Surveying the current state of museum accessibility to visitors with severe mental illnesses, this report aims to illuminate an almost entirely invisible issue. While many museums nationwide are creating special programs for families of children on the autism spectrum, adults with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, and even adults with post-traumatic stress disorder, visitors with many more marginalized forms of severe and persistent mental health issues are largely neglected. These disorders include major depression, child and adolescent depression, bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, and many others. Stigma may slowly be eroding, but that audience still remains “untouchable.” However, museums can offer great benefits to
individuals living with severe mental illnesses. This study will outline ways that museums can reorient how they think about accessibility within their walls in order to offer more universally accessible, supportive, and constructive experiences to visitors living with severe mental illnesses.
This paper was submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Museum Studies.
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