Accessibility Policies Done Right: The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City

Heading to the opposite coast of the United States for this look at an accessibility policy, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, which handily has an accessibility policy in their sidebar of visitor information. I will say that I find their site a little bit difficult to navigate, but the web accessibility evaluation tool (WAVE) report on the actual page the accessibility policy is located on isn’t as riddled with errors as the one for the Legion of Honor.

One thing I like about the accessibility policy here is that it’s broken up into clear elements which are accompanied with icons (and alt text) which address different accessibility issues. I’m hoping that the same icon styling is used in the museum itself so that people can quickly and easily find resources they need. The presentation of information in clear chunks sorted by concept is really handy for me personally, and I suspect that others may find this useful as well.

The policy covers various issues, like wheelchairs, accessible parking, service animals, and interpreters. It also specifically mentions that tours are offered for visually impaired visitors which offer touch and verbal imaging. Alas, it doesn’t have a section about less crowded visiting options on the accessibility page, and doesn’t address issues which I would like to know about, such as availability of seating in the museum for people who need to sit down. I’m sure many readers can come up with other issues which are not addressed in the accessibility policy; while the museum does provide contact information so people could presumably ask, it would be nice to not have to ask.

The Met does have a series of programs for visitors with disabilities, probably akin to those offered at the Legion of Honor, except that the Met provides actual information about their programming instead of just referencing it. These programs are geared towards people with different kinds of disabilities, and contact information is provided, which seems to suggest that the museum is open to groups of people who might want to organise their own tours and programming. This would seem to uphold this claim: “The Metropolitan Museum of Art welcomes all visitors and affirms its commitment to offering programs and services that are accessible to everyone.”

However, there’s a glaring problem with the Met’s accessibility policy, and it’s The Cloisters. The Cloisters “has landmark status,” and thus although it has an accessibility policy of its own, certain accommodations aren’t made. The denial of access in the name of historic preservation is something I have written about here before, and it’s something which I suspect is going to be a perennial problem. The Met is at least making an effort with The Cloisters, rather than just going “disabled? Can’t come here, sorry,”  but that effort hasn’t translated into complete accessibility for all users.

I haven’t personally been to the Met or the Cloisters; I’d be curious to know if readers who have visited have noted whether or not the accessibility policy on the website is actually present in the museum itself, and if anyone has asked for accommodations, how that went. Readers who actually have been to the Met and the Cloisters may also have identified accessibility issues which aren’t apparent from just reading about the museum, and I’d be interested to read about those as well.

Do you like the Met’s accessibility policy? Do you think that there are aspects of it which should be improved? If you have been to the Met, are the museum and staff actually accommodating and helpful?

2 Comments

  1. The Met is pretty great as far as disability goes. There are seats in nearly every gallery, and plenty of little nooks and crannies in which one can rest, if need be. When my mobility started decreasing at a rapid clip, it remained one of the few places that was always comfortable to maneuver. The Great Hall being the exception, purely for the throngs of people who have just entered and are not paying attention to anything else but their group. Easy to get jostled about.
    While the situation at the Cloisters is problematic, I prefer it when websites give me a heads up about non-accessible stuff to pretending they are because they can get by on some technicality without actually being accessible. Like having rails in a non-accessible bathroom stall (LACMA, I am looking at you) or offering wheelchairs at the entrance (the Alhambra is not accessible, regardless of how many staff members insist it is).

  2. Ack! More:
    The Louvre is exceptional when it comes to accessibility modifications of a historical space. The caveat is that in some of the more arcane spaces, this is done by a metal lift onto which one wheels themselves, then is propelled over the flight of stairs. On their own, they’re fine, but the stress of using those combined with the relative obscurity of the work in those gallery spaces makes that area something I’d recommend skipping.
    However, their staff seems well trained to deal with the difficulties of viewing art from a chair in such a crowded space. In the cases of work with a long queue/crowd for viewing (like the Mona Lisa), we were approached, asked if we’d like to view the work, then escorted in front of the crowd so we would be able to see it without peering around fannypacks. Their staff doing this alleviated a lot of the stress and anxiety we had about asking people to move, or simply missing out on viewing stuff.