On a snowy December day at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, students from Parsons’ MFA Design and Technology program, offered by the School of Art, Media, and Technology, mingled with professionals from the Met and members of the general public. The occasion was the presentation of students’ projects created for Museum Accessibility, a collaborative class taught by Parsons and the museum. As part of their coursework, student groups consulted with Met staff and potential users to develop apps, tactile objects, and new technologies to enhance the experience of art and museums for people with disabilities.
The projects were diverse: some focused on improving visitors’ on-site experience, and others emphasized virtual access. The team behind Accessible Museum redesigned the Met’s website, creating an immersive experience—optimized for people who use screen readers to navigate the Internet—on par with visiting the museum in person.
The app Choose Your Own Path allows users to create their own personalized map of the Met. It helps people with limited mobility plan museum visits effectively and informs them of areas featuring bright lights or loud noises, to which visitors with certain cognitive or sensory disabilities may be sensitive. Eye on Art employs eye-tracking sensors that record visitors’ eye movements as they scan artworks. It compiles data about how users perceive and interpret art, which can support research on topics ranging from neuroscience to interaction design. The project Raised Painting turns paintings into three-dimensional objects that people with low vision can touch and take apart.
“Design is all about solving problems,” says Katherine Moriwaki, director of the MFA Design and Technology program at Parsons and one of the class instructors. “This collaboration shows the immense good that designers can do when they turn their minds to social issues requiring real, beautiful solutions.”