July 2020

Working together to advance accessibility 

Logo image for the ADA 30 Years Americans with Disabilities Act celebration
Credit: ADA National Network (

Over the past year, MER and Taylor & Francis, the publisher of the Journal of Museum Education (JME) and a number of other journals from the heritage sector, have worked to make our organizations, products, and services more accessible for people with disabilities.  Our shared product, the JME, has served as a catalyst for us to collaborate on these efforts. 

JME is one of the earliest adopters of alt-text at Taylor & Francis and will soon feature the new EPUB eReader functionality – making JME a pioneer in accessibility within Taylor & Francis journals.  These functionalities facilitate reading JME on different devices, using a personal screen reader, easy navigation through articles online, and legibility of image content. MER has also contributed to Taylor & Francis’s author and editor guidelines on alt-text. Collaborating with MER to utilize their expert knowledge on accessibility issues has helped to realize our joint goal of creating a more accessible JME.

Additionally, each year MER and Taylor & Francis Group work together to publish a Virtual Special Issue of the JME.  The VSI is an online publication that provides a free-access, thematic look across the archive of past print issues of the JME. This year we are proud to jointly present our first 2-part VSI on the theme of Museum Accessibility as the United States commemorates the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, available here: The Arc of Accessibility Work in Museum Education.

In addition to our partnership for JME, each organization has embarked on further accessibility efforts unique to their missions and services.

Museum Education Roundtable

MER is committed to the core values of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility. We believe that as an organization, we have a professional responsibility to address the intersecting histories of oppression and resistance that shape hierarchies of privilege and power related to race, gender identity, class, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, ability and national origin and their role in museum education. As an organization with education at its core, we have committed to increasing the accessibility of the various platforms we use. In addition to our work with Taylor & Francis to increase the accessibility of the JME, we have:

  • added image descriptions to our social media posts;
  • used our platforms to raise awareness about inequities, and to shine a light on museums and museum workers working for justice;
  • committed budget to providing ASL interpretation at our annual forum (a professional learning workshop for museum educators).

We also know that the outward accessibility of our products and services are only half the story.  Diverse representation on our Board of Directors matters. We’ve taken the following steps to increase the diversity and inclusion of our Board:

  • we have moved from an audio only conference line to audio and video Zoom platform for our meetings. While this may seem like a small step, we recognize that a video-based platform allows for more accommodation of different learning and processing needs;
  • when selecting new board members, consideration is given to applicants’ approaches to accessibility as well as equity and inclusion more broadly;
  • we actively audit the power and privilege that is present on our board and we prioritize the recruitment of a more diverse candidates, including individuals with disabilities.

Taylor & Francis Group

Our aim at Taylor & Francis is to make research accessible to as many people as possible, including the 15% of the world’s population with a recognized disability.

Taylor & Francis has recently taken major steps towards achieving level AA of the  Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 and Section 508 Standards of the U.S. Rehabilitation Act for our online journals platform, Taylor & Francis Online, which hosts MER’s Journal of Museum Education. These developments have been implemented in line with the Four Principles of Accessibility put forward by WCAG 2.1: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, Robust.

Recent developments include:

  • improvements to Taylor & Francis Online to ensure that it works seamlessly on the most commonly used screen readers;
  • adding a customizable text-to-speech Readspeaker function on all journals, which includes adjustable font sizes and reading speed.  It also allows the translation of the full article into other languages, making published research available to readers across the globe;
  • options for screen resizing for use on mobile devices;
  • updates to page layouts to ensure that they are navigable via the keyboard, without the need to use a mouse, and pages have a “go to top” link to make it easier to navigate through the site;
  • consistent navigation linked across pages to make it easy to understand the layout of the entire website;
  • live online content delivered in EPUB format through our eReader;
  • options for authors to include alt-text in their articles. Alt-text is also consistently used on all non-text elements of the Taylor & Francis website.

Please see Taylor & Francis’s Accessibility Statement for a full list of features and mission statement. 

Meaningful and sustainable change towards a more inclusive museum field cannot happen without finding allies that will help expand your sphere of influence. The Museum Education Roundtable is thankful to work with a publisher and stakeholder in the heritage sector that recognizes the work that must still be done. Together, we will continue to break down barriers. 

Banner image with text. Text reads "The Arc of Accessibility work in Museum Education How accessibility research has shaped the museums of today". The image is laid over a close up photo of a hand holding the wheel of a wheelchair.

Abigail Diaz (she/her) has worked at thirteen cultural institutions across four states. Past professional experiences includes the Museum of Science and Industry, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary (NOAA), the Michigan Science Center, Chicago Public Library and James Madison’s Montpelier. In her current role as Director of Education & Public Programs at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, she creates physically, cognitively and socially engaging educational experiences for all learners. She is a certified ADA Coordinator and was the Kennedy Center’s Emerging Leader in Accessibility in 2018. Abbie believes museums are for everyone and works every day to make that a reality. She is also on the Museum Education Roundtable’s Board of Directors. 

Jessica Homan is Museum Studies & Australian and New Zealand Portfolio Marketing Executive at Taylor & Francis Group. Since starting as a Marketing Coordinator in July 2019, Jessica has quickly rose through the ranks to Marketing Executive for the Museum Studies Portfolio and for the Australian and New Zealand based journals across subjects. She works together with our partnering societies and institutions to maximize the exposure of their content to relevant researchers. She particularly enjoys collaborating with our partners to create thought leadership content and opportunities, helping to position our partners as Key Opinion Leaders in the field.

Emma Lockwood is the Heritage, Museum Studies & Archaeology Portfolio Manager at Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group. Since starting as an Editorial Assistant in April 2016, Emma has progressed her career at Routledge, Taylor & Francis and moved to the role of Portfolio Manager in the wider Heritage team. Emma manages a list of Museum Studies, Archaeology and Heritage journals, which contain a number of prestigious society and professional organization publications. She enjoys working closely with learned publishing partners to support their organization’s aims and develop their academic journal.

Sarah Sims is the Director of Visitor Engagement and Accessibility at the Missouri Historical Society where she works with a team to ensure a welcoming, meaningful and equitable experience for all the Museum’s visitors. Her areas of interest are museum literacy, visitor motivations, the connection between empathy and the museum experience, and making museums physically, intellectually, and culturally accessible to all visitors. Prior to her current role, Sarah held positions in K-12 Education at the Missouri Historical Society and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. She also currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Museum Education Roundtable, the group the publishes the Journal of Museum Education. Sarah holds a B.A. in Art History from the University of Kansas and an M.A. in Museum Studies and Art History from Case Western Reserve University.