Two years ago, staff at the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites set out to do something few museums had done before: find a way to make a museum accessible and welcoming to people who are visually impaired or blind. But, when a visit to most museums includes seeing objects, reading information and navigating indoors and out, how can that be done?
The answer was found in technology. Specifically, an app. On Sept. 19, the Indiana State Museum unveiled the Indiana State Museum Guide, a new app specially tailored to people who are blind or visually impaired.
As we started working on renovations to our permanent galleries, we realized that we wanted to think beyond the standard accessibility guidelines and give people who are blind or visually impaired a way to navigate the museum independently, said Leslie Lorance, new media manager at the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites.
As visitors walk through areas of the museum, an audio tour guides them to different artifacts or interactives, providing descriptive information about each stop on the tour. Specific audio instructions, tactile maps and floor guides create guideposts which make it easier for visitors to navigate the museum.
Greg Meyer, a member of the Indiana ADA Steering Committee, is visually impaired himself, and he participated in a focus group to help develop the app. He said the app is good not only for the visually impaired, but also for the greater Indianapolis community – particularly older folks or children who may not be able to read yet.
“The app is great for anybody who wants to listen instead of having to try and read things,” he said. “I see this app as being a valuable tool for all of us, however we want to use it.”
Right now, the app features tours of the museum’s two newest galleries – Frozen Reign and First Nations – as well as three of the museum’s cultural galleries. More tours will be added to the app as the permanent experiences undergo renovations over the next several years.
Creation of the app not only underscores the museum system’s commitment to inclusion, but also specifically to creating one-of-a-kind experiences that can be enjoyed by diverse audiences.
“We are always looking to provide the best possible experience for all of our visitors,” said Cathy Ferree, president and CEO of the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites. “The museum saw a need for this in our community, and we are thrilled to be at the forefront in this area.”
The app is available for iPhone and Android. The museum also has iPods available that are pre-loaded with the app for free rental during a visit.
The Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites is located in White River State Park in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. It is Indiana’s museum for science, art and culture, offering a place where you can celebrate, investigate, remember, learn and take pride in Indiana’s story in the context of the broader world. Even the building is a showcase of the best Indiana has to offer in architecture, materials and sculpture. Easy and convenient parking is available in the attached underground garage.
For more information, contact Hannah Kiefer, Director of Communication
Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites
Email Hannah Kiefer – firstname.lastname@example.org