Ryan Saglio worked as an assistant for people with disabilities for years and decided to study accessibility in cultural institutions as a graduate student. Here are her takeaways:

1. There are no perfect answers
In an ideal world, every museum would have the capacity to serve any visitor that walked through its doors, but it isn’t that easy. Especially older museums and historic sites, they were not designed with accessibility in mind. Nor do they all have the resources needed to become accessible. For some physical access is a priority. For others, its programming for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community. And finding the right starting point is hard. For example, should they install an elevator or do a digital tour of the second floor? To start the museum needs to sit down and decide what exhibit defines their institution and go from there.

2. Embrace complexity
Understand the barriers that make visitors feel unwelcome. Disability can be an umbrella term that applies to many different people. There are many types of disability, and each has different accessibility needs.

3. Accessibility is a conversation
Whenever possible, reach out to the communities you are trying to welcome. Learning to have these conversations means working towards transparency about the limitations of the institution. Bring in the outside knowledge.

4. Access is NOT a burden
Accessibility is not just a matter of ADA compliance, it involves committing to a community often forgotten and ignored. When done right, it doesn’t just allow people to feel welcome; it gives them a place and makes room in the institution for their voices. Institutions are often committed to community enrichment, so ultimately accessibility fits with their mission.


Dana Gover, MPA, and ACTCP Certification, ADA Training and Technical Assistance Coordinator 

For more information about ADA Technical Assistance visit the NW ADA Center Idaho website:
Phone: Voice and Text 208-841-9422
Idaho Relay Service: 7