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The $90 million United States Olympic & Paralympic Museum opening next month in Colorado Springs will include interactive digital displays and 13 galleries. One thing you won’t find: stairs. Instead, there will be a series of ramps sloped at ADA-adherent angles. Here, we break down four other features—many designed with input from Team USA athletes—that will make the facility one of the most accessible museums in the world.
At check-in, visitors will be given badges encoded with information about any disabilities they have. As they tour the museum, sensors will recognize data on the cards and trigger effects tailored to that person. When a visually impaired guest steps into the torch gallery, for example, a scanner will prompt audio explanations of the various Olympic torches used throughout history.
An interactive exhibit allows attendees to play multiple Olympic and Paralympic sports. The Olympic events have been tweaked so everyone can participate (see: widening the 30-meter dash lanes to fit wheelchairs). The Paralympic sports include goalball, a game similar to soccer—except blindfolded players attempt to throw the ball into the net using their sense of hearing.
Less Is More
For those with limited vision, simplicity is best, according to blind Paralympic judo athlete Ricky Ties. In other words: no crazy fonts, ample contrast between colors, and few moving elements à la the Star Wars opening crawl. In audio descriptions of videos, Ties also suggested limiting excessive detail. “The way the pool water splashes as a swimmer freestyles is too much,” Ties says.
The Right Height
Former Olympic gymnast Michelle Dusserre Farrell’s daughter, who has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair, often struggles to read signage, whether at a restaurant, amusement park, or museum. So Dusserre Farrell advised designers to situate its displays at a height of 27 inches, which enables people in wheelchairs to pull under them, as if they’re sitting at a desk.
Editor’s note: This article appeared in the April issue of 5280, which went to press before COVID-19 became the biggest story in recent memory. As such, some events and dates listed may now be out of date. For more on how 5280 is shifting coverage during this time, read Editorial Director Geoff Van Dyke’s editor’s note.