Accessibility of Museum Collections for Visitors with Disability: A Case of Three Selected Museum in Addis Ababa

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Addis Abeba Universty


Throughout the world, the cultural and educational roles of museums are growing. But many museums do not carefully consider people with disabilities as their visitors, for their buildings and communication accessibilities are very limited in designing museums for all people. However, in this regard, the overall conditions of the Ethiopian museums are hardly studied. Having this in mind, this study adopted case study research design and explored three museums found in Addis Ababa, namely Ethiopian National Museum, Institute of Ethiopian Studies Museum and Addis Ababa Museum, in relation to their accessibilities to disabled visitors, and compliance with universal design principles targeting disabled museum visitors. To this end, the research employed a multi-method approach to gather appropriate data, including site survey /observation, interviewing, photographing, analysis of secondary sources directed at gathering facts regarding the experiences and viewpoints of existing museum visitors with disabilities, and museum professionals; multiple aspects of disability access, such as physical accessibility, inclusive exhibition design, and communication accessibility in each selected museum. Consequently, the findings of the research show that the three museums comply reasonably well when it comes to approachability of their buildings. On the other hand, the findings of this study reveal that the facilities and services provided by the three museums investigated were not designed to benefit people with disabilities. The result of the study also shows that the physical contexts of the three museums’ exhibition spaces are not well planned and constructed to satisfy people with disability in terms of learning with convenience. In addition, the research found that the three museums investigated are not fully inclusive in creating a place and environment where the disabled visitors can access museum objects for several purposes, including education. For instance, none of the three museums have provisions for communication in sign language, Braille, tactile representations of some objects to make learning easier for hearing impaired and visually impaired visitors respectively. Thus, the research concludes that the three museums investigated are below average in light of fulfilling the requirements of accessibility guidelines, and being compliant with the Principle of Universal Design. Finally, this research recommends that the stated three museums and their stakeholders should carefully consider what they can do within their own limitations for disabled museum visitors to make each museum ameliorate its physical and communication barriers for disabled visitors and be inclusive. In addition, it is suggested that the three museums should adopt universal design principles, particularly as they relate to accessibility and usability requirements while retrofitting the existing ones.



Cultural, Educational, Roles of Museums