Blind at the art museum

A11Y_allHere’s a statement you don’t hear every day from a blind blogger: I spent my morning last Monday at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. I wasn’t the only blind person at the MCA that morning, either. Sina Bahram was there, too.

I met Museum of Contemporary Art’s ‎Chief Content Officer Susan Chun in early September when she and I both spoke at “Greater Together,” Chicago’s first Cultural Accessibility Summit. The Museum of Contemporary Art had hired Sina Bahram to help them design an accessible website, she mentioned Sina’s work during her talk, and she sought me out afterwards to invite me to meet him the next time he visited Chicago.

Sina Bahram is the founder of Prime Access Consulting all users.”

I would have thought that designing a site for the Museum of Contemporary Art, where they especially want to show off the beauty of their artwork and exhibits, would be difficult. But Sina says that’s because of this commonly held belief that if something is accessible it can’t be pretty or creative, it has to be ugly and boring.

That is wrong, and spreading that myth can harm everybody from designers and developers to users. Sina says you can make anything simultaneously beautiful and accessible, and you can see, ahem, that for yourself now: Museum of Contemporary Art unveiled its new website Wednesday. You can’t help but notice their pride in the new site when you read this excerpt of their description of it online:

Together, we have developed a series of projects that we hope will serve as a model for art museums hoping to reach and support members of the disability community.

One of the most exciting and groundbreaking of these initiatives is Coyote, a toolkit and project to create and publish visual descriptions of all of the images on this site. The Coyote software, developed by Sina Bahram’s team at Prime Access Consulting, is an open source tool. At the MCA it has been used by staff from across the museum to produce image descriptions that allow the blind and visually impaired to engage more fully with the visual arts. Very cool.


 

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