The desire of museums to improve accessibility for diverse visitors is often driven by the need to satisfy legal obligations. However, many museums share a fundamental goal to engage the most diverse audience as possible. This thesis illustrates the distinction between perceiving accessibility within cultural institutions as a legal or social issue and how that perception influences museum practice, within the United States. Bridging museum studies, disability theory, and advocacy practice this thesis works to answer the question: How does viewing accessibility as a social responsibility, rather than legal necessity influence an institution’s ability to be inclusive to diverse communities? This work investigates various interpretations of “accessibility” within the field, as well the implementation of access efforts by museums in the United States over the past thirty years. Additionally, this thesis discusses contemporary case studies of effective accessibility practice with the aim to support proactive access efforts in the future.

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Museum Studies (BS)


Mary Beth Kitzel

Advisor/Committee Member

Tabitha Jacques

Advisor/Committee Member

Juilee Decker


RIT – Main Campus