Beyond Compliance: Exploring Emerging Technologies to Enrich the Visual Arts Experience for Audiences of All Abilities


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MA in Arts Administration

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The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) mandates enforceable guidelines to modify the built environment to make it accessible for individuals with disabilities. While critically important, the ADA does little to drive social and physical inclusion of individuals with disabilities. This is particularity recognizable in museums and similar public venues displaying visual art. The detailed, intimate, and often meticulously documented experience offered to patrons without physical or sensory limitations cannot possibly be the same for those with disabilities. This paper contains descriptions of the principles of Universal Design (UD) and several emerging technologies, such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and 3D printing, and explores how these tools can be used by nonprofit visual arts organizations to provide broader, richer, and more inclusive experiences for audiences with a range of functional abilities. The argument presented in this document maintains that the role of visual arts organizations is not to merely comply with regulations and provide the physical accessories and necessary mechanics to improve access to visual art experiences. They also serve to enable individuals to fully experience the art form through creating and presenting inclusive environments. By applying UD principles and leveraging emerging technologies, visual arts organizations should take an active and proactive role in promoting inclusion and thus contribute to a greater social understanding and improved perception of accessibility.