoming space It has an easy, wide entryway for people with mobility impairment The museum brings in visitors of every background and age group
What MOCA gets right MOCA is a beautiful, welcoming space It has an easy, wide entryway for people with mobility impairment The museum brings in visitors of every background and age group MOCA educates people about sensitive topics such as racism and immigration
What MOCA gets right MOCA is a beautiful, welcoming space It has an easy, wide entryway for people with mobility impairment The museum brings in visitors of every background and age group MOCA educates people about sensitive topics like racism and immigration MOCA’s interactives give visitors hands-on experiences
MOCA’s Core Exhibition With a Single Step: Stories in the Making of America “The exhibit is an exploration of the Chinese American experience—from the first steps of early Chinese immigrants on the American frontier, to the dramatic story of a people caught between the power and politics of two nations, to the continuing journey to understand what it means to be Chinese American, and ultimately, America’s own journey as a nation.” (MOCA’s informational brochure)
In the Entryway At My Eye level, about 5’3” up from the floor
In the Entryway The same screen, as seen from below (Children, shorter people, and visitors in wheelchairs get this view) At My Eye level, about 5’3” up from the floor
Room 1: Immigration Photos in frames hanging from high above Movie Screen, Movie on repeat, Volume on high Light Boxes with biographies, brightly lit Strings from floor to ceiling with Plexiglas boxes holding objects
Room 1: Immigration The wall has many objects and labels on it Labels scroll across the bottom of the wall, organized chronologically from right to left
Room 1: Immigration The room is filled with objects from floor to ceiling. The lighting is from above, the side, and from the light boxes and screens. Lighting is green and white The number of objects, the lighting and the loud movie might be difficult for visitors with Attention Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)
Movies in MOCA Movies are loud, set on repeat, and are constant background noise Movie are projected on a window overlooking the central staircase
The movies at MOCA include personal histories that help visitors make personal connections to the collection
Movies at MOCA might be distracting for those with AD/HD, Sensory Processing Disorder, or Visual Impairments
The location and orientation of the movies—with the stairs and downstairs activities visible below—might lead to anxiety for visitors with SPD
The movies are loud and clash with conversations and other audio interactives, which might be difficult for those with hearing impairment, SPD, or AD/HD
These movies are a single hue in a dark alcove, which might cause problems for those with visual impairments
Room 2: Entering the USA This room talks about the difficulties Chinese immigrants faced when they tried to enter the United States. The room takes on an emotionally difficult topic with some great objects, but maybe there are too many objects??
Room 2: Entering the USA Text scrolls from floor to ceiling. Red text is hard to read on the paneling This video is directly across from another movie Wow! Look at all these objects
Room 2: Entering the USA This is an interesting interactive that makes you think about the arrival process at Angel Island (the West Coast’s Ellis Island). However, it is hard to follow since it is a low-pitched voice barking at you in a low volume in a room with another loud movie. This interactive only works if you can sit in the chair and stay there!
Room 2: Entering the USA Low, green light a reflection from the movie across from the wall Letters start down at the floor and go up to the ceiling, more than 8 feet up Font size is very small on the letters These letters and pictures make the experiences of the new Chinese immigrants relatable and interesting
Room 3: The Laundry Unfortunately, the dim red lighting on the side of the room makes reading challenging This table is at a good height for children and people in wheelchairs The interactives in this room are great for every visitor. The heavy iron is a fantastic teaching tool.
Signs in MOCA Interesting stories and poems appear all over the museum on boards like these—with text superimposed on photographs. Distracting and hard to read for everyone! Very hard for those with AD/HD, SPD, autism, and visual impairments.
Room 4: Movies and Chinese Food The lighting in this room is red-hued and creates a glare that can be challenging to visitors This case is at a great height for children and those in wheelchairs
Room 4: Movies and Chinese Food Again, a sign that is hard to read because of background pictures This radio plays low-pitched voices doing commercials. It is not very loud. Two other movies are going on in the room. Push this button to hear this radio
Room 5: Festivals 3 chairs, the lion and some quiet music make this room a great place to rest and think about the Chinese-American experience
Room 5: Festivals Use this handle to turn this scroll This scroll is very close to the wall and might be hard for visitors in wheelchairs or with other mobility impairments to turn Black font on red with a red case is very hard to read
Room 6: Post Office and Store Lots to see, hear, and touch. How do you know what NOT to touch?
Room 6: Post Office and Store This room is great for experiential learning, but it can be hard for children with impulse control problems to avoid the loose objects on shelves and in alcoves. There are few DO NOT TOUCH signs.
Room 6: Post Office and Store Both of these buttons play audio segments that are very interesting, but also hard to hear and understand for those with hearing impairments. Accented speech further complicates understanding. This is a recurring problem in MOCA, especially in the other, louder rooms.
Rooms 7 and 8: WWII and Today The last two rooms have multiple interactives. They provide great ways to enter into mid-twentieth century and contemporary Chinese-American culture
Rooms 7 and 8: WWII and Today The last two rooms have many videos, lots of text, lots of audio and multiple distractions
Rooms 7 and 8: WWII and Today What a great solution for blocking out background noise for the hearing impaired, those with SPD, AD/HD, or auditory processing disorder! If only the screen was visible from below
Problems facing visitors with AD/HD at MOCA People with AD/HD face many distractions in MOCA
Interactives next to objects that say DO NOT TOUCH
Disabilities: Visual Impairments at MOCA
People with low vision would find it difficult to read the font sizes on the labels and some of the exhibitions at MOCA
The lighting at MOCA might make it difficult for those with visual impairments to see the objects or read the labels
Color choices for fonts and for displays might make reading challenging for people with visual impairments
Those with AD/HD, SPD, autism, or even people who require reading glasses might find it difficult to read with all of the light, font, and color choices in the museum
Surveys and interviews with older walk-in visitors found that font size and the amount of text interfered with the comfort of the average visitor.
Mobility Impairments and MOCA The Americans with Disabilities Act gives standards institutions must meet in their design for visitors with disabilities. This new building for MOCA meets the standards for those with physical disabilities, with a few potential problems that might limit experiences in MOCA. Some screens and labels are not visible from wheelchair sight level Some interactives cannot be manipulated by those with neurological weaknesses or those in wheelchairs Many of the display cases are at a good height for those in wheelchairs
Summary MOCA is a beautifully-designed museum that teaches visitors about the experiences of the Chinese in America The museum imparts a lot of valuable information in interesting and exciting ways For visitors with AD/HD, SPD, visual impairments, mobility impairments, hearing impairments, or dyslexia, there may be some challenges in the space Sometimes the museum’s designs are very welcoming to those with disabilities (interactive elements, accessible display cases). Sometimes they are not (small font size, dim lighting, screens that are not visible from below, too many objects on the wall) MOCA might want to think about the principles of universal design in core exhibition so that people of all backgrounds have comfortable, enjoyable, educational experiences in the museum
Some Suggestions for MOCA Place fewer objects and labels on wall to limit distractions Make movies have on/off modes with buttons for visitors to push Increase font size Include more earphones for audio features and then turn up the volume Provide a handheld guide in large print Check that screens are visible for everyone of all heights, in wheelchairs or walking Take some objects that are at ceiling or floor level and reproduce them in a handheld booklet available to all visitors Make buttons and interactives more obvious with clearer signage Include fewer written passages superimposed on photos and increase the amount of text on simple backgrounds
Some Suggestions for Visitors to MOCA with Disabilities For those with AD/HD or SPD, think about bringing ear plugs or headphones to block out unwanted noises. MOCA is a dialogic museum that prides itself on having personnel available to visitors much of the day—ask for a helper or guide to lead you through the museum. Plan to look at only one level of information on the walls or think about only looking at pictures or only white labels or only movies, etc. Return later to see more of the museum. Use MOCA’s interactive website to do some learning in advance so the visit can be entirely experience-based.
More Suggestions for Visitors to MOCA with Disabilities For those who are hard of hearing, ask if there is a printed transcript of movies and audio interactives For those who are visually impaired, ask if there are large font print-outs of labels or other textual components Teachers with students with AD/HD should make sure to talk to the children in advance about not touching unless told to touch an object. The teacher should also try to find places for the student to focus closely on a topic or object rather than seeing the overwhelming whole.
Sources Abraham, S., E. Fisher, and L. Master-Huth. (2010, December 20). MOCA Research Report. Report for EDUC 616. CATEA/Access E-Learning: http://www.accesselearning.net/mod1/1_07.php CDC/Autism Spectrum Disorders: http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/facts.html The Center for Universal Design—Universal Design Principles: http://www.ncsu.edu/www/ncsu/design/sod5/cud/about_ud/udprinciplestext.htm Guidance on the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design: http://www.ada.gov/regs2010/2010ADAStandards/Guidance2010ADAstandards.htm :
Sources MOCA’s Informational Brochure MOCA’s website: http://www.mocanyc.org/ Museum of Science/Exhibition Development Resource (Universal Design): http://www.mos.org/exhibitdevelopment/access/consider.html National Center for Learning Disabilities/What is Dyslexia?: http://www.ncld.org/ld-basics/ld-aamp-language/reading/dyslexia National Institute of Mental Health/What are the symptoms of ADHD in children?:http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder/what-are-the-symptoms-of-adhd-in-children.shtml National Resource Center for ADHD/What is ADHD?: http://www.help4adhd.org/en/about/what
Sources “Sensing Trouble” (2010, March 1). The Boston Globe.: http://www.boston.com/news/health/articles/2010/03/01/symptoms_of_sensory_processing_disorder/ Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation/red flags: http://www.spdfoundation.net/redflags.html Strategies for Teaching Students with Visual Impairments: vu.edu/~scidis/vision.html#sect2 TeensHealth/Hearing Impairment: http://kidshealth.org/teen/diseases_conditions/sight/hearing_impairment.html# YouTube tour with Maya Lin: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=976o62w45zg