2005-3 Universal design of interactives for museum exhibitions

Sunday, May 1, 2005
Resource Type:
Research and Evaluation Instruments | Interview Protocol | Observation Protocol | Evaluation Reports
Environment Type: 
Exhibitions, Museum and Science Center Exhibits
Adults | General Public | Museum/ISE Professionals | Evaluators
Education and learning science | Engineering | General STEM | Mathematics | Technology
Access and Inclusion: 
People with Disabilities
Museum of Science, Boston, Museum of Science

Museums are places where visitors of all abilities and disabilities are invited to learn. This diversity offers a unique challenge how can museums ensure that everyone can benefit from the learning experience? Universal design, which is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design (Center for Universal Design, 2002), puts forward a potential solution. This paper offers an overview of universal design, including its practice in the museum, formal education, and digital media fields, and more specifically, its application at the Museum of Science, Boston. It then presents results of a research study examining how 16 users of a broad range of abilities and disabilities use interactives designed to be accessible for persons with disabilities. Study findings yield insights on how individuals with disabilities interact with computer interactives and illustrate that design is not benign and can either support and enable, or detract and disable, an individual's ability to learn. In addition, study findings demonstrate that certain design features support learning for a broad range of users and that features implemented to provide access for one audience can lead to improved experiences for another. However, results also suggest that experiences that are usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible are not always better for all. The appendix includes the observation protocols and interview protocols used in the study.

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Team Members

Christine ReichChristine ReichEvaluator

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