When planning a fully inclusive experience, this truly means to include as many people as possible. Especially those with both visible and invisible disabilities.

For guests with hidden learning disabilities, we might need to consider content, effects and visitor waiting areas that are mindful of those sensitive to sensory stimuli. Many attractions have programming schedules that include slots for a more relaxed setting, as a solution to this.

The big theme parks have been adapting their experiences and schedules for years as they work toward their goal of being a fully inclusive experience for all. Inside theatres, seats are removable to accommodate wheelchair users. Or projection and content systems are capable of working in both 2D and 3D mode, for those guests who cannot see in 3D – it’s estimated that up to 20% of the world’s population is affected by stereo blindness.

Assistive Learning Devices such as induction loops have been around for many years in museums and attractions too.

However, we are still seeing that consideration of how to make an experience inclusive is often an afterthought. One that arrives toward the end of a project…. and then the realisation hits that it’s actually quite a detailed process to plan for, and a costly one too. And when budgets have been depleted, and the remaining time in a project schedule is low, sometimes the accessibility of new experiences is simply not good enough.

It’s essential that discussions are had, and plans made, about accessibility very early on in a project – ideally during the blue sky charrette and brainstorming phase.

Attractions Technologies that Support Full Inclusivity

There are many technologies that can improve the inclusivity of an experience – many can be installed into existing attractions and experiences too.

We have seen a wide range of these in practice over the years.

For guests that are hard of hearing, induction loops have been around for quite some time. Theme park setups use an infra-red, or radio, frequency that tunes into the guest’s hearing aid.

Audio captioning via headsets, or text captioning that appears inside the lens of special augmented reality glasses, can also ensure that guests with sight impairment can enjoy experiences equally. 

Many attractions also incorporate the use of motion platforms, so that wheelchair users can participate in moving experiences. 

At the Chailey Heritage Foundation, as part of the award-winning D.R.E.A.M. Centre experience, part of the project included the installation of ropes, hoists and pulley systems to help bring the experience to life for all the children and young adults there.

Another great example of inclusivity can be seen at the Harry Potter ride at Universal Studios. Guests that suffer from vertigo can instead wear a VR headset and be sat in a ‘rumble chair’ to participate. The experience is filmed in 360° so they can take part too. They can still enjoy the queue line experience with the rest of their group, but will go into a room and have their own ‘virtual ride’ while others are on the physical ride.

Augmented reality headsets are now capable of accepting lenses so that guests wearing prescription glasses can also take part.

Today, there’s so many ways to make experiences and attractions more inclusive.

Does the content need to be adapted to work with these technologies?

For the most part, it’s more about the technology and how it’s used, rather than content itself.

When an induction loop is in play, you are working with exactly the same audio – it’s just a separate channel.

For a parallel VR experience, it’s about making sure the attraction can be filmed (or at least, certain scenes of it can be), so that it can work in a 360° cinema format.  

At the Dimension X attraction at the Science and Natural History Museums in London, we were presented with the challenge of creating a workaround for guests under the age of 13, who weren’t able to wear Mixed Reality headsets. Our team developed an iPad-based augmented experience instead.

Today, there’s also closed captioning software available. So audio and visual captions can be generated on demand and served to the guest via a headset or special AR glasses, without any modification needed to the original content itself. This also works with multi-language requirements. Captions (either by sight or by sound) can be served to the audience in any language they request – simply via a timelined media manager. This approach has been adopted by the planetarium and museum world for several years. 

The adoption of technologies to provide an inclusive experience needn’t have a big impact on budget

If you plan for it ahead of time, it shouldn’t be a massive cost.

But it can be a massive blow to the budget if advance consideration and planning hasn’t been made – detailed planning at the outset of any project is always essential!.