Children’s Museum of Denver Champions Innovative Accessibility Program
Museum Educator receives Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability Emerging Leader Award
Children’s Museum of Denver is committed to opening its doors to children of all abilities. More than four years of development and intentional innovation have gone in to a Museum-wide accessibility initiative that offers children with disabilities and their families access to the Museum and all its expertly designed play and learning experiences.
The initiative combines special events, staff training and the adaption of Museum policies and procedures to promote inclusion. The goal is to continuously grow the accessibility program and to make the Museum a pioneer in the Denver-metro area.
“I would like the Children’s Museum to be the guiding force (for accessibility initiatives) for the rest of Denver’s cultural institutions,” said Traci McGrath, School Program Manager at the Children’s Museum of Denver.
McGrath was recently recognized for her work promoting access, receiving the Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability (LEAD) Emerging Leader award at the 2014 conference. The Emerging Leader award acknowledges professionals who act as advocates for accessibility within their own organization and communities. The LEAD conference is hosted by VSA, an international organization on arts and disability that provides arts and education opportunities for people with disabilities and increases access to the arts for all.
McGrath’s work at the Children’s Museum of Denver, specifically the implementation of a disability training workshop for staff, led to her nomination for the Emerging Leader award. McGrath’s trainings on accessibility and inclusion teach staff members about different types of disabilities, customer service protocol for working with guests with various disabilities, as well as implementing first-person language amongst colleagues in public communications.
McGrath also oversees the Museum’s Low-sensory Mornings, a bi-monthly event created for children with disabilities and their families to comfortably explore the Museum together, free of charge. During the events, attendance is limited and sensory stimulation that might overwhelm children with disabilities on a normal Museum day is turned down or off. Since its inception, the event has grown into a consistent sell-out crowd with many families returning each time.
“Families are so grateful to have this opportunity and we are so grateful that they choose to come and explore here,” McGrath said, citing that besides the History Colorado Center, the Children’s Museum of Denver is currently the only other museum in the area that offers this type of program.
With construction underway to nearly double the size of the Museum (slated for completion in late 2015), accessibility will continue to be a prominent focus for the Children’s Museum of Denver. Plans are to grow the low-sensory program and events, continue to implement staff trainings, develop school programs for children with various needs, and create and enhance partnership opportunities for local organizations that provide resources for children with disabilities, such as Spectra Autism Center. Additionally, in designing new Museum spaces, including exhibits, program rooms and other amenities, special attention will be placed on ensuring each area is accessible for those with disabilities.
About the Children’s Museum of Denver
At the Children’s Museum of Denver we believe in kid-powered learning. Every day, our expertly designed exhibits and programs open doors for Colorado’s curious young minds to express what they know and to discover, create and explore more – on their own terms.
Since 1973, the Children’s Museum of Denver has served the metro-Denver community as a learning institute dedicated to the education and growth of young children, newborn through age 8, and their caregivers.
The Children’s Museum of Denver is a 501(c)(3), private non-profit organization, and a Tier II SCFD member.