We the Curious aims to connect people and ideas and nurture a culture where everyone can ask questions. We will only achieve this through a truly inclusive experience, so we must remove barriers to access for any potential participant.
Everybody benefits from accessible and inclusive design. Whether it’s a poster, a programme or an exhibition, inclusive design means that we are all supported to experience new things, together.
Our accessibility approach must be dynamic and responsive to the evolving needs of audiences. We will draw up guidelines for different aspects of our work at We the Curious. All require an intersection of physical and social considerations – these elements rely on each other to improve overall accessibility. A physically accessible exhibit also needs inclusive language to let people know it exists, and diverse staff to welcome all audiences through the front door.
This document focusses specifically on exhibition design. We advocate for beautiful space and exhibit design that offers every visitor the chance to explore and be curious.
TripAdvisor Review, 2019 “…as a wheelchair user I wanted to add this is one of the most truly accessible places I've visited with the children, I could join in with them, get close to the tables, reach all the buttons, the flooring was level, the staff were helpful. It was great to be able to join in and spend quality time with my family without feeling like I was on the outside looking in. Lots of places claim to be wheelchair friendly but you find there's a huge spectrum of what this actually means - but we the curious is truly accessible, we will definitely be back for another visit.”
These guidelines have been drawn from many sources as well from as our own experience in venue – notably the Smithsonian accessibility standards and the Science Museum in London, and advice from WECIL, the West of England Centre for Inclusive Living. They are intended to provide designers with clear and measurable parameters that will ensure we honour our accessibility commitments.
The guidelines consider a wide range of disabilities including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological disabilities. In addition, our visitors will have varied abilities across age groups and so these measures will improve access for everyone. We recognise that these guidelines, whilst comprehensive, will not be able to address the needs of every single person with complex access requirements. Therefore, the guidelines include ‘non-design’ measures that introduce more bespoke, staff facilitated approaches to inclusive participation. See separate document – FACILITATION
2. Inclusive Design – Best Practice Standards for Exhibitions
All exhibits should be:
2.1 Overall considerations
Does the exhibition provide a space that is comfortable and welcoming, both physically and mentally, for a broad range of visitors?
Create effective lighting of exhibition that sufficiently lights objects and paths. Suggested lighting levels:
- Ambient lighting: 50-300 lx; 5-30 fc
- Text panels: 100-300 lx; 10-30 fc (avoid shadows on labels)
- Controls: 100 lx; 10 fc
- Directional signage: 200-300 lx; 20-30 fc
- Specimens, objects: 100-300 lx; 10-30 fc
- Ramps, stairs: 100-300 lx; 10-30 fc
- Visitor pathways: 100-300 lx; 10-30 fc
Control the effect of ambient noise from inside and outside the exhibition.
Eliminate unnecessary flashing lights and other visual distractions.
Provide stools (460mm–510mm high) for experiences requiring interactions longer than 30 seconds.
Provide comfortable seating throughout the exhibit (in addition to seating at exhibit components.)
Provide quieter spaces for visitors to rest and isolate themselves from crowds, if possible.
Design for easy wayfinding. Tools include advanced organizers, demarcation of exhibit sections, and guidance for visitors who are blind.
Include open captioning in all audio and video and provide printed labels for all audio content.
Physical controls must be easy to grip and release – no elements should require excessive force to move and stop
Contrast between exhibit structures is needed for partially sighted visitors to safely navigate
Flooring transitions should be less than 12mm, 6mm–12mm; ramps required at 12:1.
Leave room for wheelchair navigation. Provide turning space of 1525mm diameter or a T-shaped space.
Provide wheelchair clearance in straight and turning hallways
Provide door clearance as shown depending on direction of approach and which way the door opens.
Information vital to the experience should bepresented assuming an average sightline of:
Standing: 1420 mm Sitting: 790 mm above the seat height
Visual information should be aimed to be presented at average sightline level, with a cone of view 30o below the horizontal of the eye line and 15o to left and right.
Objects which the visitor sees as part of a normal exhibit interaction (e.g. text, a screen) should not be centred more than 1270 mm above the floor.
2.2.2 Panel and screen heights
We have translated these standard sightlines into measurements for presenting text on panels and screens:
For A-text, the maximum height of paragraph text should be1700mm
Lowest height of paragraph text should be 1065mm
Maximum width of a column of text 400 – 450mm
For B-text, the maximum height of paragraph text should be 1500mm
Lowest height of paragraph text should be 1065mm
Maximum width of a column of text 300 – 340mm
Images can go above or below these lines if they are not crucial to the understanding of the exhibit.
Text size and spacing
- Text size should be perceivable from the intended reading distance:
- Long distance – greater than 2.5 meters, minimum 120 pt
- Medium distance - 1 to 2.5 meters, minimum 80 pt
- Close up - less than 1 metre, minimum 30 pt
Text to be spaced for clarity:
- Line height (line spacing) at least 1.5 times the font size
- Spacing following paragraphs at least 2 times the font size
- Letter spacing (tracking) at least 0.12 times the font size
- Word spacing at least 0.16 times the font size
2.2.4 Use of colour
- Information vital for the understanding the exhibit must not be conveyed by colour alone
2.2.5 Non-text contrast
- The visual presentation of digital user interface components and graphics must have a contrast ratio of at least 3:1 against adjacent colours
2.2.6 Cane detectable
- Objects at a height of 685mm or under are cane detectable.
- Wall mounted objects must not protrude more that 100mm from the protrusion detectable by a cane at floor level
- consideration of the measurements and proportions of the human body comfortably interacting with an exhibit. Exhibits are expected to adhere to the following dimensions below:
2.3.2 Tables - heights, depths and pull under
- Height of tabletops no less than 685 mm
- For wheelchair pull under and for seated exhibitions, the underside of the table should be a minimum of 430 mm above the floor, and a minimum of 710mm wide.
- Toe Area Exception - the depth of the pull in area can be reduced to minimum of 280 mm as long as a minimum depth of 430mm is retained from the floor to 230mm.
- There should be no protrusions under the surface of the table that cannot be seen by users.
2.3.3 Control surface angles
Where screens require the user to spend some time physically interacting with them, we have found through prototyping that people are more comfortable using tilted screens at 30 degrees.
Where the user is only required to touch the screen once or twice, or sit to watch video content, a vertically mounted screen is fine.
2.3.4 Reaching zones
Exhibits and screens designed to be used by a wheelchair pulling in from the side should allow a wheelchairs outer edge to be a minimum of 280mm from the control surface
Touch screens, digital and manual controls and wall mounted objects must have a reaching zone of 380 mm to 1220 mm (see figure below) so that the components can be reached by individuals of a range of heights, such as children, tall adults, and wheelchair users
Table mounted control surfaces designed to be used with side reach must have a leading edge of a maximum 860 mm from the floor
All parts of the exhibit that can be handled or controlled should be within a recommended reach of 280 mm (maximum 508 mm) from the front edge.
Seating should be placed throughout the exhibition and any seating that is planned for exhibit interaction should be easily movable to make way for a wheelchair
Seats should be within the range of 460 to 510 mm from the floor to the seating surface
A legroom depth of a minimum of 430 mm should be provided for seated users at exhibits, and the opening must be a minimum of 915 mm wide for wheelchair pull under
A proportion of seats in resting areas must provide ‘pushing off’ points via armrests or sturdy raised sides, to assist users with mobility issues to get up and down from the seats
A proportion of seats in resting areas should have cushions or backrests
2.3.6 Head clearance
No beam, structure or door should be less than 2040 mm above a walking surface. Denote any changes in floor levels with a change of colour.
Unachievable Exception – if this cannot be achieved the low structure must be padded and clearly marked.
2.3.7 Manual Dexterity and control inputs
Operable parts must be usable with one hand and not require tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist.
Controls should not require fine motor movement or hand/finger dexterity unless required by the key message of the experience.
Exhibits should not require operation of concurrent input mechanisms unless it would otherwise invalidate the experience.
A user should be able to turn off or extend time limits on control input.
2.3.8 Tactile Feedback
Physical controls should provide tactile feedback to the user.
Continuous input devices (such a rotary knobs or levers) with a finite range should have hard stops to indicate range start and end.
2.3.9 Seizures and Physical Reactions
Content must not contain anything that flashes more than three times in any one second period, and no more than three red flashes within any one-second period
The combined area of flashes occurring concurrently must occupy no more than a total of 25% of any 10 degree visual field on the screen at typical viewing distance
A general flash is defined as a pair of opposing changes in relative luminance of 10% or more of the maximum relative luminance
Where wheelchair turning is required a clear space of 1525 mm should be provided
This is also the minimum circulation width for corridors and between free-standing exhibits.
Where wheelchair pull in is required for thoroughfares and doorways, apertures to spaces, there must be a minimum width of 915mm
Inclusive Design encourages interpretation methods that promote flexibility and choice, enabling different users to interact with the same interpretation in different ways.
One of the principles of Inclusive Design is that things are easy to understand regardless of user experience, knowledge, language skills or concentration levels.
Examples of implementing Inclusive Design in relation to interpretation are:
Providing audio guides so that visually impaired people can access information and ideas, as well as providing an additional / alternative layer of interpretation for all adult visitors.
Providing text written in Plain English and in large font sizes which helps people with a variety of different access needs understand the information: people with learning disabilities, visually impaired people, people who don’t have English as their first language, children and older people.
Providing hands-on activity which is good for various groups of people such as for those who learn by doing and experiencing, for families to do things together, and for people who don’t have English as their first language.
Definitions are provided for words or phrases used in an unusual or restricted way, including idioms and jargon.
Text should be aimed at a reading age of 11. If this is not possible, an alternative must be made available that does not require a reading age of greater than 11.
The expanded form or meaning of abbreviations is provided.
See We the Curious Interpretation strategy document for guidance on tone and style of interpretation
The visual presentation of text and images has a contrast ratio of at least 1:7.
The following are exempt:
- Large-scale text and print – minimum contrast ratio 4.5:1
- Text that is purely decoration
- Text that is part of a logo, including names, do not have contrast requirements
- Sign Language should be available in pre-recorded video material