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Intrepid Museum Teams with NYU Ability Project on Interactive Mobile Guide to Maximize Visitor Experience Amid COVID-19 Safety Protocols


The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) mobile guide was developed to address challenges related to accessibility and new COVID-19 safety precautions.

A sign at the Intrepid Museum with a QR code for access to an interactive museum guide.

The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum has debuted an innovation in accessible visitor experiences: the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Mobile Guide, which allows visitors to access exhibit content on their phones. As part of a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the Intrepid Museum and New York University’s Ability Project teamed up to develop this free guide that assists visitors with self-guided navigation and provides engaging and accessible content and information about the Museum’s spaces and exhibits. 

Following the COVID-19 closures, the Intrepid Museum was faced with logistical and operational challenges with its primary focus on the health and safety of guests. Visitors would not be able to crowd around exhibit labels, convene in small areas or use popular shared devices like audio guides, which provide enhanced interpretation of exhibits. The Museum, along with NYU’s Ability Project, developed a new method to limit high-touch experiences and provide rich, descriptive stories that visitors could access in a safe, socially-distanced way. 

The BYOD Mobile Guide is accessible through visitors’ personal smartphones, with a user experience designed to be fully inclusive and accessible to people of all ages and abilities. It helps guests navigate the Museum and offers a wide collection of content including fast facts, visual descriptions, historic photos, videos and oral histories, statistics, and deep dives into various artifacts and spaces.

“The Museum embarked on this endeavor as part of a longstanding commitment to creating dynamic and accessible experiences for all our visitors,” said Susan Marenoff-Zausner, president of the Intrepid Museum. “When COVID-19 hit, our team, alongside the incredible accessibility experts at NYU’s Ability Project, expanded the project’s scope to solve complex health and safety challenges as well. The result is an innovative tool that we believe is the future of accessible, user-friendly Museum experiences.”

"Our team at the NYU Ability Project is thrilled to contribute to the design and development of a large-scale application that has been focused on accessibility from the start," said NYU Ability Project Director and Associate Professor of Accessibility and Human-Computer Interaction Amy Hurst. Dr. Hurst holds a joint appointment between the Department of Occupational Therapy in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and the Department of Technology, Culture and Society in the Tandon School of Engineering.

This has been an incredible collaboration for our students and staff and we are planning to incorporate our findings in a museum accessibility class this coming spring.

NYU Ability Project Director and Associate Professor of Accessibility and Human-Computer Interaction Amy Hurst

The BYOD Mobile Guide supports assistive technologies, like screen readers, and was evaluated by members of the disability advocacy community. It provides textually-described maps for navigation, detailed interpretation of spaces within the ship that have limited physical accessibility, captioned videos, and simplified text descriptions of exhibits and artifacts. The guide also allows visitors to preview Museum content before their visit, giving them an opportunity to plan their journey.

Seventeen experiences are currently available to explore on the BYOD Mobile Guide, including numerous spaces within the aircraft carrier Intrepid, the supersonic airliner Concorde and the space shuttle Enterprise. More experiences are expected to launch in the coming months.

The BYOD Mobile Guide can be accessed in-person at the Museum by scanning QR codes located near featured exhibits. It can also be found online via the Museum's website.

Press release courtesy of NYU News.

Amy Hurst

Associate Professor, Director of Ability Project

Learn More About the Collaboration

NYU Ability Project and Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum Partner to Make the Museum and Other Historic Sites More Accessible

Through a new grant, the Museum will partner with the NYU Ability Project to create experiences that are accessible to visitors with disabilities.

Read More

About the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is a non-profit, educational institution featuring the legendary aircraft carrier Intrepid, the space shuttle Enterprise, the world’s fastest jets and a guided missile submarine. Through exhibitions, educational programming and the foremost collection of technologically groundbreaking aircraft and vessels, visitors of all ages and abilities are taken on an interactive journey through history to learn about American innovation and bravery.

The Intrepid Museum fulfills its mission to honor our heroes, educate the public and inspire our youth by connecting them to history through hands-on exploration while bridging the future by inspiring innovation.

Connect with us on Facebook (@IntrepidMuseum)Twitter (@IntrepidMuseum), and the Museum's YouTube channel. Tour the Museum virtually on Google Arts & Culture.

About the NYU Ability Project
The New York University Ability Project is an interdisciplinary research space dedicated to the development of adaptive and assistive technologies. Students and faculty of all fields work together to create inclusive systems, design human-centered projects, and further intellectual and clinical research around areas of ability. Located in Downtown Brooklyn, the Ability Project is a collaboration of three NYU colleges—the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development; the Tandon School of Engineering; and the Tisch School of the Arts—and supports research and education across NYU. The Ability Project incubates long-term projects that are client-facing and often developed in partnership with New York City advocacy groups and agencies. It is dedicated to open-source practices and provides service learning opportunities to students across NYU. For more information, visit the Ability Project website.

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services
The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit the Institute of Museum and Library Services website and follow us on Facebook (@USIMLS) and Twitter (@US_IMLS).