For people with disabilities, including those with vision or hearing loss, experiencing all a museum has to offer can sometimes be a challenge. But by using new technology, innovative tours and displays, along with old-fashioned great service, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) is providing an accessible museum experience that is second to none.
“Seventy percent of disabilities are hidden,” explains Christine Karcza, member of the ROM Board of Directors, “and so we wanted to be careful that we included all people with disabilities.”
Visitors to the ROM will find a variety of accommodations to help them enjoy their visit, including:
Armed with the knowledge that accessibility features have universal benefits for everyone, the ROM has come a long way to make its galleries and exhibitions accessible for all. But the journey has not been without its challenges.
The ROM faced physical barriers typical of a building constructed in 1914. So, when the ROM began planning for the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal — an addition that opened in 2007 — the organization seized the opportunity to incorporate accessibility from the outset. The ROM relied on the expertise of people with disabilities to make sure the Lee-Chin Crystal could accommodate every visitor.
“This is really important,” explains Elsie Lo, a ROM tactile tour guide, “especially for a world-class museum, to really open our arms and open our doors to all audiences.”
The Lee-Chin Crystal has a mere two per cent slope from the curb side into the first floor of the building. This allows everyone easy access, because there are no stairs or other obstacles that can make it difficult for seniors, parents with strollers or anyone else to get in or out of a building.
Visitors will find automated doors, elevators and accessible washrooms throughout the ROM’s Lee-Chin Crystal – not to mention great service. Visitors with disabilities are fast-tracked around the admissions line to sit-down stations, support persons are admitted for free, and help is never more than a question away.
While customers benefit from the ROM’s level of accessibility, the ROM benefits too by attracting visitors of all ages and abilities.
“It’s important to recognize this is not just a social issue,” explains Christine, “it's an economic issue and a tourism issue. We have the aging population, we have medical advances that indicate people are living longer with different conditions, and so it is a right for people to enjoy their lives fully and it's an economic advantage to any organization that does it.”
The Royal Ontario Museum is committed to making their organization accessible to the public. Visit their website for more information.