Grand Rapids Public Museum adds new tool for blind and low visibility visitors
GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan – The Grand Rapids Public Museum has taken a step to ensure they are accessible to all. Now they are a public access point from AIRA, which means that blind and visually impaired people can navigate the museum much more easily.
The AIRA app connects blind and visually impaired users with a guide and over the phone they become their eyes. It’s free to sign up, and since GRPM is now a public access point, there are no fees for users while exploring.
Casey Dutmer is one of the app advocates. The native blind man had to rely on his imagination with the exhibits in the museum, but now he has help with the app.
“It’s a great level of independence,” says Dutmer. “If I wanted to come here, I don’t need any of my seeing siblings or my seeing spouse.”
Freedom is a great relief, he says. “I could come down here, travel myself, have lunch in the café, do whatever I want here, and I wouldn’t be restricted by anything.”
Dutmer loves museums, so the app not only relieves him of the burden of asking a friend, but also helps him get more out of the experience, as the AIRA guide is only there to help.
“When reading, sighted people read what they want to hear or what they think might interest them,” he says. “You miss a lot because you don’t know what to skip.”
For the museum itself, the app partnership is a first step. Proponents call it a domino effect, in which an additional accessibility measure reveals other areas that may have been overlooked.
“For example, the elevator buttons on the outside have no clues or braille as to what they are,” says Kate Kocienski, a GRMP visits spokeswoman “
Casey says that any gateway, large or small, is another barrier to be torn down.
“It gives us that kind of freedom, you can go where you want.”
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