Virtual visits, tours, and digital collections include 3D tours of physical spaces; 360-degree media experiences that pull together video, photos, and sound; digitizing collections and other museum assets; and other approaches to providing audiences a look inside an exhibit, indoor facilities, or outdoor grounds. This type of programming offers a unique opportunity for youth and adults who may not be able to visit museums in person due to mobility disabilities or behavioral issues.
Creating these assets is likely to involve collaboration between multiple departments and the purchase of software. Ashley Grady from Access Smithsonian encourages museums to write specific requirements in Requests for Proposals and contracts with vendors. To ensure you ask the right questions of a potential vendor for accessibility, review How to Determine If a Company Knows About Digital Accessibility.
As with online programming, it is critical to have multiple ways for users to contact your organization if they encounter any accessibility issues.
Auditory disabilities guidelines
Follow these guidelines to ensure virtual visits, tours, and digital collections are accessible to those with auditory disabilities.
- Provide accurate, synchronized captions or on-screen text for videos.
- Provide a sign language interpreter for videos.
- Provide a script of the tour.
Visual disabilities guidelines
Follow these guidelines to ensure virtual visits, tours, and digital collections are accessible to those with visual disabilities:
- Ask developers to add text-to-speech (TTS) capabilities.
- Provide audio-based options for visual interfaces.
- Provide visual descriptions and alt text.
- Use metadata to make content findable. For more information, refer to Digitizing Collections: Metadata.
- Allow users to magnify or reduce the size of objects and text.
- Allow users to change the foreground or background colors of text.
- Allow users to change the brightness levels in the digital asset.
- Provide shapes, symbols, or textures with color-coded information.
Cognitive disabilities guidelines
Follow these guidelines to ensure virtual visits, tours, and digital collections are accessible to those with neurodiversity and cognitive disabilities:
- Allow users to change the speed of the program.
- Present information in smaller chunks to prevent overload.
- Use plain language in all content.
- Allow users to change settings such as brightness and background audio.
Mobility disabilities guidelines
Follow these guidelines to ensure virtual visits, tours, and digital collections are accessible to those with mobility disabilities:
- Allow the use of alternate or separate controllers or sensors for digital collections.
- Allow users to remap controls on controllers, sensors, or keyboards for digital collections.
- Allow users to engage on their device in a seated, reclining, stationary, or standing position.
Learn more about accessibility for virtual visits and collections
Read: How to Make Accessible Virtual Tours for Your Museum or Heritage Site: Comparing 3D Scanning Technologies explores the differences of virtual tours, 3D scanning, and photogrammetry and their accessibility. For more on the topic, refer to How Virtual Tours are a Tool for Accessibility for Your Spaces
Watch: Accessibly (Re)Creating the Past explores how to (re)create the past in accessible ways using extended reality (XR) technologies.
Read: Inclusive XR and Hybrid Work Toolkit discusses how accessible extended reality (XR) tools can be used to make hybrid workplaces inclusive. Exhibits teams will want to check out Section 4 that lists Questions to Ask Hardware and Software Vendors.
Find additional resources on virtual visits, tours, and digital collections here.