There are many ways that museums and cultural institutions can use technology to make their visitor experience both engaging and accessible to all ages and abilities. While many institutions have made accessibility a priority, a leading voice in this movement is the Denver Art Museum. While the museum offers many excellent programs to support visitors of all ages and abilities, through the creation of a Cuseum-powered mobile app, the museum made great strides in assisting visitors with vision and hearing impairments.
BRINGING ACCESSIBILITY INTO THE DIGITAL AGE:
As the largest art museum between Chicago and the West Coast, the museum sees hundreds if not thousands of visitors walk through its doors every day. This has pushed the Denver Art Museum to create an experience that “[supports] full access to museum spaces, exhibitions, and programs for visitors of all ages and abilities.” This mission is achieved through a myriad of offerings like annual low sensory mornings, large text and braille information pamphlets, sign language interpretation, tactile tables to accommodate different learning styles, and even an access advocacy group!
While these offerings all point to a commitment to provide the best resources for visitors of all ages and abilities, the Denver Art Museum looked to bring their leading accessibility initiatives into the digital age. This was accomplished by creating an app that would provide inclusive experience for visitors – especially those impacted by hearing and visual impairment.
What Does the App Bring to the Table?
In February 2017, the museum launched a mobile app that allowed visitors to take a content-rich audio tour of exhibits throughout the museum. While the app could be used by visitors of all ages and abilities, it was specifically designed to address wayfinding challenges faced by visitors with vision and hearing impairment. According to Danielle Schulz, Adult & Access Programs Coordinator at the Denver Art Museum, the app was created to “provide a self-led and engaging experience in the galleries for visitors with low vision,” and focused on a the key question, “how does a technology platform provide a self-led experience that enables visitors with low vision to explore the museum more autonomously?”
As the project took shape around this question, the museum sought to stay conscious of the fact that “visitors of all abilities enjoy accessing extra content provided by an app-based verbal description tour, but that a technology platform needs to go beyond simply hosting audio files and must be able to support wayfinding, providing a clear way for visitors to navigate and find their way from the museum entrance to the galleries.”
With this goal in mind, the museum partnered with Cuseum to create a mobile app that rotates content to reflect the museum’s current exhibitions. The app could be accessed on user’s smartphones, and the experience was designed to move the user through the space guided by audio content. The included visual and written content specifically designed to assist those with hearing or vision impairment.
As museums have continued to look to how they can best serve their visitors of all abilities and interests, technology has proven to be a great way to ensure that all visitors have an immersive and engaging experience. With accessibility being a core topic that many museums and institutions are focused on, technology has allowed museums like Denver Art Museum create an experience that is both engaging and accessible to all visitors.