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The Walt Disney Family Museum is a showcase of the extraordinary life and legacy of Walter Elias Disney, the man behind globally renowned Disney enterprises. Located in the scenic Presidio of San Francisco, CA, the museum features an array of storytelling techniques that truly immerse the visitor in the Disney experience. Museum guests get a personal peek into Walt Disney’s inspirations and techniques, giving them first-hand knowledge of how he transformed the entertainment industry. Through interactive galleries, exclusive materials, and exhibits narrated in Walt’s own voice, the museum illustrates the magic of Disney by applying modern technology to his classic works. Currently, the Walt Disney Family Museum’s mission is two-fold: “to inform present and future generations about the man and, through his story, to inspire them to heed their imagination and persevere in pursuing their goals.”
In keeping with that mission statement, the team at the Walt Disney Family Museum partnered with STQRY to make the museum experience more inclusive by increasing accessibility for more groups of visitors. “The goal of the project was to create an app to improve the accessibility of our galleries, particularly for non-English speakers and guests with disabilities,” said Tracie Timmer, Senior Public Programs Coordinator for the museum. “We also wanted to create more interactive content for guests that they could access to make their visit easier, more efficient, and fun.” Making Walt Disney’s story more accessible to all groups reflects the larger shift toward inclusivity in the world of Disney. What started as a classic American entertainment company has grown into a global mass media brand with vast influence, so elevating the museum experience to a more inclusive environment was a natural next step.
When the museum teamed up with STQRY, accessibility enhancements were the primary focus. Using content created by the museum, STQRY added to the app a full American Sign Language tour to help visitors who are deaf or hard of hearing navigate the space, along with an audio guided tour for guests who are blind or lowvision. The app also features a social story for visitors on the spectrum. The social story gives a full virtual walk-through description of the museum experience along with panoramic photos that let visitors know exactly what to expect before they arrive inperson at the museum. This social story allows the sensory experience of the museum to be better received. App users can also take a virtual walk through exhibits in the museum in a Matterport-style layout, where they have total autonomy in terms of where they’d like to explore – each new room is just a click away. This virtual technology sets the app apart in terms of innovation and immersion. In addition to these upgrades, the Walt Disney Family Museum app was also translated into 11 languages (English, German, French, Spanish, Chinese Simplified, Japanese, Korean, Italian, Russian, Portuguese, and Arabic). Disney’s global appeal is much more powerful with translation services. Multilingual availability adds a whole new level of accessibility to Walt Disney’s story. “Our favorite features are the accessibility features, as we believe they add a muchneeded new dimension to our existing content that makes the museum that much more accessible for everyone,” said Timmer. Walt Disney’s life and legacy can serve as an inspiration to all, but only if it is accessible to all. Creating more virtual offerings, translation services, and varying audio-visual features within the museum’s app helped achieve this goal.
— Tracie Timmer, Senior Public Programs Coordinator at The Walt Disney Family Museum
Our favorite features are the accessibility features, as we believe they add a much-needed new dimension to our existing content that makes the museum that much more accessible for everyone.
The Walt Disney Family Museum has received high praise for the app improvements from users with special needs. “We were reached out to by In Sight: Full Life, a website dedicated to accessibility in entertainment, to feature the app on their website,” said Timmer. STQRY’s app innovations proved to be useful beyond increased accessibility once the COVID-19 pandemic began as well. When the museum shut down in-person operations, the added features allowed staff to connect with guests virtually. Post-COVID, the Walt Disney Family Museum team hopes to use the app to enhance the in-person experience along with added virtual offerings. “Once we reopen, we plan to use the app to offer other improvements to help minimize guests’ physical interaction with touch screens and headphones in our galleries, and offer a way for people who might be at higher risk to still visit our galleries virtually,” said Timmer. True to form, Disney is ahead of the curve by anticipating the needs of their existing and future guests. Increasing accessibility on all levels – whether that be for ESL speakers, visitors with disabilities, or those at high-risk for COVID – enhances the experience of the brand and the museum for all.