Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) Announces Accessibility Programs

$1.5 million gift supports the launch of Tactile Tours and a new Partnership to provide ASL-English Interpreted Tours

Today during National Access Awareness Week, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) announces new major accessibility initiatives, including the launch of Tactile Tours for visitors who are blind or have vision loss and a partnership with George Brown College’s School of Deaf and Deafblind Studies to provide ASL-English Interpreted Tours for visitors who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing. This partnership is the first of its kind Canada. The Museum is pleased to announce a substantial new gift of $1.5 million from an anonymous donor to support these and other accessibility programs.

“These initiatives demonstrate our dedication and desire to exceed visitor expectations,” said William Thorsell, ROM Director and CEO. “Through our new partnership with George Brown College, and the generous support of our donors for these initiatives, the ROM continues to engage audiences who may not have been able to experience the Museum and its collections.”

The ROM was recently honoured by the Honourable Madeleine Meilleur, Minister of Community and Social Services, for its leading role in the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 (AODA) and was identified as being on par with the Ministry’s aspirations for a barrier-free Ontario. Minister Meilleur said, “Amazing things can happen when barriers are removed and we welcome people of all abilities into our community. The people at the Royal Ontario Museum know this well. The ROM’s new programs will ensure the Museum and its collections can be enjoyed by visitors of all abilities.”

“As a former Minister responsible for Accessibility, I am very pleased that this generous gift will help us in our efforts to exceed the expectations of the AODA,” said Dr. Marie Bountrogianni, President and Executive Director, ROM Governors. This new $1.5 million gift provides far-reaching support for the Museum’s Accessibility initiatives, establishing new programs and creating additional materials to engage visitors of all ages and abilities.

Tactile Tours
The ROM’s Tactile Tours Explore your Senses: Engage the World offers supervised multi-sensory experiences to visitors with disabilities, reducing barriers and enabling meaningful interactions with the Museum’s collections. Specifically these tours allow visitors who are blind or have vision loss to have an equivalent experience. Offered every third Thursday of the month, the guided Tactile Tours led by Museum docents explore objects from the ROM’s World Cultures and Natural History galleries. The first of a series of tours – Touch the Orient: Engage China – takes place on June 17, 2010 at 1pm and will feature eight artifacts and tactile-scaled reproductions in the Chinese galleries. Due to the vulnerability of the artifacts and to ensure that participants have ample time to experience them, tours are limited to six people. The tours are free with general Museum admission and can be reserved by calling 416.586.5823.

ASL- English Interpreted Tours
The partnership between the ROM and George Brown College’s ASL-English Interpreter Program through the School of Deaf and Deafblind Studies is the first of its kind in Canada. Ms. Anne Sado, President of George Brown College said, “This partnership builds a bridge between museology and accessibility by providing a way for our students to engage in the Museum, and at the same time offer an enhanced, equitable and meaningful experience for those who use American Sign Language.”

As part of the interpreting educational program, third-year students and graduates will work closely with the ROM’s Visitor Relations Department to provide ASL-English interpretation of the Museum’s highlights for those visitors who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing. The free ASL-English Interpreted Tours are offered every first Thursday of the month as part of the general Museum tour. The first will take place on June 3, 2010 at 1pm.

A Significant Investment in support of Accessibility
The $1.5 million anonymous gift allows the Museum to expand its Accessibility programs and implement the guidelines of the AODA. In addition to Tactile and ASL-English Interpreted Tours, the ROM will provide relevant content and virtual tours on its website for people who may not be comfortable visiting the ROM and create print materials in Braille to enhance an independent experience for visitors who have vision loss.

The gift also establishes a new Children’s Education and Family Programming Fund, offering thousands of children access to a ROM Summer Camp experience and the ROM’s School Visits Program, and interactive programming during ROMkids weekends and March Break. This gift created the recently-launched Tiny Tot Tuesdays, a sensory adventure for parents, caregivers and children five-and -under as they tour the galleries with our Early Childhood Educators. The ROM Education website will also be enhanced to become a comprehensive stop for teachers and students, providing curriculum-focused resources based on the Museum’s collections.

This gift builds on the generosity of the ongoing support through the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Museum Accessibility Fund to develop large wall mounted tactile maps and guides with Braille and large format map guides (currently available online). Tactile-scaled reproductions on labeled Braille plinths will be introduced into various galleries. Shoppers Home Health Care has also contributed to Accessibility at the ROM through in kind gifts of wheelchairs and first aid equipment, including automated external defibrillators.

With these Accessibility goals in mind, the ROM is adding several enhancements to the upcoming The Warrior Emperor and China’s Terracotta Army, opening June 26, 2010, making it the most accessible exhibition in the ROM’s history. Visitors will encounter captioning on all videos with narration, braille labels to accompany touchable objects, and prominent, large font on numerous graphics. All exhibition texts and labels will also be available in Mandarin.”

The ROM’s Accessibility Strategy
The ROM is committed to making the Museum accessible for all visitors and has created a comprehensive policy. To ensure that all visitors can experience its history and treasures, the ROM has developed audio guides, tactile displays, and digital access to collections. The main entrance of the Museum is stair-free, while the main foyer has a two percent slope allowing visitors to enter the area smoothly from the street. All floors are accessible by elevator or platform lift and the Museum’s wayfinding system includes Braille and tactile elements. The ROM offers visitors complimentary wheelchairs, large-format floor plans, captioning of the digital donor wall, sign language podcasts, descriptive audio guides, tactile elements in the galleries, and increased seating throughout the Museum. For specific questions or concerns, the ROM can be contacted at 416.586.8000 prior to visiting. For those visitors who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing, Bell Relay Service can be reached by dialing 711 or 1.800.855.0511.

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