Accessibility at NMAH & NGA

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Spark! Lab at the National Museum of American History

My favorite part of today was hearing about the accessibility initiatives at NMAH. I’ve taken the Accessibility course in the program, so this is a topic that really appealsĀ to me. I was fascinated to hear that the Smithsonian’s Accessibility Program only employs two people. In a large-scale institution, I would have expected a larger department that had more authority and power to enforce accessibility measures. However, I was pleasantly surprised to hear about the Spark! Lab initiative. As I have been a volunteer coordinator in the past, I was blown away to hear that volunteers were on-board with the project. Producing new accessibility materials and tweaking program offerings often results in conflict. Luckily, Spark! Lab didn’t seem to deal with any of these setbacks.

I also thought it was great to hear about the internship opportunities for those with cognitive or physical disabilities. I didn’t know that the Smithsonian offered this breadth of opportunities. Even better, these internships seem to be focused on academic areas and not just facilities management. It was refreshing hearing from people that were so passionate about ensuring that all who enter the museum can feel welcome and can access the information.

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Painters at the National Gallery of Art

I assumed that the experience I had yesterday at Hillwood would be quite similar to the National Gallery Art as both institutions are quite conservative. However, the National Gallery of Art actually exceeded my expectations. The museum was very open to the public. It was great actually seeing multiple painters in galleries, working away. There were less barriers and no ropes to speak of. Since the NGA had a significant amount of security staff, it allowed them to do away with intrusive barrier methods.

Overall, it what great hearing about accessibility programs and actually feeling like the museum was accessible to its visitors. As mentioned at the NMAH, our generation will most likely continue to embrace these initiatives and ensure that all visitors feel welcome.