On June 3, the Department of Justice and the International Spy Museum reached a groundbreaking agreement under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Through a variety of creative methods, the Museum has agreed to increase access to its exhibits and programs for people who are blind or have low vision and those who are deaf or hard of hearing. This Agreement is the first to address a museum's obligation under the ADA to provide equal access for visitors with vision and hearing disabilities to public spaces and programs, including exhibits and publications.

The Museum

Located in Washington, DC, the International Spy Museum is a unique venue: It is the only public museum in the United States to explore exhibits dedicated to the tradecraft, history, and contemporary role of espionage.

The Museum not only offers hundreds of artifacts and photographs but displays information in its exhibits and programs in innovative formats – including state-of-theart audiovisual programs, computer interactive displays, and special effects. The Museum has agreed to ensure that the experience it offers can be enjoyed by potentially millions of people with disabilities.

Highlights of the agreement

Over a period of 24 months, the Museum will dedicate its time and resources to phasing in a variety of means of access. For individuals who are blind or have low vision, it will –

For people who are deaf or hard of hearing, the Museum will –

The Museum will also –

Requirements of title III of the ADA

Title III of the ADA applies to private entities such as museums, restaurants, and stores. It requires that public accommodations ensure that no individual with a disability is discriminated against on the basis of a disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the entities' goods, services, and facilities. Where necessary, a public accommodation must also provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services in order to ensure effective communication. Title III also requires removal of barriers to access in existing facilities where it is readily achievable to do so. Any new construction or alteration to any buildings or facilities, including exhibitions, must be made in such a manner that those buildings or facilities meet the requirements of the physical accessibility standards.

People with disabilities and tourism

Millions of people with disabilities regularly travel, visit museums and eat out with family and friends. The U.S. Census Bureau's 2002 Survey of Income and Program Participation found that there are 51.2 million Americans with disabilities, almost 16 million of whom have sensory disabilities (loss of hearing or vision.)

As more and more museums and other popular tourist destinations – including visitor centers for historic sites, aquariums, attractions such as amusement parks, and even libraries – use interactive and multimedia exhibits and other innovative means to provide access to their collections, the need to provide effective communication for people with vision and hearing disabilities can be easily overlooked. This agreement will serve as a model for ensuring enjoyment of those facets of American life by all individuals, as required by the ADA.


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June 3, 2008