David Owsley Museum of Art
Ball State University is one of the most accessible universities in Indiana, with over 1,006 students registered with Disability Services. When meeting with Courtney Jarrett, the Director of Disability Services, she stated that over 90% of those disabilities are non-apparent. Autism is one of those non-apparent disabilities. One in every sixty-eight children is born with an Autism Spectrum Disorder in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control. Autism affects the way people interpret their surroundings because it changes how their senses take in their environment. Museums are wonderful for children and people of all ages to learn, but it can be an overwhelming environment for those with autism spectrum disorders.
To become more familiar with Autism Spectrum Disorder I interviewed Shireen Kanakri, Courtney Jarrett, Ashley Hill, and Brianna Gunning. Kanakri is an Interior Design professor that focuses on creating spaces for those with autism, Jarrett is the Director of Disability Services at Ball State University, Hill is a Behavioral Therapist that works with children diagnosed with autism, and Gunning is a student with autism. Gunning also went on a tour with me throughout the David Owsley Museum of Art, citing how she felt in each room. I read Designing for Autism Spectrum Disordersand “A Different Mind: Developing Museum Programs for Children with Autism” and did other online research. My research was targeted towards making DOMA more accessible for those with autism and more enjoyable for families that have members with autism.
The three issues that I decided to address in DOMA are the areas in the museum that can cause sensory overload, the lack of a tactile learning experience, and the inability of those with autism to enjoy the museum like the rest of the visitors. All the design solutions feature a dark purple color and simple language. The dark purple has been proven through Kanakri’s research at the Autism Research Lab to be the most calming color for those with autism.
To address the potential areas in the museum that can cause sensory overload in those with autism, I created a sensory map brochure for parents or adults with autism to pick up at the front desk. This brochure features maps of DOMA with different areas highlighted based on a certain specification. For example, areas that are dimmer are highlighted while the brighter areas stay the color of the brochure. This allows parents or those with autism to plan their DOMA trip by choosing exhibitions and galleries that wouldn’t cause sensory overload.
To address the inability of those with autism to enjoy the museum like the rest of the visitors, I created an optical passport. The definition of a passport is, “anything that guarantees admission and acceptance”. The passport would make families with members who have autism feel like they are being encouraged to come rather than just being accommodated for. It includes prompts for each gallery and takes the family throughout the entire museum. This allows the person with autism to interact with the art, keeps their attention focused on the artwork, and reminds them not to touch the artwork with gentle reminders throughout the booklet.
To address the lack of a tactile experience when going throughout the museum, I created an app. This allows a multi-level, tactile learning experience for those with autism. It features all information on the DOMA website, every piece in the current collection, and the sensory maps in case they were unable to get one from the front desk. The app also allows the downloader to choose between more or less text when clicking between the artworks.