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Opening Our Doors Wider

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The purpose of this presentation is to present the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum as a case study of a cultural heritage institution that is completely revamping its approach to inclusion through setting a new standard for accessibility of its digital exhibition interactives and media. Considered a vital part of transforming the museum, NASM has had to re-examine all aspects of producing digital exhibition elements in pursuit of its new approach, and will share this, as well as lessons learned along the way. I will direct this presentation primarily to cultural heritage professionals who are creating a new exhibition or redoing all of their exhibitions, and who are looking to improve the inclusivity of their digital interactives and media pieces. From this presentation, these cultural heritage professionals would gain an understanding of: 1) considerations that go into a wholesale revamping of a cultural institution’s revamping of their accessibility approach; 2) tactics for improving the inclusivity of their interactives for people with vision, brain, hearing, and mobility-based disabilities; and 3) internal and external stakeholders to involve throughout the process.

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Opening Our Doors Wider

  1. 1. Opening Our Doors Wider: Transforming Our Approach to Inclusion via Digital Interactives and Media at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Sarah Banks - Exhibits Media Manager
  2. 2. Background • Updating and modernizing the National Air and Space Museum from top to bottom with completion estimated for 2025. • Unprecedented opportunity for change in our exhibits, common spaces, programs, and ways of working
  3. 3. What Does it Mean to Transform? 1) What does it mean to be a transformed museum? 2) How will we better serve and inspire our visitors?
  4. 4. Step 1: Determine Our Baseline • Previous Approach: • Evolved one gallery at a time • Key tactics included: • Open captioning for videos • ADA standards for physical design • Standards for accessible web design
  5. 5. Step 2: Look for Inspiration • Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, Canada • Museum of Science in Boston, United States
  6. 6. Step 3: Involve Stakeholders and Standardize Tactics Three Key Questions: 1. How do we involve external stakeholders in meaningful ways and incorporate their expertise? 2. How do we keep internal stakeholders apprised and involved when there are many other efforts happening at the same time? 3. How can we standardize tactics to fill the gaps in our baseline?
  7. 7. Step 3: Involve External Stakeholders Institute for Human Centered Design Access Smithsonian User/Experts Trace Research and Development Center at the University of Maryland and Assistra
  8. 8. Step 3: Involve Internal Stakeholders Senior Leadership Exhibits Technology Department Exhibits Department Visitor Services Department Education Department Curatorial Departments
  9. 9. Step 3: Our Transformed Set of Standards … to Date Our goal is to create more inclusive exhibitions via digital interactives and media by better serving people with: • Vision Disabilities • Hearing Disabilities • Mobility Disabilities • Brain-Based Disabilities
  10. 10. Tactics for People with Vision Disabilities • Accessible keypad • Screen reader • Audio instructions • Audio description • Alt text • Consistent locations for navigation elements • Typographic legibility • Contrast and focus
  11. 11. Tactics for People with Hearing Disabilities • Narrative audio edits • Induction loops • Open captions • Visitor-operated volume controls
  12. 12. Tactics for People with Mobility Disabilities • Position and sizing of touchable elements • Accessible keypads • Single touch buttons • Recovery methods
  13. 13. Tactics for People with Brain-Based Disabilities • Avoid unnecessary complexity in contents, design or user interface • Reduce the amount of text where possible and break it into chunks • Write text for clarity and avoid abstraction where possible • Provide supporting imagery where appropriate • Avoid distracting animation effects while content is being displayed • Locate navigation elements in consistent places • Provide information in multiple formats
  14. 14. Some Lessons Learned • Visit other museums and learn about what they are doing • Document your standards and keep updating them • Communicate internally about what you are doing and why • Make sure potential contractors know your commitment to inclusivity
  15. 15. Some Lessons Learned - Continued • Do user expert testing - even six people can make a huge impact • Save development time and resources for following up on user expert testing • Record what you learn and either take action or keep a record for future projects
  16. 16. Thanks! Any Questions! My Contact Info: Sarah Banks bankss@si.edu

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