Accessible Practices Exchange
Association of
Science Technology Centers
Share Your ExperienceRead Others ExperiencesTopics
The Accessible Gift Shop Advantage

Shopper in wheelchair in wide aisle.Our museum and gift shop put a high priority on making the visitor experience high quality. Our 48-inch wide aisles generally allow all visitors to easily view our products and not feel confined. Our gift shop, and the facility as a whole, was constructed within the last five years, and we pay close attention to accessibility issues. We hosted two accessibility sessions funded by NSF as part of an ASTC project where we had an opportunity to get together with our colleagues and discuss best practices in accessible visitor services and exhibits. We are always striving to make it known to all patrons with disabilities and their constituencies that our space--including our gift shop--is a comfortable, easy-to-navigate space. We rely a lot on word of mouth and specialized publications for advertising to people who have disabilities. J, Minnesota

If items are displayed behind the counter I can't see what's there, and it may not occur to me that the gift shop even carries those items. Consequently, I may have to ask a lot of detailed questions. For example, if film or batteries are kept behind the counter, I'll need to know what brand, what type, how many in a given package, and the cost of each of these options. If there are only a few things behind the counter, keeping a large print list of what's available may be helpful to customers like myself who are blind.     
When I'm paying, it helps if the cashier doesn't assume I can see the total on the cash register display. Announcing the total would make things easier for me and probably for everyone. And of course, a cashier should always hand my change back to me, and not to my companion. R, Boston

When I visit a gift shop, it helps when the sales associate is making eye contact with me and speaking clearly. Having patience is a good virtue when working at a gift shop, because I may not hear the person the first time due to background noises. Also, it helps when I can see the cash register amount, so then I can give her or him the correct money. Visual cues help if I am requesting an item and signs are important when looking for an item. L, Missouri

One of the things we discovered after we initially opened our remodeled store was that the new lighting around the perimeter of the floor used to highlight products was too hot to the touch and created a tripping hazard. We soon removed it.
    Many customers with disabilities are with friends or family; but if they are not, we don't hover, but we keep an eye out in case they need some additional help. For example, we can offer to take merchandise and hold it for them.
    A tip is that if your store doesn't yet have a lower counter at checkout, a clipboard can be offered for signing a charge receipt or filling out other sorts of information.
It is a good idea to periodically check your store and make sure nothing has been moved and everything is still as accessible as you can make it. D, Pittsburgh

Photo from ADA Guide for Small Businesses showing adult shopper in wheelchair with two children.Museum gift shops are exciting places with interesting, unique merchandise. I want to go in and look around, but often times these shops are small and crowded with merchandise. It is difficult for me to get around (of course, this is true of department stores as we near the holiday season).
    I realize that all merchandise cannot be within my reach, but if I go into the store alone it is difficult to get help because there is often limited staff to assist me.
    I try to time my visit to a gift shop when less people are visiting. If I buy something before I plan to exit the museum, I often ask the sales person to hold the item behind the counter for me, as it's difficult to maneuver through a museum in a wheelchair and even more difficult carrying a gift bag. M, Ohio

There are many artists with disabilities who may be producing items just right for science center and museum gift shops. A place to find them will be in a new directory published on the VSA arts web pages (
M, Washington, DC

Blue Line

Association of
Science Technology Centers Logo

Copyright 2006 by the Association of Science Technology Centers Incorporated. All rights reserved.