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Learning package accessible exhibitions


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Learning package about accessible exhibitions provided by the Aalto University ARTS Faculty of Art and Design.

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Learning package accessible exhibitions

  1. 1. Accessible ExhibitionsWhat is Accessibility?Inclusive DesignPhysical AccessibilityMeasuresPlanning ToolsIntellectual AccessibilitySensory AccessibilityAccessible CommunicationSocial and Cultural AccessibilityAccessibility in the TANGO Exhibition? References and Further Reading
  2. 2. Accessible Exhibitions This information package gives insight into how to plan and organize an accessible exhibition – that is, both physically and intellectually available to diverse audiences. In accessible exhibitions moving round, seeing, hearing and understanding have been made as easy as possible. There are many useful tools that help in checking for whom the exhibition and its contents is actually available, and who might be excluded. In this section you will find information and links that encourage looking at accessibility from many different points of view and developing more inclusive exhibition design. Reading tip: The starred links throughout this document take you directly to the Culture for All service’s website, which has useful information on various accessibility-related topics. -
  3. 3. The main entrance hall at the Design Museum,Helsinki. Image Courtesy of the Design Museum. -
  4. 4. Accessible ExhibitionsWhat is Accessibility? Quick Read: Here is an excellent yet compact information package on accessibility, provided by the Finnish Culture for All service. See also: Salovaara, S. (2006). Welcome to the Museum? , p. 2. Link: The extensive accessibility plan of the Smithsonian Museum, Washington D.C., contains plenty of practical advice and concrete measures on how to ensure exhibition accessibility: Smithsonian Guidelines for Accessible Design. -
  5. 5. AH-Design Workshop at Kanneltalo, February 2012.Image Courtesy of Malin Bäckman. -
  6. 6. Accessible ExhibitionsWhat is Accessibility?Inclusive Design The way places are designed affects people’s ability to move round, see, hear and communicate.Inclusive Exhibition Design Inclusive design is about making places that everyone can use. It aims to enable everyone to participate equally andAspects of Accessibility independently in everyday activities. An inclusive approach to design offers new insights into the way people interact with the built environ- ment. According to: Centre for Accessible Environments, CAE Inclusive design as defined by the CAE: – places people at the heart of the design process; – responds to human diversity and difference; – offers dignity, autonomy and choice; – provides for flexibility in use. An online film about Inclusive Design by the Royal Institute of British Architects: -
  7. 7. Accessible ExhibitionsInclusive Design The idea of cultural equality is the most important starting points when striving for inclusive design. International guidelines and national legislation aim at equal opportunitiesInclusive Exhibition Design for diverse groups of citizens; thus everyone should be given the opportunity to enjoy exhibitions, regardless of their physical or intellectual capacities.Aspects of Accessibility Central issues that should be considered in accessibility planning include minority rights, multiculturality and internationality, age and different life phases. Inclusion of diverse audiences demands that exhibitions cannot be planned with a standard visitor in mind. Accessibility requires acknowledging and appreciating differences – whether in age, cultural background, gender orientation, or intellectual or physical capacities. Variety instead of uniformity is a recommendable point of departure. According to: Salovaara, S (2006). Welcome to the Museum? p. 3. -
  8. 8. Accessible ExhibitionsInclusive Design The accessibility assessment of an exhibition can include:Inclusive Exhibition Design – the physical environment; – accessibility of contents through different senses; – access to information and practical details;Aspects of Accessibility – financial, social and cultural accessibility. And: the audience’s ability to influence all these issues. -
  9. 9. AH-Design Workshop at Kanneltalo, February2012 . Image courtesy of Malin Bäckman. -
  10. 10. Access and getting around can be a challenge especially in older buildings. Visitors with limited mobility or visual impairment should be taken into ac-Accessible Exhibitions count by certain procedures. When planning exhibition architecture, it shouldPhysical Accessibility be ensured that the exhibition space is accessible with e.g. a wheelchair or an assistance dog. It should be possible to access the exhibition space by elevator.Measures If not, different fixed or moveable ramp systems can be used instead. Stairs and steps should be clearly marked and handrails installed when possible.Planning Tools The circulation routes through the exhibition space must be clearly defined, well lit, and easy to follow. Complicated routes and dead-ends should be eliminated. Doorways have to be cleared of obstacles, and text panels shouldAccessibility in the TANGO Exhibition? not be placed in their immediate proximity. Unsteady standing signs; elements made of seethrough materials; uneven surfaces; and carpets, stands and objects that are the same colour as the walls should be avoided. It is also important that the entrance to the exhibition is clearly defined by signs, different colours and contrasts. Larger renovations such as installing elevators are not always possible, but even smaller reforms can make a big difference. To begin with, handrails can be installed in staircases and seats can be placed for resting. Clearly visible safety tape can be used to indicate stairs and steps, non-functional signs can be redesigned, sound enforcing tele/induction loop systems installed, and service counters lowered. Toilet facilities could be made accessible by wheelchair. The most important thing is to provide visitors with information on the accessibility of the exhibition in the brochures, website, and in the exhibition space. Case Example, Finnish Museums’ website offers a museum search by accessibility criteria: -
  11. 11. Image Courtesy of John P. http://one- Used under CreativeCommons License.
  12. 12. Accessible ExhibitionsMeasures In this section you will find concrete measures for designing more accessible exhibition spaces. For visual presentations, see the accessibility plan of the Smithsonian Museum, Washington D.C.:Doors and Doorways Smithsonian Guidelines for Accessible Design. Measuring Accessibility:Circulation Routes Professional access auditors or consultants measure accessibility by using specially designed technical devices. Access auditing tools can include for instance a digital gradient measure, a lux lightSeats meter, and a door pressure gauge.VitrinesLightingWall TextsName Tags -
  13. 13. Accessible ExhibitionsMeasures Doorways into and inside the exhibition space should be at least 85 cm, preferably 120 cm wide, and have enough freeDoors and Doorways space for turning in front of them. It is necessary to remember that a wheelchair requires anCirculation Routes approximately 150 cm turning margin. Thresholds should be removed or lowered, when possible.Seats Doors have to be easy to open, and possible push buttons for automatic doors should be installed at an 85 to 100 cm height.Vitrines Manual doors require clear directions (push/pull) and door handles that are easy to grab. See-through glass doors should have tape or other markings for better visibility at 90 to 150 cmLighting from the floor surface.Wall TextsName Tags -
  14. 14. Accessible ExhibitionsMeasures The recommended width of circulation routes is approximately 150 to 180 cm.Doors and Doorways Beyond the main route a little less is acceptable, but the minimum should be at least 100 cm. A standard wheelchair’s turning margin is approximately 150 cm, and guide dogs andCirculation Routes personal assistants also need extra space to move.Seats All unnecessary obstacles, steps and thresholds should be avoided in the circulation route.VitrinesLightingWall TextsName Tags -
  15. 15. Accessible ExhibitionsMeasures Long walking distances require seating for resting. The exhibition space should have seats at different heights. MostDoors and Doorways commonly the sitting height is at 45 cm, but some of the seats should be taller, at 50 to 55 cm. Ideally, some of the chairs should provide support also for the back, arms, legs, and feet.Circulation Routes In larger institutions, there can also be wheelchairs and other auxiliary equipment for the visitors to borrow.SeatsVitrinesLightingWall TextsName Tags -
  16. 16. Accessible ExhibitionsMeasures The recommended height for display cases and vitrines is at 75Doors and Doorways to 200 cm from the floor surface. Small objects can be placed at 120 to 160 cm from floor level.Circulation Routes Display cases that have space underneath are highly recommended, since visitors in wheelchairs can get closer toSeats them.VitrinesLightingWall TextsName Tags -
  17. 17. Accessible ExhibitionsMeasuresDoors and Doorways Lighting on circulation routes, service points and near steps and stairs should be at least 150 lux and evenly distributed. Very strong contrasts, sudden shifts from light to dark, should beCirculation Routes avoided. Especially information tags and wall texts need to be well lit.Seats Shadows, reflections and mixing of different light sources cause difficulties to see. Natural light creates unwanted shadows that can distract viewing. Non-reflective glass surfaces and matteVitrines text and other exhibition materials are highly recommended.LightingWall TextsName Tags -
  18. 18. Accessible Exhibitions Wall texts in the exhibition space should be large and clear enough, with good contrast. The best visibility is usually attained by using dark text on a light background. Matte surfaces eliminate unwanted reflections and are thus betterMeasures than glossy ones. Typography should be as clear as possible, without unnecessary use of italics andDoors and Doorways boldings. The recommended font size is usually 18 to 36 points, whereas in bigger text panels, with longer viewing distances, the recommended size is usually atCirculation Routes least 48 points. The paragraph alignment of the text panels is usually on the left, and sometimes vertical columns on the left side of the text areas are used to help people with visual impairment to better locate them.Seats Texts in the exhibition space should also be placed so that they are easy to read from different heights. However, they should not interfere with or draw too muchVitrines attention from the exhibited material. The best height to place text areas in the exhibition space is at approximately 90 to 150 cm from floor level. Larger text panels can be placed at 75 to 200 cm from the floor. The optimum height for infoLighting signs is at 140 to 160 cm from the floor surface. If there is a lack of wall space, one option is to provide a printed handout of theWall Texts exhibition texts with especially good contrast and readability for people who have difficulties seeing. Preferably, the text materials should also be offered in Braille (aName Tags reading and writing method for people with visual impairment that is based on a system of raised dots) and/or audio format. More on Braille alphabets in Wikipedia: -
  19. 19. Accessible ExhibitionsMeasuresDoors and Doorways It is best to place the name tags as close to the exhibited artefacts as possible,Circulation Routes without them interfering too much with the exhibited content. They should also be placed logically, always to the same side in relation to the artefacts. Tags should be visually uniform, easy to see and well lit. Tilting them 45 degrees facilitatesSeats reading. Colour contrasts or border markings also help to make them more visible. If it is not possible to use name tags, a list or a map can be made thatVitrines includes all the important information on the numbered artefacts and makes it easy to connect the text with the correct object.LightingWall TextsName Tags -
  20. 20. Oddly placed wall texts at the Istanbul Biennale2011. Image courtesy of Jenni Nurmenniemi. -
  21. 21. Accessible Exhibitions * Physical Accessibility The above link takes you to the Culture for All website, where you will find more practical information on the topic.Planning Tools In the report Smithsonian Guidelines for Accessible Design you will find important measures and figures for accessibility planning. There are also various checklists that you can use in accessibility planning. Here you will find some hints on how to use them: Files/pdf/2004/disability_checklist.ashx Quick Checklist according to the Culture for All website: – Does the exhibition welcome participation and take diverse audiences into account? – Is the exhibition site physically accessible for people with mobility or functional concerns? – Does the exhibition allow developing knowledge between different cultures? – How does the exhibition communicate to different audiences? – Should the exhibition take some specific target groups into account, and how? -
  22. 22. Image courtesy of kvanhorn: Used under Creative Commonslicense: -
  23. 23. Accessible ExhibitionsIntellectual Accessibility Quick read: Intellectual accessibility means that the exhibition should be equally accessible to people regardless of their previous knowledge or education level. Offering well-designed information materials, using printed brochures and websites that are easy to read and look at, and providing audiovisual materials that facilitate understanding make the exhibition available to a wider audience. It is important to use clear and informative, preferably plain language in all communications. Plain language is a form of language that is understandable for all. Guides who are able to take diverse audiences into account can contribute greatly to the intellectual accessibility of the exhibition. In addition, different audioguides can be tailored for visitors with specific needs. Helpful assistants and other exhibition staff can also have a remarkable positive impact on the overall exhibition experience. More on plain language in Wikipedia: *Intellectual Accessibility The above link takes you to the Culture for All website, where you will find more practical information on the topic. -
  24. 24. Image courtesy of -
  25. 25. Accessible ExhibitionsSensory Accessibility Quick Read: Exhibitions should provide opportunities to use several senses. Sensory accessibility refers to the visitors’ possibility to engage with the exhibition by using different senses.Sound Environment Information can be both looked at and listened to, and sometimes it is possible to explore museum objects by touch. Sign-language tours are tailored for people with hearing impairments, whereas description tours bring the exhibition alive for visitors who cannot use their eyesight. Audiovisual presentations with subtitles, sign language and audio descriptions are helpful as well. Clear signs and information texts written in large, easily readable fonts benefit everyone. Technical devices, such as induction loops, and auxiliary aids, such as magnifying glasses or flashlights, could be especially helpful for the elderly. Some people are especially sensitive to different sensory stimuli, for instance, light or sound. For them it could be good to provide e.g. earplugs if the exhibition has a sound environment with loud noises or pay special attention to even lighting. * Sensory Access The above link takes you to the Culture for All website, where you will find more practical information on the topic. -
  26. 26. Accessible ExhibitionsSensory Accessibility One important aspect that should not be neglected in exhibition design is the sound environment. Different sources of sound should be charted and placedSound Environment already when planning the exhibition, so that the sound environment does not bother for instance people with visual impairments, who rely on their hearing to navigate in the space, or visitors who are extra sensitive to sound. Different sound sources should also be separated from each other as clearly as possible. -
  27. 27. Composer workshop of a Hugo Simberg exhibition. Image -courtesy of Marjatta Levanto and Finnish National Gallery /Central Art Archives.
  28. 28. Accessible Exhibitions An accessible exhibition starts with good communication: potential visitors shouldAccessible Communication be offered appropriate information already before they come to the exhibition. Brochures and websites should provide basic information on accessibility: are the facilities accessible for people with limited mobility or visual impairments? Are assistive hearing devices and seeing aids provided? Information on each exhibition and its background should be presented in an understandable form. Information can be designed directly for specific target groups. The staff can be trained in the use of plain language and graphic design for people with visual impairments. Websites should operate also with aids for people with visual impairments. According to: Salovaara, S. (2006). Welcome to the Museum?, pp. 6–7. Case Example: Browse Aloud – a computer program that reads aloud all website content. * Accessible Communication -
  29. 29. Image courtesy of: -
  30. 30. Accessible ExhibitionsSocial and Cultural Accessibility Interpretive systems have varying cultural origins. Thus, social and cultural accessibility requires sensitivity to a plurality of experiences, perceptions, and values. It is important to evaluate if the contents and displays reflect the interests and life experiences of different audiences. If reaching out to specific visitor groups, it might be useful to: Build contacts and set up advisory boards of representatives of the target groups. Develop communication skills and offer language choices, if needed. Work together with the target groups and run community projects to make sure that their views and concerns are included in the exhibition. Social accessibility can mean, for instance, accessible pricing, so that people can afford to visit the exhibition, regardless of their socio-economic background. When possible, the admission should be free of charge or at least tickets with discounts should be offered for specific groups. One option is to offer free entrance at certain times. * More on Social and Cultural Access. -
  31. 31. Image courtesy of Ari Karttunen/ EMMA,Espoo Museum of Modern Art. -
  32. 32. Accessible ExhibitionsAccessibility in the TANGO Exhibition? How to take into account the special features of the exhibition locale in: Helsinki? Milan? Nantes? -
  33. 33. The exhibition space at the Design Museum,Helsinki. Image courtesy of Jenni Nurmenniemi. -
  34. 34. References andFurther Reading Salovaara, S. (2006). Welcome to the Museum? The Finnish National Gallery Promotes Cultural Equality in Finland. In this short article, Sari Salovaara, a museum professional who specializes in accessibility issues at the Finnish National Gallery, opens up accessibility from both her own perspective as a person with visual impairment and via the Finnish National Gallery’s actions towards more accessible and inclusive exhibitions. _museum_article.doc Access for All Toolkit Checklists for assessing barriers to accessibility and ways to overcome them. See especially pages 6 and 8 of the pdf document. pdf/2004/access_for_all_toolkit.ashx Information Service on Accessibility by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture: See especially: What is Accessibility? A compact information package on accessibility: Accessibility Vocabulary Useful accessibility vocabulary in English, Finnish, and Swedish. The file is in Excel form. _finnish_swedish_english.xls -
  35. 35. References andFurther Reading Access by Design A quarterly journal published by the Centre for Accessible Environments. A sample issue readable with an e-book viewer: Cultural Diversity Checklist 04/cultural_diversity_checklist.ashx Making Cultural Heritage Truly Common truly_common_conference_publication.pdf Kaitavuori, K., Mäyrä, F., Nummelin, E., Sandell, R., Walters, D. & Ågotnes, A. (2008). Making Cultural Heritage Truly Common Conference Publication, 11-12 October 2007, Helsinki. Culture for All Service web publication 1:2008. Community relations and development Kehys. Finnish National Gallery. Disability Portfolio Here you will find twelve guides on how to meet the needs of disabled people as users and staff in museums, archives and libraries. It gives advice, information and guidance to help overcome barriers and follow good practice. 04/disability_portfolio.ashx Articles On Intercultural Dialogue and Multiculturalism (Partly in English) ultural_dialogue.pdf -
  36. 36. The workshop space at the Design Museum,Helsinki. Image Courtesy of Jenni Nurmenniemi. -