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Many museums and monuments utilize braille on signs and exhibits, including at the 9/11 memorial in New York City, New York
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U.S. Accessibility Guide: Museums and Monuments

Jay Lazarin

Accessibility at museums and monuments in the USA

The USA welcomes all to explore its variety of museums, iconic monuments and cultural sights that celebrate the country’s rich history and diverse people. These popular tourist destinations provide accessible accommodations for visitors with a range of abilities, so all travelers can expect reasonable accommodations.

Museum Accessibility Options

Museums operate publicly and privately with different sets of rules and regulations, but most provide basic accessibility options for an inclusive experience. Please confirm with the museums you plan to visit ahead of time for a list of available accessibility offerings. Before arrival, check to see if the museum has an accessibility map. The map will provide details for accessible entrances and parking spots. Many museums require proof via a placard for your vehicle, so please inquire about requirements before parking in designated spaces. Wider hallways and alternative routes through exhibits can be found at a variety of museums. This provides easier access to the museum’s offerings and a more pleasant experience for everyone.

For the visually impaired, large print and braille brochures can be found at some museum locations, while audio guides and assisted listening devices are provided for a variety of exhibits and presentations for patrons with visual and hearing impairments. Sign language interpretations and real-time captioning of public programs and tours are also available upon request at select museums. Visitors who utilize service dogs can bring them into most museums and exhibits according to ADA guidelines. Please confirm with the museum that service dogs are allowed before arriving. Visitors in need of a wheelchair will find many museum locations that provide free wheelchairs to patrons, and restrooms and water fountains are wheelchair accessible as well.

Monuments and Accessibility

Whether you’re heading to the Statue of Liberty or marveling at the Lincoln Memorial, accessibility options are available for all travelers at many public sites. Travelers should inquire about Information Centers at national monuments, many of which offer narrated films with adjustable volume, as well as braille-ready brochures for the visually impaired. Wheelchair ramps and pathways can be found at most monuments, providing easier access throughout the grounds, and many monument tours offer sign language interpretation when requested in advance. Private tours are an excellent option for mobility-impaired visitors that are offered at select national monuments. If you require such a tour, please call ahead for details and specific booking information.

Five Accessible Historic Sites in the USA

For an example of the kinds of experiences available, these are just five monuments and historic sites with amenities for the accessibility community:

Lincoln Memorial: The Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., provides visitors with a wealth of accessibility options. From free wheelchair rentals to ramps, elevators and private tours for visitors with limited mobility, the monument takes great strides to provide an inclusive experience for all guests.

Mount Rushmore: The iconic Mount Rushmore National Memorial in Keystone, South Dakota, provides visitors with accessibility options to make each experience as comfortable as possible. These accommodations include braille brochures, free sign language interpretation, free wheelchairs and wheelchair-accessible trails, elevators and gift shops.

Alcatraz Island: Alcatraz Island in San Francisco, California, is a fascinating look at what was once one of the country’s most infamous prisons. Visitors with accessibility needs will be pleased to find accessible parking at Pier 33, accessible ferry launches, wheelchair-accessible restrooms, audio-described tours and braille wayfinding posts, as well as sign language Cell Hours tours on individual handheld digital devices.

Gateway Arch: The Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri, is a monument to the USA’s westward expansion and provides visitors with a wealth of accessibility options. While the very top of the Gateway Arch isn’t wheelchair accessible, the museum theater, museum store and lobby are. Assistive listening devices are available and sign language interpretation of the live shows can be requested a week in advance.

Montezuma Castle National Monument: Home to preserved cave dwellings built by the Sinagua people in 1100 AD, Montezuma Castle National Monument in Campe Verde, Arizona, offers accessibility options to guests of all abilities. While the terrain at this monument can be rugged, the Visitor Center and one third of the loop trail is wheelchair accessible. For other needs, it’s best to contact a ranger to discuss special accommodations.