Exploring the JMM Through Touch and Sound: Accessibility-Focused Programming
Yesterday afternoon, the JMM dipped its toe into the new and exciting waters of accessibility-focused programming! We know other local museums often host special programs with hearing or vision impairments, but the inspiration for yesterday’s program really came from our long-time docent extraordinaire, Robyn Hughes. Robyn has been a docent here at the JMM for about eight years; she is legally blind and fluent in both Braille and American Sign Language (ASL). She approached Ilene and Deborah a couple of months ago about making Zap! Pow! Bam! more accessible for people with vision impairment. One of her ideas was to translate part of a comic book into Braille and create a twin-vision comic book (with enlarged pictures and Braille text – you can read more about that here!). You can see her handiwork in the exhibit.
Her next idea was to invite Melissa Riccobono, president of the Maryland chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, to see her twin vision comic book for Read Across America Day. That day, the idea to partner with the NFB to bring vision impaired visitors into the museum was born. We quickly decided to expand the program to people with hearing impairment as well. Talking with Robyn and Melissa has gotten our brains buzzing with ideas about how people different abilities experience our museum, and what we can do to enhance those experiences!
So, we invited representatives from the Hearing And Speech Agency (HASA) to bring in ASL interpreters and accessible activities. These sat side by side with the activities and Braille typing machine that NFB brought. Robyn, meanwhile, worked on translating more of our informational pamphlets into Braille (including the Hebrew alphabet!) and creating a script that would include vivid descriptions of our synagogues and their history, and opportunities to experience the buildings—such as the pews and the fluted columns of Lloyd Street Synagogue—through the sense of touch.
Nearly a dozen people with vision and hearing impairment came to the program, and all of them seemed to greatly enjoy our museum and Robyn’s knowledge. Based on the success of yesterday’s experiment, we are hoping to make this a regular program!