Another group that is often excluded in informal science settings is people with disabilities. With the number of people with cognitive, physical, and sensory disabilities currently making up a significant portion (18 percent) of the population, this group also needs to be considered in the planning and development of informal science experiences.
People with disabilities face multiple obstacles when trying to take advantage of these opportunities. Some issues are physical; for example, navigating a space can be problematic for people in wheelchairs and for those who are blind. Other issues, however, are related to a culture gap that must be bridged, much like cultural differences between various ethnic groups and informal science settings. Removing cultural barriers, however, is much more difficult than addressing physical ones.
Exhibit and program designs that serve visitors who face physical, sensory, or cognition challenges tend to benefit all visitors: larger font sizes and improved lighting are essential for vision-impaired visitors but also make any visitor less tired from reading. “Universal design,” the practice of accommodating all visitors regardless of their ability levels, tends to make designed learning spaces accessible and useful for all.
The following case study explains how designers at the Museum of Science, Boston, went about this task as they planned and developed an exhibition called Making Models. As planners at CDM did, Museum of Science staff worked closely with members of the targeted communities to make the experience both accessible and equitable.