Many businesses are afraid of employing people with disabilities because they are unfamiliar with the ramifications and, organizations' marketing efforts and outreach towards people with disabilities are hindered by myths. Providing accommodations can sometimes mean making architectural changes like adding a ramp, changing a door knob, or widening a door. Most of the time, however, solutions are simple: providing software, changing the location of a switch, allowing your employee to have an office near the bathroom, installing a speakerphone, raising the height of a desk or file cabinet, reallocating tasks among employees,  and allowing telecommuting. Some important factors are:

  • Keep an open mind.
  • Take advantage of an individual's strengths.
  • Ask your employee what their limitations are.
  • Ask your employee what type of accommodations they need.
  • Take advantage of the problem-solving insight that the employee with the disability has.
  • Work together with your employee to implement the accommodations.
  • Avoid attitudinal barriers by creating opportunities for employees to network.
  • Address concerns about productivity, safety, insurance costs, and transportation directly.
  • Create a position for a Director of Workplace Accommodations. 
  • Offer sensitivity training.
  • Address the issues of egress in emergency situations.
  • Create an advisory committee of community members with disabilities to help you with marketing and outreach.
  • Develop cooperative relationships with local resources, disability organizations, rehabilitation hospitals, independent living centers, and state agencies for vocational rehabilitation, the department of health, and the department of human services.


Audience research and evaluation is a vital component of your organization's marketing efforts. It is difficult and challenging to reach a target audience when you are unfamiliar with their habits, needs and limitations. It is important to seek consultants from Special Needs Educators, Sociologists, Rehabilitation Experts, and the Staff of your local Independent Living Center. These professionals can offer an insight into the culture of disability issues as well as assist you in developing a plan to best reach this target audience.

However difficult this task might be, it is certainly worth the effort. People with disabling conditions comprise a majority of your audience. When you equate individuals with disabilities to wheelchair users only, 97% of the population of people with disabilities is being ignored. Out of 54 million Americans with disabilities, only 3% use wheelchairs.

Here are some statistics about U.S. citizens who have disabilities; the numbers provided exclude individuals who live in institutions, nursing homes, group homes, and schools. Keep in mind, many individuals who reside in these types of segregated living environments are part of your audience.

  • 36% of people aged 55-65 have a disability
  • 15% of people aged 22-44 have a disability
  • 2,850,000 people aged 5-15 have a disability
  • 1,375,000 people aged 16-20 have a disability
  • 21,280,000 people aged 21-64 have a disability
  • 5,500,000 people aged 65-74 have a disability
  • 8,500,000 people aged 75 and above have a disability

Who should be a part of your audience:

  • Children (and strollers)
  • Cognitively Disabled People
  • Developmentally Disabled People
  • Hearing Impaired People
  • Mobility Impaired People
  • People Of All Cultures
  • Senior Citizens
  • Speech Impaired People
  • Visually Impaired People (Including Blind, Low Vision, and Color Blind)

One often overlooked accessibility accommodation is the need for transportation. When possible, make an effort to find creative ways to offer transportation options to and from your location.


The use of technology in audio, video and electronic format is increasingly becoming a necessary component of museum exhibits as well as museum educational outreach efforts. When using these multimedia formats it is important to ensure that people with disabilities will be able to gain the same experience as people without disabilities. With so much information available about the use of technology, you can become easily confused and overwhelmed.

Here are some easy guidelines to follow:

People with Hearing Impairments

Any audio clip must have text representations (captions). When it is not evident that a part of your exhibit includes an audio component, you should supply a visual indicator to alert a visitor about the audio clip. Information in audio format should be accompanied by a written transcript. When offering information via audio clips on a web page, also offer the same information in text format. About sign interpretation: there are multiple types of interpreters. There are two predominant types of sign languages, English Sign Language (ESL) and American Sign Language (ASL). Most people who are deaf understand one of these languages but usually not both. Some people who are deaf do not understand sign language but prefer relying on lip reading and "mouthing" the words they try to say.

People with Visual Impairments (Low Vision and Blind)

Any video presentation must have an audio component; make sure you indicate the presence of the audio component on the accompanying wall captioning using Braille. Make sure all printed material is available in large print and Braille format. When offering information on websites there are specific regulations that dictate how to encode text so it may be viewed by screen reading software. Additionally, always provide "ALT-Text" writing for all graphical pictures. Because there are many types of visual impairments, there is a long list of web encoding guidelines which include rules governing color, display, text size and color contrasts. People who are visually impaired make use of screen magnification devices, screen reading software and Braille input and output devices.

People with Mobility Impairments

Mobility impairments range from a temporary broken finger or foot to complete paralysis. Keyboards, touch screens, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), cell phones, computers, video, audio, and virtual reality, are all types of technology that can assist people with mobility impairments. It would be impossible for any one museum to provide six types of keyboards, four types of voice recognition software and touch screen PDAs for everyone to use. You can, however, ensure the following:

  • Clear all obstructions that might be a barrier for people with mobility equipment.
  • Make sure audio and video devices are easy to reach.
  • Make sure computers are available on counters that are wheelchair accessible.
  • Make sure switches are easily activated without requiring much strength.
  • Provide audio listening devices that are easy to use, have only a few buttons and do not require depressing two switches simultaneously.
  • Provide buttons that are easily visible and of large size.
  • Provide electronic versions of all printed material.
  • Provide museum personnel assistance.
  • Provide switches at wheelchair level height.
  • When you use touch screens, provide alternate keyboard activation options.

Because of the various types of input devices that people with mobility impairments use to access computers and internet browsers, it is important to follow specific guidelines for developing web pages. People with mobility impairments often have difficulties getting to museums. One way to include them is to provide a virtual museum experience via the internet.

People with Cognitive or Intellectual Impairments

When designing printed, audio, video, and internet contents, use simple English terminology. Make sure that all websites are visually simple and easy to navigate. Avoid unnecessary flashy additions to internet websites. Provide all types of information using simple fonts and clear color contrasts. Virtual reality exhibits and virtual museums can be useful to provide people with intellectual disabilities some knowledge about a museum experience prior to their actual visit.

People from Diverse Cultures

Offer printed, audio, video, and internet content in various languages. When writing material in English, use simple everyday vocabulary.

For more information on audio, video, internet content, assistive technology see our Technology page.

Universal Design

Universal Design, also referred to as Accessible Design, is a practice that came to life after the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990 and the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA). The goal of universal design is to create settings, products, technology, and transportation that cater to a broad audience including people with disabilities. Universal design promotes inclusion, cultural understanding, social interaction, community integration, and independent living.

The concept of Universal Design dictates that an environment should not only be globally welcoming, but implies that such an environment was created for a particular individual’s needs. James Mueller, one of the leading experts in accessible design says, “universal design implies that ‘it’ could happen to me -- as opposed to ‘special needs’ that are always someone else’s.”

Some examples of Universal Design are:

  • Building ramps instead of, or alongside, steps
  • Using handle levers instead of knobs on doors, cabinets and faucets
  • Installing elevators instead of escalators
  • Mounting appropriately sized doors
  • Building bathrooms that are accessible to wheelchair users
  • Installing grab or rail bars
  • Using speaker phones
  • Printing material in large print and Braille
  • Creating software that can be used by people with mobility, visual, and hearing impairments
  • Installing TTYs for the hard of hearing
  • Modifying the height of tables and counters
  • Altering the height of switches on walls

These are just some examples of what can transform ordinary surroundings into a more welcoming environment. The ADA and ABA paved the path for the development of the ADA Accessible Guidelines (ADAAG) and the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (ATBCB) which mandate that the construction, transportation, and technology industries adhere to specified minimum accessibility requirements. These standards are a good starting point to use as a reference, but they are not comprehensive and do not eliminate all the barriers that people with disabilities might encounter.

Universal design not only benefits people with disabilities but also children and elders. Surprisingly, when offered the option, people prefer using ramps, low counters, handle knobs, elevators, speakerphones, and large print.

When creating an accessible environment, we recommend establishing an advisory board of community members who have a variety of disabilities. If you are not undergoing major renovation and are not required to meet government specifications, you can still make your surroundings more accessible. People with disabilities are very accustomed to coming up with creative solutions that are often inexpensive yet are still practical. Most types of modifications will not only be used by people with disabilities but will be welcomed by everyone.

Principles to Keep in Mind:

  • Universal Use: Making the design useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.
  • Flexibility: Accommodating a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
  • Simplicity: Making the design easy to understand regardless of experience, culture, knowledge, language skill, ability to communicate, disability, or cognitive ability.
  • Hazards: Minimize danger and potential for unintended injuries and accidents.
  • Ease of Use: Make the design comfortable to use for individuals with mobility, hearing, or visual impairments.
  • Dexterity: Provide enough room to reach and approach objects, and enough space for users to freely move about regardless of one’s body size, posture or ability to move.

For more information see Resources