Working with Visitors with Visual Impairment

I’ve been working hard towards making our museum an inclusive space for all ages, backgrounds, identities, and abilities. I think the one that takes the most effort, for me at least, is abilities, especially visual impairments.

The museum space is very visual. Most of the collection is behind cabinets, safely stored, but away from visitors. There is myriad information available, but as books or labels. So, this does not lend well for visitors with visual impairments to explore the space on their own. Kind of a bummer. But, I love a challenge so I am determined to figure it out.

So, when we were asked to bring in a group led by someone with a visual impairment, I got really excited. Details on this project in a future blog post!

The outcome itself will be great, but the process was more important to me. Here are some of the things I took away from the experience:

  • Be careful with your language. Ask questions, but shift the way you describe or ask things to avoid the usual visual details.
  • Extra specific descriptions are helpful, think about relative sizes, etc.
  • Plan on spending extra time coaching gentle specimen handling and having a conversation.
  • If possible, give a mini tour to orient them to the space so they are empowered to find key areas.
  • Our timeline, lab, and tree cookie worked really well.
  • The element of surprise is super fun to use when bringing out specimens.
  • Know your facts well as you share them, don’t be afraid to look something up quickly.
  • Expect different questions than you’d usually get.
  • Add better descriptive captions to photos.
  • Where possible, add audio, smell, tactile elements along with visuals.
  • Find and use online resources like The Incluseum or CNIB.

I really enjoyed my time working on this. It will always take effort to be inclusive and accessible, but it is well worth the effort.

What are your experiences working with different audiences? Do you have tips? Disagree with me or want to add something? Add it to the comments…

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1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Video: Working with Visitors with Visual Impairment | nicolebalsdon

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