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2015 VSA accessability session

Session from the 2015 Visitor Studies Association Conference

Museums everywhere are recognizing the importance of accessibility for visitors with disabilities, and there is an ever-growing body of resources. However, as evaluators, where do we start?

This session will provide concrete strategies for self-assessment, collecting and using data, and talking to high-level decision makers about accessibility.

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2015 VSA accessability session

  1. 1. Accessibility: What’s an Evaluator to Do? Kris Johnson, Access Indy Elaine Klemesrud, Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites Anna Lindgren-Streicher, Museum of Science, Boston Catherine Lussenhop, Museum of Science Boston Visitor Studies Association Conference July 16, 2015
  2. 2. Disability & Diversity Who are People with Disabilities? • 2010 Census Report— 20% of the people in the US have a disability • Disability doesn’t discriminate. Anyone can acquire a disability at any time. • People with disabilities are in every community How are Disabilities Categorized? • Physical • Cognitive/Developmental • Sensory • Age-related • Temporary
  3. 3. Understanding Obligations to Our Visitors “Equal Opportunity to Benefit” • Any person of any ability level should be able to approach and use anything in your museum • Any person of any ability level should be able to participate in any activities and events at your museum Self-Assessments • Assessing legal compliance (Federal, state and local laws) • Identifying barriers that prevent equal access for visitors with disabilities (spaces AND programs)
  4. 4. Identifying Barriers • Physical barriers prevent people from entering a space and/or using features within a space. • Communication barriers prevent people from receiving and responding to information. • Attitudinal/behavioral barriers prevent people from interacting in positive and effective ways. Cane Denied: When Good Policy Isn't Enough
  5. 5. Access vs. Inclusion Medical Model of Disability • Disability is a result of medical conditions that must be overcome by the individual • Requires specific accommodations to alleviate issues of accessibility • Often results in separation/isolation of people with disabilities Social Model of Disability • Disability is the result of barriers that exist in the environments we create • Requires that we remove barriers and reconsider our role in designing experiences for people on a broad spectrum of ability
  6. 6. Levels of Assessing Access & Inclusion 1. Self-Assessment of Your Position • Reviewing your daily tasks/duties, and examining your own process for incorporating access and inclusive practices into the products of your work 2. Cross-Departmental Approach • Establishing a network of communication and cooperation across departments to ensure that access and inclusion don’t slip through the cracks 3. Community Engagement of People with Disabilities • Developing relationships with individuals or advocacy groups who are willing to be advisors and provide consistent feedback 4. Institutional Assessments • Examining existing systems of strategic planning and evaluation to identify areas of operations that need improvements, and also assign accountability and metrics for success
  7. 7. Access Indy: A Local Knowledge Network What We Do: • roundtable discussions focused on topics related to access and inclusion • guest speakers present and lead discussions • sessions are free and open to the public • encourage staff and volunteers from any cultural arts organization to attend • welcome people from the disability community to share their insight and experiences
  8. 8. Accessibility Basics Elaine Klemesrud July 2015 Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites
  9. 9. Accessibility Basics: BACKGROUND
  10. 10. Accessibility Basics: BASELINE Where does your institution currently fulfill accessibility?  ADA compliance only  Universal Principles of Design How does your senior staff view accessibility as an institutional priority? What do you need to move forward?  Research  Money What resources to you have available that can help you move forward?
  11. 11. Accessibility Basics: BUILD A TEAM WITHIN Does your institution have an ADA Coordinator? Who else already advocates for inclusion? What departments should be invited to the table to create an interdisciplinary team?  Visitor / Guest Services  Exhibition Design  Facility Maintenance  A/V  IT  Volunteer Services  Marketing Are there missed opportunities for input?
  12. 12. Accessibility Basics: BE REALISTIC What are you up against? Historic structure versus modern facility Where is the money coming from?  Government funding  Grant funding How much time will it take to ensure that it’s done right? What if we think it works and it doesn’t?
  13. 13. Accessibility Basics: BRING IN COMMUNITY EXPERTISE Who better to give you insights than those who you want to serve?  Every community has resources.  Utilize their expertise. What better way to breakdown preconceived notions and put you on the right track? Greg Fehribach and The Fehribach Group: Innovative Access Solutions AccessIndy
  14. 14. Accessibility Basics: BECOME SUSTAINABLE How do we remain relevant in a quickly changing world? Initiate institutional processes for building inclusion into:  Programming development  Staff training  Promoting opportunities  Remaining relevant
  15. 15. Accessibility Basics: Go BEYOND ADA On July 26, 1990 President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act. ADA compliance meets only the minimum in accessibility requirements.
  16. 16. Strategies for Accessible Visitor Testing Anna Lindgren-Streicher and Catherine Lussenhop July 16, 2015 Museum of Science, Boston
  17. 17. • In order to meet the needs of an audience, you need to talk to that audience • This is especially true of a new audience you don’t know well • “Nothing about us without us” • Values the voices & expertise of the audience themselves The need for visitor feedback
  18. 18. • Answer questions you have about exhibits, programs, etc. • Help you develop relationships • Hear and value voices of people with disabilities What you can gain
  19. 19. • Make a universal design or access plan • Personas • Advisors • Visitor testing • Focus groups • Individual/small group user testing Complimentary approaches
  20. 20. • Hypothetical archetypes of real users, based on real data • Allow for user-focused design in early stages • Inform team members about audiences that may not be familiar to them Personas
  21. 21. • Have access-related expertise beyond their own personal experience • Education, legal code, software development, live performances, etc. • Should be paid like any expert advisor Advisors
  22. 22. • Speak about their own experiences as persons with disabilities • Some also have professional experience • Come in the social group they’d usually visit the museum with • Receive free admission & parking User testing
  23. 23. • Internal resources (Community Outreach, etc.) • City or state commissions on disability • Local disability listservs, agencies, or community groups • SPED Child and Teen Massachusetts • Mass Deaf Terp • New England Handicapped Sports Association • Schools (can present consent issues) • Group homes or independent living centers Connecting with communities
  24. 24. Ms. Wheelchair Massachusetts 2012, Patti Panzarino
  25. 25. • Recruit for a range of experiences • Use simple language. More concise = better. • Allow multiple contact methods (phone/email) Clarity is key! When we weren’t clear… • Emails got forwarded too widely • Information got distorted Recruiting visitors
  26. 26. Minimum info for an email: • “This involves research or evaluation” • What they would be doing/testing • “By appointment only” • “We have a limited number of spots available” • Do or do not forward this email • ASL interpreter lead time Also: accessibility survey and database Recruiting visitors
  27. 27. • Learn basic communication strategies, but… • …Don’t get too nervous • Value variation in experiences over large numbers • Look for physical, cognitive, social inclusion • Remember interest and learning Data collection preparation Ms. Wheelchair Massachusetts 2012, Patti Panzarino
  28. 28. • Invite other stakeholders (but not too many) • Prepare to reword survey or interview questions • Prompt for personal perspectives • Consider how design disables or enables learning Data collection tips
  29. 29. • Use universal design & social model of disability as a framework • Identify barriers to physical, cognitive, and social inclusion • Call out designs that work well and foster inclusion • Review findings with participants Data analysis and reporting
  30. 30. “Build a Bridge Support,” June 2015 Yawkey Gallery on the Charles River
  31. 31. • Involve people with disabilities in the work of the organization • Embed information about inclusive practices into communication, PD, and large projects • Engage in ongoing experimentation and reflection • Promote that design strategies are better for all Organizational change
  32. 32. Small group discussion • Share who you are and what work you are doing now to apply accessibility. • What is one thing you want to change or apply in your own work? • Who are your resources in your museum or community to support your work?
  33. 33. Presenter contact information Kris Johnson Elaine Klemesrud Anna Lindgren-Streicher Catherine Lussenhop

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  • DrIramKhan

    Jul. 1, 2017

Session from the 2015 Visitor Studies Association Conference Museums everywhere are recognizing the importance of accessibility for visitors with disabilities, and there is an ever-growing body of resources. However, as evaluators, where do we start? This session will provide concrete strategies for self-assessment, collecting and using data, and talking to high-level decision makers about accessibility.


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