Starting Sept. 19, the Indiana State Museum has a new app that will help provide access to the museum for a unique demographic: People who are blind or visually impaired.
While most visits to a museum consist of looking at objects and reading labels, staff at the museum have been working for two years on bridging the gap for people who cannot see well or at all.
“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.
The app in essence provides an audio tour, but it also goes beyond that. While listening to the app gives you a good description of the displays and shares information about the objects, it also provides detailed instructions that tell a listener how to get from one area to another, objects to step around so as not to trip, and other useful measures.
In addition to the audio app, the museum galleries now feature tactile floor markers, which visitors can use as guideposts as they move from stop to stop. Tactile maps also demonstrate the layout of each experience, and bronze sculptures or other touchables allow visitors to explore the museum in a new way.
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 individuals or children.
“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.”
The Indiana State Museum Guide app is available for download on personal smartphones, and the museum also has iPods pre-loaded with the app available for free rental during a visit.
“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.”