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Museum accessibility settlement agreement: IU expert available to comment

June 5, 2008

Editors: On June 3, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the terms of a settlement agreement with the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., to make the museum more accessible to people with visual impairments. Ray Bloomer, director of education for the National Center on Accessibility at Indiana University, provided DOJ and the museum staff with technical guidance on the accessibility needs and expectations of visitors who may be blind or have low vision.

Ray Bloomer

Ray Bloomer

Ray Bloomer, a 30-year veteran of the National Park Service, said the settlement agreement requires the museum to provide for increased program access by including such design features as the provision of tactile maps of the museum and floor plan that visitors can borrow; qualified audio describers for any requested museum audiovisual presentations, computer interactives or exhibits; qualified readers to read labels in all exhibitions; and a representative sample of objects, models and/or reproductions of objects to communicate the main themes of the exhibitions for tactile examination, accompanied by audio description. Bloomer has advocated for such measures for the past 20 years and expects the agreement to result in design improvements in other museums.

"This is a wake-up call to other museums," Bloomer said. "It lets people with disabilities, in particular those who are blind or have low vision, know that they have a right to receive equal benefit and enjoyment of the museum experience."

Bloomer lost his sight at age 17 and has since become one of the nation's most prominent experts on museum access for people with disabilities. He has worked to improve access for people with visual impairments and advocated for universal design on projects such as the Statute of Liberty restoration, Trail of Tears exhibit at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Tahlequah, Okla., and the Yosemite Valley Visitors Center exhibit hall in California.

NCA, part of the IU Bloomington School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation's Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies, provides training, technical assistance and research on the inclusion of people with disabilities in parks and recreation. To learn more, visit

Bloomer can be reached at 812-856-4422.