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Unparalleled access for disabled at CMHR

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THE Canadian Museum for Human Rights intends to set a high bar on standards when it comes to accessibility at its museum, its executives vowed Tuesday.

In a press conference Tuesday at the museum's Main Street office, leaders of the disabled community also gave the thumbs-up on the museum's efforts.

"I am very pleased to announce an approach to inclusive design that will set new Canadian standards for accessibility. In our museum, accessibility will not be treated as a special condition, but as an ordinary part of life that affects us all," CMHR president and CEO Stuart Murray said.

Given the range of tech toys going into the museum, chances are people without a disability will enjoy the chance to try them out, too.

Imagine passing an exhibit, reading the text, and then getting a bleep on your iPhone. A kind of high-tech motion sensor attached to a database for the exhibit will track mobile devices and offer extra information.

Films will be made eight different ways to accommodate a range of physical, language, visual and auditory differences. For example, exhibits could feature high contrast, special brightness levels and bold colours to compensate for hidden limitations, such as colour blindness.

"As a museum for human rights, we intend to include everyone. We have adopted an approach where universal access and full inclusion are not simply fit in, but where they are built in... as part of the central design, not as an afterthought," Murray said.

Staff are working with the Toronto-based Inclusive Design Research Centre at the Ontario College of Art and Design and a national testing group it set up for feedback.

The museum sought the advice of experts and leaders within Canada's disabled community and set up a formal advisory group with them, too.

The design advisory council and the Council of Canadians with Disabilities were keys to the new design approach.

For the museum, such an approach wasn't an option, it was a public demand.

Winnipeg human rights lawyer Yvonne Peters, who is blind, said accessibility has to go beyond just getting wheelchairs through doors.

"I want to be included in the experience that is designed to include me, where my needs are not considered as an afterthought," Peters said.

Laurie Beachell, national co-ordinator of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, welcomed the museum's commitment.

"The exciting thing for people with disabilities is not only that a space is being created for a new understanding of human rights, but that it will also be fully accessible," she said.

"The disability community is pleased to be part of something that can raise awareness about what inclusion really means."

There's also consideration given to the needs of people with intellectual disabilities, children, the elderly, those with language barriers and the mentally ill.



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 30, 2013 A6

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