Posted on December 2nd, 2013 by Rachel
Dear Abby is at it again!
My dear friend, “S” has put himself into a bit of a pickle. He has a reputation for being a know-it-all, and now he’s made an ill-advised bet with his archenemy (let’s just call him “M”) that he knows everything about the Jewish Museum of Maryland. He even wagered his prized violin! There’s only one problem: “S” has never been to the JMM! Obviously, he needs to visit the museum as soon as possible. When is the soonest that he can go on a tour? Do your tours cover the whole museum? Another potential problem is that “S” has lived a long, full live, and his knees just aren’t what they used to be, so he is not comfortable using stairs—even with railings. Will this be a problem?
Dear Dr. W.,
A wager is very serious business, so I will try to do everything I can to help your friend learn what he needs to know in order to keep his violin! First of all, we offer five tours a day, Sunday through Thursday, so there are plenty of opportunities for “S” to go on a tour. These tours go out at 11:00am, 1:00pm, 2:00pm, 3:00pm, and 4:00pm. I would recommend that he come for the tours earlier than 3:00pm because the 3:00pm tour talks more about the Civil War than about the history of the synagogues, and the 4:00pm tour is abbreviated because we have to close up the synagogues at 4:30pm. For future reference, you can always find our tour schedule on our website, here: http://jewishmuseummd.org/visiting/.
The tours do not cover the entire museum. They only cover the two synagogues—Lloyd Street Synagogue and B’nai Israel Synagogue. The exhibits inside the museum, and in the basement of the Lloyd Street Synagogue, are all self-guided.
Unfortunately, while the main museum building is handicap accessible, both synagogues require our visitors to climb a lot of stairs, and because they are historic buildings, it’s very difficult to install ramps or elevators that still comply with the historic trust’s rules. Hopefully, in the near future, we’ll have a solution to the problem of ensuring access while preserving the historic character of these buildings, but for the time being, we’re stuck with what we’ve got.
Generally, I assume that each visitor knows his or her own abilities best, but if “S” is uncomfortable with stairs, even when they have railings (as ours do), then he will not be able to see the sanctuaries of the synagogues…in person. But that doesn’t mean that he can’t go on a tour! Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we have a DVD version of the synagogues tour that we can set up in as little as five minutes! If “S” asks for it at the front desk, we will have him set up in no time at all.
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Posted on April 22nd, 2013 by Rachel
A blog post by Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik.
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!
See more photos from this great event at our Facebook page!