[Pibe-division] Accessibility in a museum: molds and book in the anthropod zoo

Jewel herekittykat2 at gmail.com
Tue May 15 21:45:30 UTC 2012

Dear list,
I am currently volunteering with the North Carolina Museum of Natural
Sciences to improve accessibility for the disabled. I am mainly
focusing on accessibility for the blind, since that's the area I know
the most about, but am also looking at accessibilty for people with
wheelchairs and the hearing-impaired.

So, part of the project centers around what they affectionately call
the "Anthropod Zoo." This is an area that houses anthropods of all
types and kids can view  them through glass. Unfortunately, like many
museum exhibits of this type, a blind or visually impaired child would
quickly get frustrated and bored in this area. So, we have come up
with a few solutions for this exhibit and I'd like your opinion and
suggestions in regard to these ideas.

First, we plan to make molds of the anthropods of silicone or another
durable material. The problem with silicone, in my opinion, is that
the actual anthropods are covered in hard shells and silicone is very
soft and rubbery, making the molds not quite equivalent. Thus, I'm
looking for other durable materials that, while hard to break, feel
more like the external shells of anthropods. Anyone know of a material
that would fit this purpose? The molds, once made, would be glued to
the wall beside each aquarium, and there would be a Braille label
telling the child what this is a mold of.

Second is my pet project. I want to create a book of simple images of
the anthropods overlayed by tactile images. There would be large print
on the left, Braille on a seperate clrear sheet in the middle, and the
image overlayed with the tactile image on the right. Children could
find the anthropod in the book, then go find the mold, and if they
have some sight, look for the animal in its aquarium. This book would
be placed close to the aquariums so that students can go back and
forth if they want, or look at it seperately.

Now, this project has several things that I need to know how to do. I
need help from someone who has the equipment and the know-how to make
the tactile graphics and describe them if necessary (no more than a
single side of a page in Braille). Also, I need to know what material
to use for the book; should I use laminated paper for the large print
and thermaform for everything else?

Obviously I have my work cut out for me. What do you guys think of
this project, and can anyone recommend someone to make the tactile
graphics (whether for pay or as a volunteer)? Do any of you have
suggestions as professionals, maybe something I've missed?

Thanks for any ideas or advice,
Amber "Jewel" Shuping
herekittykat2 at gmail.com

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