Inclusion is more than a buzzword; it embodies the broader impetus to create an open and equal forum for people of different cultures, backgrounds, or abilities. Inclusion takes accessibility one step further, from an open door to an invitation.
Art Beyond Sight, an organization “dedicated to making the visual arts play a vital role in the lives of people who are blind and visually impaired,” redefines the responsibility of institutions toward individuals with disabilities. Rather than a diagnosis, a medical ‘problem’ that limits and defines a person, Art Beyond Sight sees disability as “a social and environmental issue that deals with accessibility, accommodations, and equity.” This new paradigm puts the onus on institutions to adapt and accommodate people of different abilities.
The issue of physical access has largely been solved; most museums today provide accessible bathrooms, entrances, lifts, and parking. However, many museums stop at physical accessibility. In order to be inclusive, museums need to add another layer of accommodations, and consider exhibition layout, content, and programming. By offering staff training and including individuals with disabilities in exhibit development, museums could foster a deeper understanding of this diverse population and begin to make simple, foundational changes to create a more welcoming atmosphere.
Individuals with disabilities constitute an underutilized community resource that could enrich the cultural discourse in museums. By not only opening the door, but also extending an invitation through accommodations, universal design, and inclusive learning environments, museums can grow to embrace a more diverse audience.