Accessibility: Breaking New Ground

November 30th, 2012 - Posted in 2012, Dimensions by Alejandro Asin

November/December 2012

In recent decades science museums have made significant progress in meeting the needs of visitors with a range of disabilities—physical, cognitive, and behavioral. But much more remains to be done for the inclusion of people with disabilities to become the norm. In this issue, we explore what it means to be inclusive and how science museums can adopt universal design practices to make accessibility part of their institutional culture. The articles include personal perspectives from two authors with disabilities as well as guidelines, resources, and specific suggestions that any institution can use to provide a successful experience for every visitor.


Changing Practices: Inclusion of People with Disabilities in Science Museums, by Christine Reich
• An Institutional Culture of Inclusion, by Elizabeth Fleming
• Universal Design: Inclusive and Accessible Museum Experiences, by Sina Bahram
• The Adaptive Mindset: Reflections on Accessibility, by Gabrielle Trépanier
• Engaging Students with Disabilities in Accessibility Reviews, by Sheryl Burgstahler and Lyla Crawford
• From Access to Inclusion: Welcoming the Autism Community, by Paula Rais

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Changing Practices: Inclusion of People with Disabilities in Science Museums

November 30th, 2012 - Posted in 2012, Dimensions by Alejandro Asin

By Christine Reich
From Dimensions
November/December 2012

Science museums hold great promise for engaging learners of a broad range of abilities and disabilities in informal science learning. As institutions known for their interactive and self-directed activities, science museums already exhibit many of the principles of universal design for learning that foster equitable learning environments for all (see the Center for Applied Special Technology). Science museums have the ability to present information and content in a variety of ways, they can offer visitors multiple ways to express themselves, and they are designed to foster interest and curiosity. In fact, these very characteristics of science learning experiences in museums have been found to eliminate the performance differences that can exist in the classroom between students with disabilities and those without disabilities.

Science as Child’s Play

November 29th, 2012 - Posted in 2012, Dimensions, From the CEO by Anthony (Bud) Rock

Let me forewarn readers that the next few paragraphs are about science—real science, as defined by such terms as inductive reasoning, hypothesis testing, statistical analyses, and probabilistic modeling. Some people call this child’s play, and, in fact, it is precisely about child’s play that I am referring.

I was struck by an article in a recent edition of Science magazine (September 28, 2012; p. 1623) that discussed new studies concerning scientific thinking in young children. The thrust of the article is that, when even very young children think and learn, they employ intuitive processes that are directly analogous to the fundamentals of scientific inquiry. Children make detailed observations of their worlds, systematically formulating hypotheses, experimenting, analyzing, revising, and making decisions in essentially the same rigorous fashion that defines good science.

In your opinion, what should every museum be able to provide for the “ideal” museum experience?

October 29th, 2012 - Posted in 2012, Dimensions, Viewpoints by Emily Schuster

This is an extended discussion of the question that appeared in the Viewpoints department of the November/December 2012 issue of Dimensions magazine.

My ideal museum experience is memorable. It requires only one cool exhibit experience where I spend significant time, engaged in a way that taps into previous interests and expands my thinking. It makes me wonder about something and allows me to explore an idea viscerally, using my hands—even my full body. Connecting with others (family, friends, or a museum educator) around the phenomenon is important, too, as it shapes and grows my own perspective. Yet I have to own the activity, by directing next steps and reflecting on what I did and learned. Ideally, I’ve embodied a concept, had my interest piqued, and am primed to explore further. In fact, my ideal museum experience is more than memorable. I’ve come to care.

Tracey Wright, senior researcher and developer, TERC, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Q&A with Laddie and Jim Elwell

October 29th, 2012 - Posted in 2012, Dimensions, Q&A by Emily Schuster

Interviewed by Joelle Seligson

This interview appeared in the November/December 2012 issue of Dimensions magazine.

Laddie and Jim Elwell grew up in the Eastern United States with ready access to museums. When they noticed a lack of such resources near Bemidji, the small Minnesota town they now call home, the couple took action. This year Laddie and Jim are retiring as executive director and financial officer, respectively, of Headwaters Science Center (HSC), which they opened 18 years ago. They spoke with Dimensions about their grassroots effort and how ASTC has helped them along the way.

Read the full transcript, or listen to the podcast.

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