Bring Your Own (Accessible) Device: A Mobile Guide Solution for Promoting Accessibility, Social Distancing, and Autonomy in Museums

Lauren Race, Charlotte Martin, Xinwen Xu, Cheryl Fogle-Hatch, Amy Hurst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


COVID-19 presented new challenges to museums in 2020 and 2021 as they were required to either temporarily close or reduce capacity and adhere to strict health and safety guidelines. These changes required finding new approaches to safely provide accessible content to visitors, as traditional solutions involve sharing objects, technologies, or gathering in groups to listen to a docent, read exhibit signage, or touch an artifact. We address this challenge using an approach we call BYOAD (Bring Your Own Accessible Device), where visitors' personal mobile devices are used to access museum content. We believe this approach supports a more accessible and autonomous experience for visitors during social distancing and beyond. We describe our work partnering with a New York City museum to make a BYOAD web-based mobile guide that was available to all visitors and replaced their accessibility offerings. The guide features visual descriptions of artifacts, non-visual wayfinding directions to exhibitions, summaries of exhibit content in easy-to-read bullet points, open-captioned videos kept under two minutes, video transcripts, and photos with alt text. Our mobile guide launched in September 2020 and has been viewed over 9,000 times to date. We have conducted on-site observations and interviewed six members of the museums' advisory council to understand the impact and potential for this approach. This article provides recommendations for researchers and practitioners on the design of BYOAD mobile guides, including: (1) designing accessible guides that are appropriate for cultural constraints; (2) building the guide using the web; and (3) leveraging existing technology to deepen visitors understanding of museum content.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of the Inclusive Museum
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021


  • Accessibility
  • Disability
  • Informal Education
  • Mobile
  • Museums

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Conservation
  • Museology


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