In keeping with the MCA’s commitment to access, inclusion, and equity, the museum’s Board, staff, and volunteers endeavor to extend an authentic welcome to our building, exhibitions, programs, and information at all times and to all visitors. This includes visitors with disabilities, that is: people with mobility problems, vision impairment, hearing impairment, and cognitive disabilities, whether temporary or permanent.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, a civil rights law passed in 1990, guided the museum’s accessibility work for many years. Until recently, the museum focused on two key aspects of the ADA guidelines: providing accommodations to employees and job applicants with disabilities, and ensuring that people with disabilities could access and navigate our physical facilities. In 2015, in response to a city-wide celebration of the 25th anniversary of the ADA, a group of museum staff began to think about how we might go beyond the mere letter of the law to do more for our most underserved visitors. That group, now the museum’s Accessibility Leadership Task Force, is a pan-institutional team with an interest in thinking creatively about how to encourage long-term engagement with disabled visitors.
To do so, we are studying our already-excellent accessible offerings and working to improve and expand them, to share information about them more broadly; and to make them more consistent, useful, and innovative. These programs include stage and gallery programs that feature ASL interpretation and open captioning; touch tours; staff trained to support visitors of all abilities; a website with best-in-class accessible features; and more. Our work has shown us that common assumptions about accessible programs and facilities—that they are expensive, and useful only for a limited audience—are not usually true. We believe that by crafting programs and spaces that serve the needs of the disability community, we are improving our offerings and our invitation to all visitors.
We still have a lot to learn from our visitors with disabilities and from others who are thinking about accessible practices, but we aspire to be leaders in the community in embracing tenets of universal design. Keeping accessibility and universal design principles in mind as we plan, decide, create, teach, fund, hire, train, communicate, and execute our programs and exhibitions will guide our staff, who—regardless of department or role—share the responsibility and privilege of making the MCA accessible to all.