Accommodations for Visitors with Psychiatric Disabilities

Quiet Hours

Quiet hours can benefit people with anxiety as well as Autistic visitors. If at all possible, it may be beneficial to provide these nights separately. As with quiet hours for Autistic visitors, utilize soft lighting and minimize any loud noises your exhibitions may use.

Trigger Warnings

Trigger warnings are a very easy way to make your visitors feel more comfortable. Triggering subjects may cause panic attacks or relapse in visitors, among other things, and can affect their mood beyond their visit to your museum. Trigger warnings are a way to either prepare visitors for uncomfortable subjects, or allow them to skip over things that may be upsetting to them. It is important to note that trigger warnings aren’t censorship; providing trigger warnings is simply acknowledging that there are subjects that can be upsetting to some, and they should have the option to not view them if they choose.

Common topics that would warrant a trigger warning are as follows: sexual assault, graphic injury, suicide or self-harm, war, and alcoholism/drug use. Take the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s lead on the topic of trigger warnings. The museum surrounds graphic photos of lynching during the Jim Crow era in red, alerting visitors to their upsetting nature. This way, visitors can see from a distance that there are upsetting photos that they either want to prepare themselves for or skip altogether. Either response is perfectly valid. It is the responsibility of museums to educate on all topics, even difficult ones like the ones mentioned above, but not at the cost of the emotional wellbeing of your visitors. Providing trigger warnings online or on maps, or perhaps within your galleries as the N.M.A.A.H.C. does, is a way to ensure that you are taking care of your guests.

Sensory Maps

A sensory map simply explains what type of sensory experiences a person might have in a given place of your museum. Indicate if you have a video or sound installation in one room, or what type of lighting each room has. Is it lit by natural light? Is it dimly lit? If there is natural light, is it filtered through translucent glass or are they transparent? Also indicate what areas of your museum are loud or can get loud – whether that’s because the room echoes, because lots of visitors tend to congregate in a given area, or because a component of the exhibition utilizes sound. It’s also a good idea to indicate which areas are quiet, and tend to get fewer visitors, and indicate it as a good area to take a rest if someone gets overstimulated. Mark areas where one can sit and rest as well, and be sure that your museum has ample seating, no matter how small. You never know what a person’s needs are or how long they’re going to stay, so assume they will stay for a long time and accommodate them accordingly.