Visiting the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and the National Gallery of Art today really opened my eyes to the challenges and absolute necessity of accessibility in exhibit and general building design. All of our experiences this week would have been vastly different if I had any accessibility issues in a museum that didn’t take its visitor experiences into account. Thankfully, all of the institutions we’ve visited so far have done exactly that.
I can’t imagine someone coming to these amazing institutions and being denied the complete, meaningful experience that I’ve been able to enjoy when I arrive in Washington each day. The Museum in the Morning program at the Smithsonian Institute stands out to me as an organization with programming that goes the extra mile to be a caring member of the community. Going beyond allowing families early access to the museums, they actively seek out families with that need.
I think my biggest take away from today will be that accessibility goes beyond ADA requirements. It means trying your best to provide a quality experience for everyone who walks through the door. Accessibility should be on equal footing with other needs of the budget if we mean to serve our communities and be an active member of them.
Our visit to the National Gallery of Art, while not specifically about accessibility, just reinforced the need for accessible collections. If these museums, particularly our national museums, are truly for us, then we should all get to experience Picasso, Matisse, and Warhol.