I want to introduce you to my new friends, Allison and her son Scotty who recently visited the museum. Scotty, who is a 4 year old boy with moderate cerebral palsy, and his mom Allison have some great insights and tips to share with other visitors who may be visiting Please Touch Museum with a child in a wheelchair.
Pinky: Tell me a little bit about your overall experience with Scotty at the museum.
Allison: Scotty had a wonderful time at Please Touch and we got to do a lot of great activities throughout the gallery floor. First, I'd like to point out how great the staff was! They were extremely approachable and helpful; if they were unsure of the answer to my questions, they made sure they found someone who knew how to answer them correctly. The staff made us feel welcome and Scotty had a blast!
Pinky: Could you describe some of the activities Scotty was able to do in each exhibit zone?
Allison: We started off in Roadside Attractions. Scotty was able to roll up to the gas station car, which had nice access. All pieces were a good height for a small wheelchair, as was the SEPTA Bus. He was able to get in the bus via the ramp in the rear, but unfortunately did not have access to the driver’s seat and controls without being transferred.
Another great space was the little City Park, where Scotty had access to everything. In addition to the park, the Wonderland exhibit had nice roll up ability at the table to have tea with the Mad Hatter. The hedgerow maze is wide enough for a wheelchair to pass through, as long as there is no one else in the way. Also, the Busy Build truck has easy access for a wheelchair bound child to drive.
As for River Adventures, the area is great as long as the child can transfer from the wheelchair and be supported or stand independently next to the water tables. Finally, the carousel was also accessible as it had a nice bench cutout for a wheelchair. If the child is able to transfer, he/she could also choose one of the animals on the carousel. Oh, and of course the Playhouse! Scotty was able to easily access the theater and enjoy the show!
Pinky: What were some of the areas Scotty had some difficulty accessing?
Allison: In the Flight Fantasy exhibit, the seat where you can pedal to make the toys go around on the track is not accessible. Hand pedals would be more accessible here. The film cameras in the Captain Noah display were unfortunately too high for a wheelchair to see through them. And finally, the Rainforest Rhythm exhibit was not really cutout for a child in a wheelchair—the drums on the top of the branches were too high, and Scotty couldn't access the drum set on the ground because the stools were attached to the floor and not removable. He was able to use the drum set that was wheeled out by a staff member, but not the drums that are attached.
Pinky: What are some general tips you have for parents/guardians visiting with children in wheelchairs?
Allison: I think it's important for parents to know that most of the museum is generally very accessible for children in wheelchairs—there is a great ramp outside, and all the bathrooms are wheelchair accessible, along with the Please Taste Cafe. A good day to visit is on Mondays when there are no school groups in the building; it makes the entire experience more pleasant for your child. Weekends may be tough due to large amount of visitors.
Generally speaking, I think parents need to know that accessibility will vary with not just the disability of their child, but with the age of the child, size of the wheel chair, ability to be transferred out of the wheelchair etc. But even with these little challenges, I think any child can have a wonderful experience at the museum!
Pinky: Thanks so much for your great insights, Allison! I can't wait to see you again soon here at Please Touch Museum!