New Publication Shares Ways for Museums To Be Accessible and Inclusive

Features Case Studies on Digital Interactives From Around the World
October 15, 2020
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A new digital publication, “Inclusive Digital Interactives: Best Practices + Research,” aims to spur innovation, encourage information sharing and motivate cultural organizations to consider accessible and inclusive digital interactive design as an essential component of their work. Featuring 16 case statements, the online publication was published recently by Access Smithsonian, the Institute for Human Centered Design and MuseWeb.

“‘Inclusive Digital Interactives’ is about new ways of designing museum digital interactives so that the broadest range of visitors—those with and without disabilities, all ages and cultures—can use them easily and confidently,” said Beth Ziebarth, director of Access Smithsonian and one of the publication’s coordinators.

The publication examines the theory and practice behind inclusive digital interactive programs for museum visitors and staff. Articles are contributed by a diverse group of designers, educators, evaluators and technology experts from six countries who work with museums of various sizes. Among the featured museums are those that focus on art, history, science, national parks, sports and rock ’n’ roll.

“The connecting thread is the powerful emphasis on the importance of co-designing, developing and testing interactives with users who have varied abilities, breaking down the paradigm of ‘us’ designing for ‘them’ and establishing a practice of ‘all of us designing for all of us,’” said Janice Majewski, director of Inclusive Cultural and Educational Projects at the Institute for Human Centered Design and a publication coordinator.

Other coordinators include Robin Marquis, the community outreach coordinator at Access Smithsonian and accessibility coordinator for the Peale Center, and Nancy Proctor, director of the Peale Center and former co-chair of MuseWeb Conferences.

About Digital Interactives

Museum digital interactives are computer-based programs that encourage visitors to dig deeper. Popular features of exhibitions, they may appear in kiosks, on walls, in tables or on floors to invite visitors to delve into new information and have fun doing it. However, tapping a touchscreen, running a course to challenge a racing avatar, reading content or seeing an interactive screen are not always accessible to everyone.

Featured case studies include:

  • The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is in the middle of redesigning all its exhibitions to shape how it will reach a much wider segment of its millions of visitors. “Opening Our Doors Wider: Transforming Our Approach to Inclusion via Digital Exhibition Elements at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum” looks at the museum’s efforts to establish a museum-wide standard to ensure consistent accessible and inclusive design of digital interactives at one of the most visited museums in the world.
  • The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum opened July 31, proclaiming in its name, exhibitions and interactives full parity for athletes and visitors with and without disabilities. “The US Olympic & Paralympic Museum, Designing Digital Interactives for People with Varied Abilities” presents the planning, design and testing of interactives and media to ensure that a fully inclusive welcome greets every visitor at the door.
  • “Wise Stones: An Interactive Accessible Circuit Designed to Enhance the Experiences of Visitors with Disabilities” describes the stages of designing a five-year project to offer interactive tactile experiences in the MM Gerdau Mines and Metal Museum in Brazil. Professors from Portugal and Brazil teamed up to create multimedia content, tactile geological samples and digital interaction to enhance the museum experience for people with disabilities. The result: a project that benefitted all visitors. 

About Access Smithsonian

Access Smithsonian is a catalyst for consistent and integrated inclusive design that provides meaningful access to the Smithsonian museums and content for visitors with disabilities.

About Institute for Human Centered Design

Institute for Human Centered Design is a 42-year-old education and design non-profit dedicated to enhancing the experiences of people of all ages, abilities and culture through excellence in design.

About MuseWeb

MuseWeb supports, catalyzes and undertakes innovative projects that transform the business of culture, helping the cultural sector become more sustainable, accessible and relevant.


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Janice Kaplan

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