Including Visitors who are d/Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Implications for the Museum of Science Research Summary Report

Friday, January 30, 2015
Resource Type:
Evaluation Reports
Environment Type: 
Public Programs, Museum and Science Center Programs, Exhibitions, Museum and Science Center Exhibits
Families | General Public | Educators/Teachers | Museum/ISE Professionals | Evaluators
Education and learning science | General STEM
Access and Inclusion: 
People with Disabilities
Museum of Science, Boston

Funded by the National Science Foundation, The Handheld Science and Math Dictionaries for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Museum Visitors Research Project (DRL-1008546; Signing Science) is a collaboration between the Museum of Science (MOS) and TERC, which studies how visitors who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing (DHH) integrate iPod Touch versions of the Signing Science Pictionary, Signing Science Dictionary, and Signing Math Dictionary into their museum visit. Through this project, TERC has studied the integration of these dictionaries into museum visits of both school groups and family groups. To complement this work, the MOS designed and implemented four sub-studies which investigated the Museum experience of visitors who are DHH who were not provided with the dictionaries during their visit. The purpose of this report is to summarize, for the MOS, what the four sub-studies can tell us about the effectiveness of the MOS accessibility accommodations, exhibitions, and programs for visitors who are DHH and their group members. Therefore, this report compiles findings from all four sub-studies that relate to these topics. A summary of findings and potential implications include: Accessibility Accommodations at the Museum - The Museum should not assume that visitors who are DHH will be aware of accessibility accommodations prior to arriving that the Museum. While visitors who are DHH might have prior experience with assistive listening technologies or certain expectations of the Museum, they might or might not have looked at the website or called the Museum before visiting. Because study participants who are DHH mentioned the value of assistive listening systems or ASL interpretation for shows or live presentations in particular, it is important to provide information about the assistive listening system near the theater or stage areas. Furthermore, if ASL interpretation is offered without a visitor request, having it available for interactions with staff members, such as live presentations or for general inquiries, could be especially helpful. Museum Exhibitions - When navigating the Museum, visitors who are DHH were drawn to visual experiences and often made decisions based on proximity or attractive signage. However, the Museum should not shy away from hearing-related content as some visitors also recognized learning from hearing-related components which were visually accessible and tactile. While audio phones in the Museum provide an auditory version of written text, the presence of these speakers made some visitors who are DHH feel like they were missing part of the intended content. Finally, exhibit designs that are multisensory or place the exhibit label within reach enabled communication in visitor groups comprised of individuals with a range of hearing. These designs, while useful for any group, are especially valuable for visitors who are DHH and greatly rely on being within eyesight of their group members. Museum Programs - Visitors, both hearing and DHH, who attended live presentations with ASL interpretation or a few interpreted terms report that these elements either did not impact or added to their experience. Furthermore, a few people who use ASL visited the Museum specifically because of the ASL-interpreted shows provided through Sign Language Saturdays indicating that providing interpretation could be a draw for a small audience. While ASL interpretation was preferred by individuals who use ASL, several mentioned that open captioning could be a nice alternative. Finally, programs that applied the principles of universal design, such as providing physical and sensory access and multiple methods of explaining concepts, led to more positive visitor experiences than programs that did not use these principles.

Funding Program: 
Funding Amount: 

Team Members

Juli GossJuli GossAuthor
Stephanie IacovelliStephanie IacovelliAuthor
Christine ReichChristine ReichCo-Principal Investigator

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