I visited a small museum in a small town. There is lots of parking for this facility: street parking in the front, street parking on the side and a parking lot in back. There is only one accessible parking space and that is in the lot. While museum officials recently added street parking on the side, they never considered including some accessible spots or any curb cuts.
If you want to enter the museum from the front and cannot climb the very high steps museum officials have provided a very nice ramp. The ramp gets you in the front door and allows you to visit one room of exhibits and the gift shop. To get to the back of the museum where one of the most interesting permanent exhibits is located or to visit the various temporary exhibits one must walk down several steps. Sorry, there is no ramp.
If you can’t walk down and then back up the steps you must exit the museum via the ramp and re-enter from the back parking lot. That requires a long trip across the front of the building, around the side and then across the back. For many people it would be exhausting.
The so-called accessible entrance requires a trip across a bumpy courtyard made of uneven slate stones. This could be a tough trek in a wheelchair or with a walker.
The museum boasts accessible restrooms. But the accessible stall doors open inward. That makes it tough for person using a wheelchair to get in and out. The faucets would be difficult for a wheelchair user to reach across the counter. And if you get too close with the hot water on, ouch! The pipes under the sink are not wrapped to prevent you from getting burned.
I could go on about the real accessibility of the exhibits for people of small stature or people who are blind or who have low vision. I could discuss how people who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing are included or not included. I could talk about the way the museum is prepared to interact with people who have any number of disabilities, but I’ll stop here.
So, what went wrong here? I’ll guess it is a case of a good hearted group of people who had the best of intentions but failed to find an expert to help them. They were conscious of a small budget. They thought they understood accessibility and inclusion but, and I’m guessing again, since none of them has a disability, they guessed only partly right.
I have seen this scenario played out time and time again. Accessibility is more than a ramp. Inclusion is more than posting the sign with the little wheelchair guy. To do it right a company or a non-profit must to consider the needs of a very large and very disparate group of people. It isn’t easy to do.
And that is why it might be best to bring in an expert.