Canadian Museum for Human Rights
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR), located in Winnipeg, Manitoba, opened to the public in September 2014. Over 47,000 square feet of digitally rich, mixed-‐media installations explore the subject of human rights, promoting respect for others and encouraging reflection and dialogue. Dialogue is key to the CMHR, understood metaphorically through the Museum’s approach to experiential design – a reciprocal relationship whereby the Museum and the visitor mutually inform each other. All aspects of the Museum and its exhibits were built with inclusive design and accessibility in mind.
The Project: Overview, objectives and principal outcomes
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) strives to provide an enriching, satisfying, and inspirational in-‐gallery experience for all of visitors irrespective of ability. Underlying this fundamental belief, inclusive design is seamlessly integrated into all of CMHR’s projects. The in-‐ gallery experience champions accessibility and usability as the accessibility features are offered as parallel experiences. The following provides a list of the key features of the project:
Inclusive Video Features and Audio Universal Keypad
To ensure all visitors’ access to content delivered via video occurs seamlessly, the CMHR embedded inclusive design features into all of its films and videos, developing the Audio Universal Keypad to support content delivery. This keypad provides an appropriate parallel experience directly integrated into the presentation. The inclusive design features of its videos include:
- American Sign Language (ASL) and Langue des signes québécoise (LSQ) on screen
- Descriptive audio that describes what is happening in a scene, as well as reads any text that appears on the screen.
- Closed Captioning in both English and French
Interactive Universal Keypad
Located adjacent to each Touch Screen Interface (TSI), the Interactive Universal Keypad allows users unable to use a touch screen to experience the full functionality of TSIs through accessible tactile controls and voiced instructions. The keypad works in conjunction with the strict semantic structure of the content in theTSIs. Visitors easily navigate the systems with just a few buttons.
Mobile Program with Universal Access Points (UAP)
The Mobile Program was created and paired with Universal Access Points (UAP) to ensure visitors’ access to both static exhibition content as well as experiential spatial information. The Mobile Program consists of:
- Text-‐to-‐speech for all static content
- Self-‐guided audio tours
- ASL/LSQ self-‐guided tours
- Descriptive audio tour
- Images/video with closed captions (CC) and accessibility options
The UAPs are linked via Bluetooth to media files available on a mobile device carried by the visitor. Each UAP sign consists of a unique number that is printed in both raised lettering and Braille. These markers are found on exhibit panels, digital interactives, text walls, and artifact cases. Besides receiving prompts from mobile devices, UAPs are also indicated on the floor through the use of a tactile, cane-‐detectable floor strip.
The CMHR’s exhibits were designed to provide experiences that exceed accessibility standards. This entailed formal user engagement across all project phases. A combination of the following approaches were employed throughout the planning, design, and development of CMHR’s in-‐ gallery accessibility features:
- CMHR’s Inclusive Design Advisory Council (IDAC) -‐ comprised of nine experts, advisors and activists in the field of disability rights who were briefed regularly. The CMHR’s Core Teams consulted with IDAC in order to validate approaches, identify gaps, and to receive feedback in order to ensure equitable participation;
- Formal prototyping and testing sessions took place at various phases of the projects.
These always included users with diverse abilities, including visible and invisible disabilities;
- Consultations were set up with disability organisations such as the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD);
- Partnerships were created with institutions such as the Inclusive Design Research Centre ( I D R C ) at the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD), to provide evidence-‐based research and usability testing;
- Contractors who specialize in accessibility and inclusive design were engaged, such as Sina Bahram, Principle of Prime Access, and Brian Everton of Design For All.
The Future: How CMHR plans to develop and sustain this project/service
The CMHR employs a layered approach to ensure that in-gallery accessibility features are adaptable, evolving, scaleable and leading edge. Ongoing maintenance and evolution of the in-gallery accessibility features are part of CMHR’s formal plan and consists of the following measures:
- Departmental budgets and project schedules and budgets have been composed for consistent and constant evolution
- Built exhibit structures have been fabricated modularly to facilitate evolution and change.
- Media content is separated from the delivery method to ensure to avoid having to produce a piece of content multiple times to fit a new context (e.g. when technology evolves or exhibits change).
The CMHR will continue to strive to make its exhibits fully accessible to ensure that the conversation about human rights is something in which everyone can participate in equally.
Some of the judges’ comments about this initiative were:
All aspects of the Museum and its exhibits were built with inclusive design and accessibility in mind. The focus on seamless integration is great.
Breadth of offering is unprecedented – seem to have thought about a range of audiences from the outset. Great to see that media is so integral to the experience.