A must read for all museum professionals:
Paul Gabriel takes an interesting and unique approach in his article, “Learning Disabilities with Museum Visitors,” because he recognizes that everyone can have symptoms of learning disabilities, even museum professionals. I agree with him wholeheartedly. I have felt museum fatigue, at other times I have felt overwhelming anxious when confronted with lots of information, and have even experienced blurred vision when reading labels that are text heavy with academic language. If I have had those experiences, then surely others have as well.
He states that if museum professionals better understand individuals with learning disabilties, they consequently can reach a deeper understanding of all visitors. “What benefits one, benefits all,” is how he concisely puts it. This really got me thinking. What if museums didn’t create specific programming for individuals with learning disabilities, but instead, took the time to learn more about their needs and kept them in mind for all areas of programming development? I think this would be incredibly challenging, especially considering how many learning disabilities exist, however the results could be amazing. Not only would it reach the learning disability audiences, but it would reach all visitors no matter what their engagement level is that day.
At the end of his article, Paul Gabriel helpfully distinguishes different disabilities and what approaches museums can take in order to engage that audience. Hopefully, the museum community will continue in this line of thinking, and expand all their programming to meet broader audiences needs, those with and without disabilities.