We would like you to better understand the following:
What else is out there?
Service animals allowed
- Verbal description and touch tours
- Sign Language tours
- Tours and workshops for kids on the autism spectrum
- Program for people with developmental/learning disabilities
- Individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing
- Sensory Map – finding quieter, less crowded areas
- Touch tours & Braille
- Real-time captioning and assistive listening devices
- Specially designed gallery and classroom art programs for visitors with dementia and care partners
- Sign language tour/programs
- Programs for people with developmental disabilities and those on the autism spectrum
- Touch tours
- T-coil compatible transcripts of tours
- ASL programs
- Touch tours/sensory experiences for those with low vision/blind
- Acoustiguide Audio Tour
- Hearing Induction Loop
- Audiovisual Presentation
- Sound amplification systems
What is working? What isn’t?
I’m not sure how to answer this question without data (qualitative, quantitative, historical). Looking at the trends among museums, features that are common would be audio tours. I would assume unsuccessful features would not be continued, but I would need to look at what accessibility features in museums have been ousted or not used frequently.
What features do the competitors have that our users will expect?
Universal: wheelchair access and service animals welcome, hearing tours
Widely available, not available at smaller museums: touch tours and ASL tours
We would like you to propose the following:
What features are missing in the marketplace?
Universal interactivity within museums, rather than just tours. As a museum goer, I personally do not like to participate in tours because I prefer to go at my own pace, as I imagine other people do as well. More interactivity in museums with individual exhibits can be a feature to work towards.
What is the most important way that the Cooper Hewitt can innovate and serve a wide range of
museum-goers, with and without a range of disabilities?
The answer for this question would vary heavily depending on the definition of “important” used. In my definition, I think important means to positively affect the greatest number of people with disabilities. Looking at the data at how much of the population suffer from a certain disability, I would work off from there. However, I would also consider what features are already out there for this group of people, and create features that target the next segment that have the last features for them and is a large part of the population of people with disabilities. More research needs to be done to answer this question specifically, but at the moment, interactivity would benefit a wide range of museum-goers in general. Because people’s attentions are constantly stimulated thanks to the wide availability of information, museums should be an escape. What better to take someone’s attention away from their phones by putting in front of them something equally, but not similarly, as stimulating?
Project Goals: In Person Access & Website Access
Epilepsy (photosensitive) – Flashing effects may trigger seizures in people who have epilepsy
Because seizures in persons with (photosensitive) epilepsy are triggered by visual stimulus, such as flashing effects, the museum should take action in making sure people with epilepsy do not view museum exhibits that have flashing features. Exhibits that explicitly have flashing features may be easier to add a precaution sign in front of, flashing effects can be produced by exhibits that may glitch due to unforeseen technical problems.
A user with photosensitive epilepsy should be forewarned about museum exhibits that either have flashing effects, or have the possibility to have flashing effects due to an unforeseen malfunction.
With regards to website access, the website itself, if in any way may display flashing effects, should display warnings, or avoid features that may trigger seizures in persons with photosensitive epilepsy.
Blindness – No light perception, no usable vision for everyday activities
Blindness is the biggest challenge that museums have in catering to people with disabilities. Because most museums, including Cooper Hewitt, are mainly/most “look, don’t touch” exhibits, people who are blind are deterred from museums in general. Cooper Hewitt, as a museum of design, holds the great potential, and in my opinion, responsibility, to think forwardly in catering to improving the experience of museum goers who are blind.
People who are blind experience the world with their other senses, touch, taste, hear, and smell. While this idea isn’t applicable to every exhibit, curators can work with artists and designers to create a more sensorial “version” of exhibits. This may include creating replicas or models of art pieces, re-creating and re-imagining ways to convey a piece of artwork that can be felt by the other senses, having braille readily available for descriptions in pieces of art, having more tactile and interactive exhibits, and having immersive “rooms” that do not require vision and rely solely on the other senses.
Low-Vision – allows some usable vision
When the topic of low-vision was discusses, the primary “fix” for this was to have large font/print. The problem that was stated was whether or not large print should be readily available, or available by request. A computer program that turns regular font-brochures into large print would be convenient. A matching feature on the website would help persons with low-vision as well.
While persons with low vision are able to experience more than a person with blindness, the idea of having or making exhibits that are interactive that involve the other senses would greatly enhance persons with vision problems museum-going experience.
Color Blindness – inability to differentiate between various colors. Most common is red-green, blue-yellow, and total blindness (which is rare)
Persons with color blindness will not be able to experience exhibitions (especially those that have a focus on color) to the full extent that someone who isn’t color blind (obviously) can. I believe a “fix” for color-blindness itself are EnChroma sunglasses – special glasses for the color blind, but are quite expensive. While perhaps storing pairs of these sunglasses for people who are color blind may not be the most practical or feasible solution, investment in the technology behind these glasses so as to have this feature as a permanent feature in the museum would be revolutionary for Cooper Hewitt. And while that solution may not be possible (legality or patent issues), Cooper Hewitt can take steps is emphasizing the use, such as with people with blindness, of other senses.
Because Cooper Hewitt was once someone’s house, the building’s original structure was not made with museum-goers who have mobility issues in mind. While the museum has made effort, such as installation of elevators, to cater to persons with mobility problems, the museum is largely lacking in this area. The door to elevator is a door. It doesn’t, or not that I noticed, have an automatic function where people in, say, a wheelchair can easily access. In addition, some exhibit’s description are located too high up on the wall where a person in a wheelchair would have trouble reading.
Hearing Impairment and Deafness
The museum had a few exhibits that displayed sound, and people who are hearing impaired wouldn’t be able to experience these exhibits very much as the sounds themselves were not very loud. The museum did offer headphones with some of the exhibits where the sound can be heard more clearly, which offers a solution to those with hearing impairment. However, those who are deaf would have more issues. I did not see any transcripts of the sounds of exhibits that had sound, and adding a transcript feature would aid in this.
Cognitive and Intellectual Disability
Most of the exhibits and their descriptions were very “museum-y”, in that they use vocabulary and sentence structure that would be difficult to comprehend by someone with a cognitive or intellectual disability. While art pieces are sophisticated and complicated and layered, the description need not be. In addition, descriptions for pieces of art are usually written in paragraphs, in small print, next to the art, not a very visually-understandable display. The descriptions themselves can be more simply stated while still maintaining their meaning.
Autism Spectrum Disorder
There were a lot of infographics at the Cooper Hewitt, even one that decorated the stairwell. However, I had some trouble deciphering the colors and symbols of the infographics to determine what information they were trying to convey, as the infographics were huge but a legend of the infographics small and not obvious to the viewer. I’m not sure if this is just my personal opinion, though.
I think the idea to have a morning when parents can bring their children who have ASD or persons with ASD can come and enjoy the museum alone is a great idea and should be expanded to cover more people with different disabilities or perhaps different times of the week/day as well.