Why Good Accessibility at Museums and Parks is So Important to Blind and Visually Impaired Visitors

A sculpture in a museum

Museums and parks are cultural cornerstones of any modern city or town.

The sheer range of eras, artistic mediums and industries chronicled by museums introduces visitors to a world of new insights. Parks, on the other hand, offer tourists and residents a safe space in which to relax, spend time with family, walk the dog or just enjoy some alone time.

But museums and parks must be accessible for everyone to make the most of them. Sadly, it’s easy for managers and organizations to overlook the needs of people affected by blindness or impaired vision.

And this denies them the same freedom to enjoy their local amenities that so many people take for granted.

So, what can museums and parks do to create a safe, welcoming environment for those visitors living with sight-related difficulties?

Improving Accessibility in Museums for a Safer Experience

Museums often feature multiple flights of stairs, installations in open spaces and delicate exhibits. Visitors wandering the various exhibitions need to stay aware of their surroundings and take care to avoid disrupting precious pieces of art or relics.

But for those living with impaired vision or blindness, navigating museums safely is much more difficult. One option is to invest in indoor orientation solutions designed to help users find their way.

Leveraging technology to create a more accessible environment

RightHear is an innovative indoor orientation solution providing real-time audio information and directions in any compatible indoor space. Museums can allow users to take advantage of RightHear by installing sensors that relay detailed information to the app.

Users will be made aware of any obstructions in their path, the location of specific areas and more.

Audio guides are already available in museums. But these focus on describing the exhibits, not providing navigational assistance. This smartphone technology is a natural progression and boosts users’ independence.

Braille and large print should be incorporated into exhibit descriptions and signage. Those affected by impaired vision or blindness should be able to learn as much about the pieces as any other visitor.

High contrast is vital too. For example, placing structures against contrasting colors makes them easier to see. Museums should work with local experts and those living with sight-related difficulties to identify potential issues.

Making Parks Accessible for People Affected by Blindness and Impaired Vision

Parks — including theme parks and national parks — have started making strides in accessibility. One great example is the University of Hawaii’s UniDescription project (UniD), which aims to provide audio descriptions of National Park Service brochures and related media.

But more can be done. Local parks in cities and towns must embrace accessibility for those living with blindness or impaired vision. Tactile signage must be available: maps with Braille and high-contrast directions can make parks much more welcoming.

Theme parks — such as Disneyland and Disney World — provide guests with audio description too. But installing sensors to offer more flexible, real-time indoor navigation solutions can increase accessibility to a far higher degree.

Museums and parks of all kinds must take accessibility seriously. Adhering to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is crucial, but they should take it further to ensure the most welcoming, enjoyable experience for everyone.