Firstly, on behalf of Antenna I want to say how honored we are to be trusted by the most prestigious sites in the world to tell their stories. And not just produce stories for "average" visitors to engage with, but stories that contribute to bringing equity at sites that are on everyone's bucket list. Our mission at Antenna is to help those see more clearly, understand more deeply, and appreciate more widely. That is not an exclusive mission, it applies to all.
One of our Digital Media Producers, Christine Murray, has a special knack for ensuring that mission is fulfilled. She has worked with multiple sites to create audio and visual experiences to connect those with disabilities to the sites on their bucket lists. Why should those who have different physical needs have to miss out? And what exactly does she mean by equity being the goal, over access?
I think Christine points out a very valuable shift in language, on how we talk about "accessibility." The word "accessibility" almost implies that accommodating those with disabilities carries a bare minimum requirement. Things like ramps, wide enough aisles, accessible bathrooms, and other standards laid out in the American Disabilities Act are covered by this vocabulary. For museums and historic sites however, I challenge that notion to say that accessibility is not enough.
Think of your "average" visitor. If they enter your building, but do not engage with anything, do you consider their visit to have been fruitful, and for you to have fulfilled your mission? Of course not! So why is that way of thinking "OK" when it comes to the disabled? Giving them access to the physical space of a building is not enough. Afterall, a museum is not just a building; it is a space to engage, enlighten, intrigue, and provoke creativity and curiosity. Engaging disabled visitors to the same degree as you do other visitors is key. It is easy to get creative and use tools available if you know who to go to, and where to look for help. Sign Language video tours, hands-on experiences, vivid aural descriptions, and beacons are all great ways to elevate the experience of the disabled.
All of the technologists mentioned in this article demonstrate a commitment to equitizing travel and tourism. We are grateful to be mentioned alongside others who share in this aspect of our mission. Technology is a beautiful thing. Let's use it to bring equity to museums and historic sites in order to fully engage those who need a bit extra to experience your site in a meaningful way.
For Christine Murray, “the ultimate goal as a mobile producer is to equip blind, low vision, and deaf visitors with a tool that gives them confidence, independence and a sense of freedom as they explore a museum in whatever way they choose, whenever they choose. That’s what it’s really about. Not access, but equity”.