Earlier this month a large group of LightHouse Board and staff members were honored to be invited to tour the Exploratorium at its new home on Pier 15 in San Francisco.
“What thrilled me about the exhibitions,” said Frank Welte, LightHouse Information and Referral Specialist, “is that because the Exploratorium is an interactive museum, it lends itself to promoting full accessibility for people who are blind or visually impaired. For example, most of the exhibits allow a person to touch them and many of the exhibits also have an audio or tactile component. I believe the museum staff has the creativity and enthusiasm to discover ways to bring access to the visual elements.”
For example, the group examined an exhibit where live data is collected every hour on the changing tide in San Francisco bay. The data is fed into a machine that cuts small pieces of plastic into different shapes based on the data, plastic pieces that represent the tidal patterns. Frank said, “I could feel the changes in the patterns as the tide changed. You can read from left to right and see what the patterns are over months.”
There was also a discussion about ways to improve and increase the accessibility of the exhibits. Frank told us, “We had a very wide ranging and energetic dialogue between LightHouse and the Exploratorium staff about ways the exhibits could be modified to make them accessible to all visitors including those with disabilities.”
The Exploratorium’s new location is much more accessible to disabled visitors because it is much easier to get to. There is an F streetcar stop right in front of it. Frank said, “The Exploratorium is a museum that draws visitors right into their exhibits, much more than a traditional “behind glass” type museum will. More than that, it’s a museum that welcomes blind and visually impaired visitors.”
See additional photos of our Exploratorium visit.