Video documentation continues of our visitor comfort workshop in October at the Western Museums Association. In this chapter, workshop participants recount their first visits to the Museum of Photographic Arts in their roles as people with either learning differences or physical disabilities. Participants were given brief profile cards on the morning of the workshop. They had not seen their profiles before and had about 20 minutes to familiarize themselves with the important characteristics of the roles they would be playing.
The dedication and consistency with which they inhabit their characters and interact with the museum in those roles, is striking. I think this demonstrates the viability of role-playing as a method for testing visitor comfort and accessibility among staff and consultants. It also demonstrates Paul Gabriel’s point that people with learning differences and disabilities do not have “different” comfort and accessibility needs; they are simply more sensitive to those needs than some other visitors and thus can help to identify problem areas quickly and efficiently.