2020 VIRTUAL SPECIAL ISSUE
Compiled by Abigail Diaz and Sarah Sims
It was just 30 years ago that the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed on July 26, 1990. This monumental civil rights legislation made discrimination against people with disabilities illegal and helped move the US towards a more inclusive future. The Museum Education Roundtable has compiled a two-part Virtual Special Issue that illustrated the arc of accessibility work in museum education. We hope this VSI will help practitioners understand how far we’ve come but also inspire us all to continue to break down barriers to make museums truly places for all people.
Part I consists of 13 articles that date to the days before the ADA was passed. These articles chronicle museums’ responses to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a precursor to the ADA. Highlighted articles discuss programs, accommodations, marketing, physical accessibility and staff training.
It’s important to note that one of the most tangible changes over the years is the language we use surrounding disability. These early articles include language about and attitudes towards disability that are no longer considered appropriate. While offensive to many of us today, we cannot ignore past wrongs if we hope to continue progressing.
Some articles appear in the former iteration of the Journal of Museum Education, called Roundtable Reports. Most entries in the Roundtable Reports were not peer reviewed or cited like JME articles today, and some of them were more akin to a newsletter than a scholarly article. Nonetheless they provide an important historiography of museum accessibility.
Part 2 includes 15 articles that date from 1993–2018 after the passing of the ADA. Many of the topics that were addressed in Part 1 reappear in Part 2. What is noticeably different is language: both in its empathy and appropriateness as well as in its specificity. For example, while some articles before the ADA reference general challenges older adults may face or barriers for children with developmental disabilities, after the ADA we see the emergence of articles that more specifically name Alzheimer’s, dementia, the Autism Spectrum, and Sensory Processing Disorders. We also see more writing about cognitive disabilities generally. Not surprisingly, in Part 2 we also see a call out to website accessibility and more inclusion of data and evaluation.
We also invite you to visit MER’s blog, where we’ll be publishing more about how we’re reflecting on this VSI–stay tuned!
Research: Pre ADA.
|Museums and the Handicapped||Sue Hoth and Alan Levitt||4||1973|
|Focus on the Handicapped||R. Lynn Bondurant||3||1976|
|MER Members Discuss Programming for the Handicapped||N.A.||1||1977|
|Discovering Rehabilitation in the Emerald City||Joe Buckley||1||1978|
|Compel Them To Come In||Alice Kenney||2||1981|
|A Question of Accessibility||Janet Kamien||2||1981|
|Photography Aids Visually Impaired Museum Visitors||George A. Covington||2||1981|
|About the Hearing-Impaired Audience||H. Latham Breunig & Deborah M. Sonnenstrahl||2||1981|
|Private Museum Makes Accessibility Commitment||Susan Page Tillett||3||1981|
|Docents Experience Museum Visit as Disabled Visitors||Elizabeth Sharpe||3||1981|
|The Met and Mentally Retarded Museum-Goers||Charles Steiner||3||1981|
|Sensory Changes in Older Adults: Implications for Museums||Tamerra Moeller||4||1984|
|Why This Topic?||Susan Nichols Lehman & Janice Majewski||2||1981|