Focus Groups with Cultural Institutions


Three focus groups were conducted from November 2014 to January 2015

Evaluation Goals

Produce baseline findings from professionals from multiple cultural institutions with existing familiarity of inclusive design, technologies, and general accessibility practices for blind and low-vision audiences.

  • The objective was to gather open-ended feedback about current practices, needs, and infrastructure available to support inclusive design.   
  • The study was structured by a predetermined series of research questions to inform decisions about basic tools, trainings, and materials that would be needed for cultural institutions to adopt the Access App.
    • How do cultural institutions currently serve blind and low-vision audiences?
    • How do cultural institutions currently employ technology in their interpretation practices?
    • What are the potential engagement outcomes for staff adopting and audiences using an app similar to the Access App?


  • Two moderated focus groups at professional conferences and one focus group facilitated online through GoToMeeting. Groups ranged in size from two to eight people, and each focus group lasted between 45 and 90 minutes.
  • In total, the Access App evaluation team spoke with fourteen museum professionals representing nine different institutions.  The participating institutions were from seven art museums, one science center, and one history museum.  The participating museums ranged in size from institutions serving less than 50,000 visitors annually to those serving more than 250,000 visitors annually.

The Cultural Professionals Focus Group Protocol (See Appendix A) included both open-ended questions and as a sorting exercise.

Key Engagement topics
  • Familiarity with accessibility practices
  • Current state of accessible practices for blind and low-vision audiences
  • Practices they are interested in adopting
Exploration topics
  • Current state of technical infrastructure, including dedicated staff
  • Use of technology in the galleries or as part of the audience experience
  • Management features needed to adopt new digital experiences

Key Findings

General Interest and Current Accessibility Practices
  • All institutions voiced an interest in enhancing their accessibility efforts.
  • Four of the nine institutions did not provide American Sign Language (ASL), audio description, or captioning at their institutions, citing limited resources as a barrier.
  • Familiarity with certain practices ranged among institutions. Video captioning and pre-scheduled ASL and touch tour experiences were noted most often as in-use accessibility practices.
  • Eight institutions in this study were interested in being early adopters or testers of the Access App.   
Existing Infrastructure
  • Four institutions reported having reliable public Wi-Fi throughout their buildings and campuses. Reliable was defined as robust enough to support mobile experiences.
  • Of the six institutions who responded about Content Management Systems (CMS), three were able to identify which CMS was used by their institution (in some cases multiple). Two identified they did not have a CMS, but did use some sort of database for a selection of their collections. One institution was not aware of the system (if any) its collections department used.
  • In regards to museum management, feedback clearly suggested a sense of a division of labor in either the creation of content or overall staff support of accessible initiatives, as well as an overall lack of information sharing between participants and other departments within their organizations.
Advocacy Tools & Identifying Hardware Requirements
  • Participants suggested that the Access App team create a set of advocacy tools that could be used to start a discussion with other departments.
  • Participants requested that the Access Team identify and communicate any hardware or technical infrastructure requirements prior to implementation.
Wayfinding & Future Testing Scenarios
  • Participants seemed skeptical about whether or not wayfinding could be implemented accurately without frustrating the user.
  • This means Access App’s ability to locate users will need to be finessed and carefully communicated with future partners.
  • The Access App team will need to consider how a mobile experience such as this will layer with sound-based experiences/installations featuring aural components (e.g., contemporary art installations/multimedia presentations or multisensory interactive exhibits).

Appendix A Protocol

Appendix B Compiled Feedback