Credentials Display

Jennifer Fortuna, PhD, OTR/L; Kayleigh Thomas, OTS; Jenna Asper, OTS; Laura Matney, OTS; Kyra Chase, OTS; Stephanie Ogren, PhD; Julia VanderMolen, PhD, CHES


Background: Museums are key educational and cultural resources in the community, yet many are not accessible to visitors with disabilities. Universal design promotes products and environments usable to the greatest extent possible by all people, regardless of ability. This study explores current industry practice and perceptions of accessibility and universal design in a small sample of American museums. Suggestions for how occupational therapists can help museums go above and beyond ADA guidelines are provided.

Method: An 17-item cross-sectional survey was used to collect data. Twenty-five museum associations assisted with recruitment. A descriptive numerical summary and qualitative analysis were used to summarize the results.

Results: Sixty respondents participated in the survey. Accommodations for visitors with visual impairment and physical barriers created by historical buildings were identified as both challenges and successes by the respondents. Confusion between ADA standards and universal design was evident in several responses.

Conclusion: The most frequently reported accessibility rating was good. Staff training and community-based partnerships are important, but often overlooked practices for improving accessibility. Local agencies who serve people with disabilities are underused resources in the community. There is a potential role for occupational therapists to assist museums with staff training, recruiting people with disabilities, and establishing community partnerships. Additional research is warranted.


The authors declare that they have no competing financial, professional, or personal interest that might have influenced the performance or presentation of the work described in this manuscript.