The Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University-New Brunswick is striving to make the museum experience more accessible for all visitors. Recently, the museum introduced a new range of specialized tools to help visitors with sensory-related disorders like autism, the first art museum in New Jersey to offer such services.
The Zimmerli worked with the non-profit organization KultureCity to train museum staff on how to assist visitors with autism. Staff were taught to recognize signs that visitors may have sensory needs. The museum also worked with KultureCity to develop a free sensory-inclusive bag. The bag contains tools like a fidget item, noise-cancelling headphones, and cue cards for people with verbal impairments. These tools can help visitors enjoy the museum without experiencing sensory overload.
Prior to introducing the sensory-inclusive bag, the Zimmerli offered special tours for visitors with autism. However, this limited the time visitors with sensory-related disorders could visit the museum. With the new tools, “People with sensory disorders and their families now have the freedom to visit at any time and have confidence they will be assisted properly if they experience sensory overload or otherwise need support,” Amanda Potter, curator of education at the Zimmerli said.
The sensory-inclusive bag represents a big step towards making museums sensory-inclusive. However, for the Zimmerli this is just the start. The museum plans to expand its autism services and find more ways to help New Jersey’s autism community.