Making Humanity’s Past Accessible and Inclusive for All

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by Shannon Garner

A few weeks ago LCI Tech participate in the STEM Career Showcase for Students with Disabilities at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. While there, me and my colleague, Tristan, were approached by the Coordinator of Accessibility and Inclusion for the museum, Jessie Rassau, to see if we would be interested in assisting with some physical accessibility exhibit questions and testing in the following weeks. We were excited about the opportunity to assist in evaluating alternative forms of accessibility and both readily accepted the invitation. A couple of weeks later, we went back to the museum to meet with the exhibit designers and Jessie’s team.

 

 

When it comes to physical and digital accessibility, they are unquestionably different. The concepts are the same, however; you want to make sure that whatever you’re presenting is expressed in such a way that people with differing abilities can understand and operate it. For a standard museum exhibit, accessibility can be achieved by providing Braille labels, ensuring physical material is presented at a level that accommodates different heights (think wheelchairs), or providing audio description.

 

 

While we were there, we got to see a number of interesting exhibits prior to them being placed in the gallery proper for public viewing. We were able to go in to the Acro Dome, which had several models exhibiting the Acrocanthosaurus on display.  The exhibits demonstrated key facts such as what other dinosaurs the Acrocanthosaurus looks like and the type of food it ate during the Early Cretaceous period. It turns out that they like to eat the Sauroposeidon, which is also the state Dinosaur of Texas. There was an enormous life -sized model of this dinosaur that you could touch as well, which, as visually impaired individuals, really lent itself to conveying how huge this creature truly was when it roamed the Earth.

 

 

After completing our consultation in the Acro Dome, we were invited to walk over to the Naturalist Center. In this room we were able to touch several different specimens. Emry Ice, who was a paleontologist that accompanied us throughout the visit as a member of Jessie’s team, provided us with several fun facts about everything that we were able to examine. We were able to see everything from a wolf’s pelt, to a Methadone’s tooth. Often, it is discounted how helpful elements such as touch can be to those who are visually impaired. Visual disabilities aside, I felt that the entire experience was immensely accommodating to all abilities, not just my own. I can’t wait to go back!

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