In our last segment, I chatted with Laurie Trippett, SITES' resident expert on government ADA guidelines. She has been working with accessibility issues for nearly 25 years and has a few tips for museums large and small.
1. Be sure to provide large-print versions of the object labels, available for patrons at the information desk.The large-print copy needs to be at least 16-point type or preferably bigger. The most important thing in this scenario is that people know that they can get the alternate version. Make it a point to include "Large-print exhibition text available" on all of your publicity materials and on your standard rack cards.
2. Make your general exhibition panels easy to read. Use legible typefaces. (Please, destroy the Blackadder and Curlz fonts!) And then think about contrast. Use a dark typeface on a light background and vice-versa. You wouldn't believe how many red letters on blue backgrounds I've seen out there. The general rule is to use a minimum of 24-point type on your main panels.
3. Now for the exhibition cases. Ideally, you'd want to have cases moved away from the walls to allow people to see objects on all sides. If this your goal, create enough room on the wall-side for a wheelchair to access the space (at least 30"). If you have wall-hung cases, they shouldn't extend more than 4" off the wall itself (Ever been clipped the corner of the plexiglass case? Ouch!)
4. And, yes, exhibitions filled with multi-media experiences ARE cool, but don't let the cacophony of exploding cannons in one room and shouting soldiers in another overwhelm your Civil War exhibit. Some people have a hard time processing sounds if they're coming from too many places. If you're using sound to add a sensory experience, try to contain it to one area, and PLEASE, turn it down! Laurie even suggests getting inexpensive headphones--the kind language labs use sell for about $20.00. And, she adds, they won't get stolen!
5. Be sure the people who actually build your exhibits have a working knowledge of accessibility guidelines. This will save you an infinite amount of time in the long run.
5. If all else fails, make your exhibition (in its complete form) available on the web and do outreach in your community.
FOR MORE, SEE http://www.si.edu/opa/accessibility/exdesign/start.him