Taking action toward inclusion: Organizational change and the inclusion of people with disabilities in museum learning
This study examined organizational change in science museums toward practices that are inclusive of people with disabilities. Guided by two overarching frameworks, organizational learning and the social model of disability, this study sought to answer the following: What are the contexts and processes that facilitate, sustain, or impede a science museum’s change toward practices that are inclusive of people with disabilities? The research orientation was a qualitative, multiple case study. The cases featured three science museums that varied in size and location, but shared a documented history of efforts to include people with disabilities. Data were collected through observations and interviews with people with disabilities, interviews with staff members, observations of museum work, and documentation. Data analysis focused on generating descriptions and interpretation of the individual cases and the collection of cases. Findings demonstrate that change toward inclusion in these three museums is an on-going process that is embedded within the work of a broad range of organizational areas. Findings also suggest actions science museums can take to facilitate change toward inclusion, including involving people with disabilities in organizational work, engaging in experimentation and reflection, promoting the idea that practices that benefit people with disabilities also improve the museum for others, and embedding information about inclusive practices into internal communication, professional development, and large projects. These actions appear to promote organizational learning and sustainment of inclusive practices by concretizing the purpose of inclusion, developing staff who serve as internal resources, providing mechanisms for on-going feedback, and raising staff awareness of the importance of inclusion.