Questions from MWConference 17

Notes and questions from the Accessibility session at the Museums and the Web Conference 2017.

Table 1 Questions

What is the potential visitor’s pathway to getting information? What are the questions these various communities need to have answered:

  • blind or low vision
  • wheelchair or limited mobility
  • doesn’t speak the language
  • can’t drive/public transportation
  • breast-feeding mother
  • deaf or hearing-impaired: ASL or assisted listening devices/TTY
  • autism spectrum
  • aging population: bypass a line?
  • Alzheimers
  • olfactory sensitivities
  • illiteracy
  • service animals
  • caregivers
  • distances: how much walking?
  • Map with location of accessible parking & entrances

Table 2 Questions

How does accessibility influence programs?

  • without undermining content
  • e.g. exhibition design e.g. height of shelves etc.
  • Inclusive design is an easier sell (useful to greater audiences) as opposed to accessibility
  • Impact of accessibility on design. Resentment or ambivalence to accessibility guidelines if it constrains them.
  • Different thinking required: e.g. a button to trigger the accessible version
  • everything is subjective, so one person’s design/aesthetic guideline may not be someone else’s

 How do we view disability in general?

  • it’s not all just visible disabilities
  • it then expands to those who require accessibility considerations
  • it can be injuries to those who don’t have disabilities
  • can start with low cost ways: signage and awareness
  • connect with the organizations that support and are part of the community
  • to also help with training

Table 3 Questions

  • hungry for a toolkit — including guiding questions on how to even start thinking about this — sets agenda
  • mandate…start from the very beginning – not tacked on at the end
  • prompts for each project
  • strategy for accessibility champion – how do you include it as apart of a process
  • different toolkit — technology checklist item
  • investing in staff resources – dedicated staff hours
  • every department had a specialist addressing accessibility needs
  • designers not present for our group — they should be made aware and part of the force for change
  • use case scenarios as part of manual – easy entry points, low hanging fruit, scale it up
  • shared resources and language – contracts, labels, etc
  • data – for justification / arguments for inclusion
  • Dialog in the Dark – exhibition in germany – O.Noir *
  • SEGD accessibility tour *
  • create empathy —> step 1

Table 4 Questions

Physical space and digital properties – different departments all responsible for those entities

  • How do we establish standards for both?
  • How do we agree on similar goals?
  • How to begin? Accessibility affects so many aspects of the museum business

Cal Academy – physical space is inclusive and accessible, but the digital space is less so

  • Language center – ability to translate pages
  • New to the organization – is the website even up to the standards to be compliant

Internal resources to devote to tackling accessibility

  • Where do you start? It’s a daunting task to solve all of the problems simultaneously
  • Types of disabilities that need to be addressed – Socioeconomic? Different types of  disabilities that need to be addressed

China – very new topic to be addressed, interested in learning from other countries and practices

  • Canadian Museum for Human Rights – Accessibility options on the website (newer websites may have access to newer standards)

Education – having to shift the organization’s perspective at all levels to create change

  • Who can we talk to and how can we reach them to address the needs of our community/visitors?
  • User testing/user focus groups
  • Events/programs that are inclusive to groups with disabilities
  • Raising awareness – how do you tackle training/changing internal culture to appropriately serve those with disabilities
  • How does a blind person engage with a website? What are they looking for? What is that embodied experience like? Need to gain more insight into challenges that we (without disabilities) don’t even think about?

Additional Questions

  • Budgets – how do you fit these programs/initiatives into a budget?
  • Is it more expensive to design a website or a digital product with accessibility in mind? Is that illegal or should it be?

Table 5 Questions

  • Given a limited budget and resources, how do we prioritize which functional needs to serve?
  • What are some methods that we can use to do an accessibility assessment or our institutions?
  • How do we educate staff and decision-makers?
  • How do we make sure that these policies are sustainable and built into the culture of your museum and way of working?
  • How do we keep our museums from siloing audiences by their functional needs, and instead recognize that they are also families, students, they just have non-standard requirements?
  • How much does it really cost to enact policies? Does it increase program costs exponentially or are there incremental and sustainable ways to enact access policies?
  • Is there a tipping point when making products more accessible begins to lessen the comfort level or aesthetic experience of the majority?
  • Who are the experts in the field that we can turn to to gain confidence that we’re doing the right things?

Major questions for all institutions to consider

  • What is the scope of the problem? Who are the audiences or groups that don’t have access right now?
  • Does it extend to socio-economic distinctions or cultural backgrounds?

Author: Chantal Drake

As Director of Communications at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, I oversee traditional and digital marketing, public relations, and community engagement for exhibitions, events, and programming. I promote all aspects of the museum and garden experience to Memphis and the surrounding areas.