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Accessible PracticesBest PracticesAccess Guides

Providing information that helps visitors with disabilities enjoy their visits to your museum can boost museum attendance and let the community know that your museum is open to everyone.

Two access guides, each about the size of 1/3 a sheet of paper. The one for the Paper Mill Playhouse is a stapled booklet, while that of the Kennedy Space Center is a tri-fold brochure.

Access guides can be as elaborate as a glossy, four-color brochure, or as simple as a folded page. Often the cover will feature some of the icons associated with access.

Although access guides vary in size and format, they are similar in content. Most include general information about the museum and services and programs offered for persons with disabilities. The following information, Ten Tips for Developing an Access Guide, contains links to examples of wording used in access guides from science museums, art museums, historic sites, a zoo, an aquarium, and a theater. At the end of the page, there is contact information for museums and science centers that produce online and printed access guides.


Ten Tips for Developing an Access Guide

  1. An access guide must address all areas of the museum.
    Access encompasses all areas of the museum. Start by talking with staff from all departments to find out about their current programs and services. Based on this informal survey, identify a small working group to plan the guide. Project members might include staff from facilities management, visitor services, exhibits, programs, marketing, and administration. To ensure that visitors' perspectives are not overlooked, identify and talk informally with people with disabilities. For more information, see Access Advisors.

  2. An access guide must be accurate.
    There is no such thing as an "almost accessible" bathroom or elevator. Conduct an access survey of your institution by using a checklist or inventory and bringing the museum staff and people with disabilities together to identify what's accessible and what's not. For more information, see Access Survey.

  3. An access guide must be easy to read and available in alternate formats.
    Select type faces, sizes, and colors with care. For more information, see Print Materials.

    For symbols that can be used to highlight access services, see the web site of the Disability Access Symbol Project ( The Disability Access Symbol Project is a joint project of the Graphic Artists Guild Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

    If you put your guide online, be sure to test it and the other parts of your web site for accessibility. For more information, see Web Page Design.

  4. An access guide should provide visitors with general information.
    General information refers to fees, hours, web site address, and telephone numbers to call for more information. You will also want to include information about accessible rest rooms, water fountains, eating areas, and TTYs. For examples, see Access Guide Excerpts.

  5. An access guide should advise visitors on the best ways of getting to the museum.
    Visitors with mobility and visual impairments need to know which public transportation to take, where accessible parking is located, and which entrances are accessible. For examples, see Access Guide Excerpts.

  6. An access guide provides information that makes getting around possible.
    If the site is on several levels or, like many zoos and botanical gardens, covers many acres, you will want to provide information about accessible routes. Routes can be shown on a map or described in text. For examples, see Access Guide Excerpts.

    Tri-leaf access guide for Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex describes accessible features for visitors with hearing or vision impairments.

  7. An access guide describes services for visitors with disabilities.
    Services may include a long list of offerings, including sign language interpretation, scripts, audio tours, and a tactile map. For examples, see Access Guide Excerpts.

  8. An access guide describes programs offered for visitors with disabilities.
    Programs offered for specific audiences (e.g., people who are blind or have visual impairments) include sensory seminars, special events, and early openings, to name just a few. For examples, see Access Guide Excerpts.

  9. An access guide should be easy to obtain.
    Develop a plan for distributing copies of your guide inside and outside the museum. High-visibility locations, such as the information desk and/or ticketing areas, may be best. Check to be sure guides can be reached by persons using wheelchairs. Museum departments that take group reservations and have contact with school and community groups will also need copies of the guide. In addition, you may want to advertise the guide in your newsletter, on your web site, and in your brochures.

  10. An access guide is helpful only if staff know about and use it.
    Be sure to submit a draft of the guide to the director and circulate it among the staff for feedback. Go over the final guide with front line staff and answer any questions they may have. Keep staff updated about any changes in the guide or its availability.


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Links and Publications Related to Access Guides

Behind the Scenes
Nicole Michaud, Access Programs Coordinator: Tips for Creating an Access Guide

Access Expressed! Massachusetts: A Cultural Resource Directory
This directory gives detailed information about access features of cultural facilities, including science museums, in Massachusetts and other states. This guide is also available in print form. To order an individual copy, contact ARTS/Boston at 617/423-2131. For bulk orders, contact Very Special Arts Massachusetts at 617/350-7713 or TTY 617/350-6836.

Clarksville Montgomery County Museum, Clarksville, Tennessee
Museum Access Information for Visitors with Disabilities describes the access features of facilities, tours, and programs. This guide is in large print and includes contact information in Braille on the front cover. To receive a copy, contact the Director of Accessibility and Awareness, 931/648-5780 or TTY 931/553-5101.

A space shuttle blasts off into a crystal blue sky on the access guide for the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Florida
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex has both an on-line and a printed access guide describing accessibility of the site and services provided for visitors with disabilities. To receive a copy of Accessibility Information for Guests with Disabilities, contact 321/452-2121 or TTY 321/454-4198.


A black and white photo on the cover of the red access guide for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, shows a woman touching the nose of a large feline sculpture.Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has Museum Access, a guide for visitors with disabilities, which describes facilities and programs. The front cover has text, access symbols, and Braille. To receive a copy, contact the department of education and public programs at 617/369-3302; TTY 617/267-9703; fax 617/267-9328, e-mail


Museum of Science, Boston, Massachusetts
Museum of Science, Boston, includes its online access guide in its visitor services section. The Museum of Science has an Access Guide in print that addresses the full range of access issues from transportation to facilities to programs. To receive a copy, contact the access coordinator at 617/589-0419 or TTY 617/589-0417.

National Aquarium, Baltimore, Maryland
The National Aquarium's web site describes access for its facilities, programs, and services. The access guide web page has a design that accommodates people who use screen readers to browse the Internet.

Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge, Massachusetts
Old Sturbridge Village has a multipage access guide that highlights physical access to each building, as well as services. To receive a print copy, contact the access coordinator at 508/347-3362, x282 or TTY 508/347-5383.

Immersed in a pale blue border on the left of the Paper Mill Playhouse access guide are 8 symbols indicating access services provided for patrons.Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn, New Jersey
Theater for Everyone: An Informational Guide to AccessAbility Services is a large print brochure with access symbols and photographs that highlights facilities, services, and programs. To receive a copy, contact 973/379-3636 or TTY 973/376-2181.

Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Smithsonian Access, a 48-page guide, details the accessibility of parking, entrances, facilities, and services in all 16 museums and the National Zoo. To receive a copy, write to the Smithsonian Information Center, SI Building 153, Washington, DC 20560-0010, or call 202/357-2700 or TTY 202/357-1729.


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.

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