Museums and Communities News
Americans with Disabilities Act
Anniversary Edition


To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Metropolitan Museum offered a special tour for guide dogs and their humans. Read about how the Met and other museums celebrated this important anniversary below. Image via the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Access Coordiantion Facebook page

Museums and Communities News is our monthly roundup of stories demonstrating the myriad ways AAMD member museums serve their communities.  


AAMD museums - we want your stories! If you have a community program you would like to see featured in Museums and Communities news please contact Alison Wade.

July 26 marked the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the law that guarantees equal opportunities for people with disabilities. Museums have joined the anniversary celebrations in many ways, so we are dedicating this entire edition of Museums and Communities News to events, activities and content celebrating the anniversary of this landmark civil rights legislation. 

To learn about how museums serve people with disabilities browse the Museums and Communities archive, which features dozens of examples of how AAMD museums serve visitors with disabilities. To learn about how to make your museum more accessible visit Art Beyond Sight

Still from one of the Guggenheim Museum's videos in ASL. 
Click the image to view the video

National Portrait Gallery & Google Highlight Disability Advocates
From July 24-27, Google Cultural Institute installed portraits of disability rights activists on the steps of buildings throughout Washington, DC, including the National Portrait Gallery. NPG's stairs which featured portraits of 10-time Paralympian medalist Tatyana McFadden (pictured with NPG director Kim Sajet, below) and disability rights activists Ed Roberts and Judy Heumann, who co-founded the World Institute on Disability. (Heumann is also the Special Advisor for International Disability Rights under President Obama). The positioning of the paintings on the steps was a reference to the Capitol Crawl, the 1990 protest in which disability activists pulled themselves up the steps to the Capitol building. Learn more about the projects and those featured in the project at Google Cultural Institute.


NYC Museums Commemorate ADA25
The Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art all commemorated the 25th anniversary of the ADA in many ways, from a blog conversation to public programs.

On the Guggenheim blog, educators from that museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Metropolitan discuss their approaches to access programs, from audience feedback to staff training. Part 1 / Part 2
The Guggenheim also highlighted its commitment to accessibility through programs and events throughout the month of July, including a series of ASL videos about works in the museum's collection, public programs for the hearing impaired, public programs for the visually impaired, and participation in New York City's first Disability Pride Parade. More information is available here.

The Museum of Modern Art's access programs began with the War Veterans Art Center, for soldiers returning from World War II. MoMA's wide variety of programs now currently serve 9,000 individuals with disabilities each month, according to Francesca Rosenberg, Director of Community, Access, and School Programs at the Museum of Modern Art. Rosenburg also reports that the museum's commitment to access goes beyond these programs. "Our Accessibility Task Force, made up of representatives from departments from across the institution, helps to ensure that a philosophy of disability equality and inclusivity are embedded in the DNA of the Museum," she writes. Learn more about the MoMA's access programs from Glenn Lowry and program participants in this video

In July the Metropolitan Museum offered a range of programs to commemorate the ADA, including a tour for guide dogs and their humans highlighting pups in the museum's collection and Intersections Between Art and Disability, a gallery talk exploring the complex relationship between social constructions of disability and imagery in art, and the impact of disability on artistic practice.

Still from MoMA's Accessibility Training Video. Click the image to view the video.

At the Frist Center, a longstanding commitment to the ADA
The Frist Center for Visual Arts in Nashville offered free admission on July 26 to commemorate the ADA's 25th anniversary. View a video of an ASL-translated tour at the Frist here.

The Frist has been dedicated to accessibility and ADA compliance since before the Center's opening in 2001. From the outset, the founders of the Frist Center for the Visual Arts have said publicly and privately that the Frist Center exists to serve all of the people of this community," wrote Director of Education Anne Henderson on the occasion of the opening of the Frist Center. " That means accessibility...It's a word that is heard often at the Center." Learn more at the ADA National Network

#DisabilityStories Twitter Conversation Highlights Disability Experience, Culture, Commitment
The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History organized a twitter chat on July 15 called #DisabilityStories. The wide-ranging conversation included perspectives from people with disabilities; objects from museum collections relating to disability history. Museums and cultural institutions also participated by demonstrating their commitment to serving people with disabilities, including touch tours, ASL tours, large-print guides, and much more. 

Some highlights from AAMD museums, and that may be of interest to museums, are below. View a roundup of #DisabilityStories tweets here, and learn more about the project here.

Santa Barbara Museum of Art: Ahead of the ADA Curve
In 1971, nearly 20 years before the ADA became law, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art hosted an exhibition focused on making museums and their collections accessible to the blind and visually impaired. Perception featured a collection of sculptures from institutions and private collections and was created with touch tours in mind. The exhibition travelled to the San Diego Museum of Art, the de Young Museum, the Crocker Art Museum, and LACMA, among others, and caught the attention of then-California governor Ronald Reagan. Read more at SBMA's blog.

Hands On! Multisensory Tour for people with Alzheimer's and low vision at the Art Institute of Chicago

Low- and High-Tech Touch Tours at the Art Institute of Chicago
This Summer, National Endowment for the Arts' quarterly publication NEA Arts was devoted entirely to the arts and disabilities. The edition featured the Art Institute of Chicago's accessibility programs for the visually impaired, which have existed in various different incarnations since the 1920s. The current version features four permanent collection works that can be touched by museum visitors of any ability. "[We tried] to make it appeal to a broad range of visitors, not just persons with blindness or low vision, but also the general sighted public, in part to increase awareness that part of the museum-going audience is people with blindness or low vision and disabilities at large," says Lucas Livingston, assistant director for senior programs in museum education at the Art Institute of Chicago. The museum also uses 3-D printing technology to create replicas of artworks for access programs, as detailed in AAMD's Next Practices in Digital and Technology. Read the full NEA Arts article here.

Accessibility at DC museums and beyond
The Washington Post published a roundup of accessibility efforts at several AAMD museums in the wake of the ADA anniversary, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and the National Gallery of Art. In the article Indiana teacher Kathy Nimmer, who has been blind since childhood, described her experience on a touch tour at SAAM. "It was the first time that I felt connected with art in a similar way as my sighted colleagues," Nimmer says. "It was deeply moving." 
Sensory Mornings, the Walters Art Museum's program for children with Sensory Processing Disorders and their families. Image courtesy of the Walters Art Museum.

Access on AAMD's Website
AAMD regularly highlights how our member museums provide access to visitors of all access levels. Following are a few highlights:
Alice Bloch leads Alzheimer's patients and caregivers through a series of light exercises during Kemper Art Reaches Everyone, a new program sponsored by the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis, in collaboration with Maturity and Its Muse. Photo by Whitney Curtis/WUSTL Photo Services.

Community Impact Map 
San Marino, CA

On the above map, each dot represents one of the nearly 500 Southern California organizations that The Huntington serves. This includes El Arca, which serves adults with developmental disabilities in the Los Angeles Area. Click the image above to see the full map and list of partner organizations.

The Huntington also provides services for visitors with disabilities. More information is available at The Huntington's website.

AAMD's mapping project provides a vivid illustration of museums' reach across their communities.  Participation is free and available to all AAMD members, including museums in Mexico and Canada. If you are interested in having your museum services mapped please contact Andy Finch.

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