I'd go to museums more often if I knew what was there.
Parent of a child with a disability
What good is being accessible if no one out there knows how welcoming and accommodating your institution is? One of the crucial steps in increasing accessibility is appropriate marketing. This page discusses how to successfully advertise your institution's accessibility and market your institution
in the disability community.
What to Know Before Advertising Accessibility
The goal of accessibility advertising is to provide guests with information that helps them to better plan their visits to your institution. Using a checklist can facilitate the process of assessing what is accessible and what is not.
Our Access Survey. page addresses how to conduct an accessibility
survey and suggests checklists we have found helpful.
The following is a list of areas you should examine to inform your advertising.
- Facilities: rest rooms, stairs, parking, gift shop, food court, telephones, elevators, ramps, entrances
- Public transportation: accessibility of buses, subway, taxis
- Services: audio tours, assistive listening devices, sign language interpretation, scripts for movies or shows, captioning
- Programs: tours for specific audiences, special events, early openings
- Publications: brochures, exhibition guides, web site, newsletter
How to Build a Network for Marketing Accessibility
Don't assume that your usual venues for marketing will reach people with disabilities. Find out how people with disabilities in your area obtain information about your institution and others like it. Ask staff members in other departments about their connections with the disability community and use that network to notify the community and invite them to visit. An access coordinator or access advisory team can be very helpful in suggesting possible links to your local disability community. Consider contacting parent groups, special education departments in schools, and senior citizen and disability organizations.
Parents of children with disabilities have told us that they take their children to exhibits recommended by other parents, special education teachers, or disability organizations. As one parent said, "The recommendation of other parents is very important because they understand our unique needs."
What Accessibility Marketing Looks Like
A first step to advertising your science center's accessibility is using the appropriate symbols. Accessibility symbols can be downloaded from the web through the Graphic Artists' Guild (http://www.gag.org/resources/das.php). Language accompanying these symbols should focus on the accommodation or service, not on the targeted user. For example, "Ramped Entrance" is preferable to "Handicapped Entrance" because people with strollers or luggage may use a ramp in addition to people who use wheelchairs.
The use of the International Symbol for Accessibility (left) in your publications and advertising unequivocally states that your institution is accessible to persons with disabilities.
Be sure to include information on accessible parking and directions from public transportation. Visitors with disabilities must know how to get to your museum before they can enjoy how accessible it is.
Use appropriate language in your advertising. When describing accessibility services, such as captioning, assistive listening devices, audio description, and sign language interpretation, use language that is simple and clear. Provide information and a time frame for requesting these services.
Make printed materials available in alternate formats such as large print, Braille, audio cassette, and computer disk. In standard print materials, state that the information is available in alternate formats. Make sure that this statement is itself accessible. For example, a person who needs a large print version of printed materials would be unable to read a statement saying such a thing is available if that statement is in 10 point font.
When providing phone numbers for more information, be sure to include the number for your institution's TTY telecommunication device for the deaf. If your science center does not have a TTY, provide the phone number for a relay service. Including this information informs members of the deaf community that they are welcome at your institution.
Many children with disabilities move slowly or tire easily. Parents of these children say they welcome family passes because they allow them to make short and focused repeat visits at no additional expense. Some parents also suggest providing special days or hours when people who need more time and less crowded conditions can explore the museum. Be careful, however, not to overemphasize the accessibility issue and make disabled people feel singled out or make others feel that the event is only "for disabled people."
Though all print materials should announce your intention to make your institution and its programs accessible to all people, many institutions also create a separate accessibility guide. This can be a printed brochure or a section on your web site. ASTC's page on access guides provides advice on how to put together such a document, plus examples of access guides at various museums.
Distribute information about accessibility as widely as possible. Encourage staff to mention accessibility in interviews or at meetings. Ask staff members to distribute materials in the mail. Departments that take group reservations and have contact with school and community groups should have copies of materials describing the museum's accessibility. Include accessibility information in your museum's recorded telephone greeting.
The following examples show how museums market accessibility in their publications.
The [science education center] seeks to make all its activities accessible to people with disabilities. Patrons with disabilities are invited to call before registering for programs, to inquire about the accessibility of the presentations and locations. For information, or to request accessibility assistance, please call ___[include days and hours for calls].
Orientation program is presented daily in the Visitor Center Theater. A personal receiver for the assistive listening system can be picked up at the ticket desk.
Wheelchairs are available from checkrooms and can be accommodated in all exhibition and performance areas, as well as in rest rooms on the second floor and lower level. The auditorium is equipped with a loop-amplification system for hearing impaired persons. Handicapped parking is available near the entrance and amplified pay telephones are located near the entrance. Sign language and oral interpreters for public programs (available upon one week's advanced request) may also be arranged. Call ___(voice) or ___ (TTY), Monday through Friday. For further information on other services for disabled visitors, call ___
Guided Tours are provided for our guests who are blind or who have low vision. Advanced reservations are recommended by calling ___ (voice) or ___ (TTY).
[Science education center] is accessible to patrons who are blind or have low vision. This brochure is in both Braille and large print format. We also will provide an audio cassette format of this brochure upon request. Please call our accessibility office at ___.
Please contact ___ for more information or to request accessibility services.
A public TTY is located at the Information Center.
What Happens When You Advertise Accessibility
Once you have begun marketing your science center's accessibility, staff must be ready to respond to guests' questions or requests. Update all staff regularly on what is available and how to get it. Keep information about accessibility features and services at the front desk or in other highly visible areas.
Your staff may become very excited about designing and implementing special programs and then disappointed when few people appear to take advantage of them. Do not lose heart. It takes time to build a new audience for any cultural institution. Investigate possible causes for the low response rate and keep trying. Your hard work will pay off as your science center welcomes increasing numbers of visitors with disabilities.
Links Related to Marketing
Behind the Scenes
Julie Johnson, Director of Education: Planning for All Visitors
Graphic Artists' Guild
This site provides 12 downloadable accessibility symbols. Symbols include the International Symbol for Accessibility, closed captioning, assistive listening systems, TTY, large print, telephones with volume control. A text file explains what each symbol represents.
This web site is not intended to offer legal, architectural, engineering, or similar professional advice. Refer specific questions to an attorney or an ADA authority.