Springfield Museums Now Universal Participation Designated

Springfield Museums Now Universal Participation Designated

“Our vision is to have every visitor say: ‘Wow, they thought of everything!’”—Kay Simpson, CEO and President of the Springfield Museums

“Paying attention to the many ways we can help visitors access our museums, exhibits, and programming opens opportunities for all visitors.”—Sharon Ferrara, Manager of Visitor’s Services

The Springfield Museums is pleased to announce that we have become designated in the Universal Participation Initiative facilitated by Charles Baldwin of the Mass Cultural Council. After a series of workshops over the course of six months, expert-user site visits, and a lot of discernment and action, the Museums together with a cohort of other Massachusetts museums, theaters, and arts programs are on their way to ensuring their facilities, exhibits, and programs are accessible to people of all abilities.

“We know we are just embarking on an ongoing process of being accessible,” said Heather Cahill, Director of Development at the Springfield Museums and convener of a new Inclusion task force for the Museums. “And we are very excited about what we can offer in the short- and the long-term.” Sensory Friendly Saturdays are already an initiative in the works, she said, referring to time and space set aside with less noise and stimulus especially for people on the autism spectrum. “And we have an action list for a three-year plan, which we will evaluate and update each year.”

The Universal Participation Initiative (UP) aims to break down barriers and bring full civic participation in Massachusetts’ cultural sector, said Baldwin, who is the Program Officer for the Universal Participation Initiative. Both a movement and a designation, UP creates opportunities for leadership, peer networking, and education in universal design principles, audience engagement strategies, and ADA compliance. “In addition, our Innovation Fund provides grants for cultural organizations taking bold steps towards equity and inclusion,” Baldwin said.

Priorities for the Springfield Museums include but are not limited to:

  • Paddles for automatic door openers for all external doors
  • Improving wayfinding for ramps and accessible entrances
  • Augmenting our Guide by Cell Audio Program for people with low vision
  • Ensuring all video, lectures, and speaking programs include captions and/or transcripts for people with  hearing impairment
  • Adding large-print label booklets to all galleries
  • Improving the accessibility features on our website

“Paying attention to the many ways we can help visitors access our museums, exhibits, and programming opens opportunities for all visitors,” said Sharon Ferrara, Manager of Visitor’s Services. So many people benefit from being able to read a lecture as well as listen to it, she said. The same is true for being able to open doors automatically, whether you are in a wheelchair, carrying a package, or using a stroller, she said.

“Our vision is to have every visitor say: ‘Wow, they thought of everything!’” said Kay Simpson, CEO and President of the Springfield Museums. Then we would truly fulfill our mission inspiring curiosity and creativity for all who visit. The Springfield Museums, she added, are committed to moving forward with relevance into the future, engaging new and trusted audiences with exhibits, programs, and collections that inspire curiosity, creativity, and caring. “And we want to do that in a way that all who visit feel truly welcome.”

If you are interested in offering your input to the Springfield Museums’ Universal Participation Initiative, please email Karen Fisk at kfisk@springfieldmuseums.org.

Photo by The Republican/Frederick Gore