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A Tool for Cultural Organizations

Site Visit: Accessibility Audit

Table of Contents


Ground Rules

Before the Visit

Sample Agenda



This is a first visit and should include people knowledgeable about ADA requirements. For example, a contract ADA compliance advisor, staff at your local Center for Independent Living (CIL) with experience doing site audits, accessibility consultants, etc.  Aim to have this type of audit done on a regular basis, especially when new elements are added or there are changes are made to your site.

After reviewing the recommendations from this visit and making as many changes as you can, a second community User-Expert Site Visit is recommended, which will allow give additional feedback from people in your community who are similar to those you are aiming to serve (or want to serve better).

The main goal of this audit is to identify areas where the site is meeting current accessibility standards and areas where access could be improved.  This will mainly focus on physical accessibility (ability to enter/navigate in spaces) but may focus on some programmatic accessibility as well.

Ground rules:

  • What are the goals/expectations of this audit?
  • Identify the big picture and be prepared to explain this to your auditor to help them get an idea of what your site values and aims to communicate:
    • What does the site do?
    • What is our intended outcome for visitors? Think holistically: How do you want visitors to feel in your spaces?  Before/after a visit?
    • What/whose story are we telling? This may be reflected in your mission statement, interpretive plan, and/or collections displays.  Are there areas where you are looking to include new viewpoints?
  • Determine scope—Plan what areas (both physical and interpretive) to be the focus of the visit, recognize that it may not be possible to survey the entire site in one visit.
    • What’s going well?”—To verify and reinforce staff’s accessibility efforts.
    • What’s going to change?” Think about new displays/objects, outdated/broken interpretive elements, etc.—use this to get feedback on how to improve before starting or while in process.
    • What do staff/previous visitors see as problem area(s)?”—Use this to verify and get feedback before making changes, also can be an area to integrate visitor comments/feedback you’ve received.

** The scope and choice of physical spaces can also help determine team size/composition—be sure to include staff/volunteers who have experience with these areas.

  • Select staff to be involved:
    • Make sure to include a cross-section of people, and place emphasis on staff who work with visitors as well as any people who have pre-knowledge of the ADA, the area(s) that you are specifically surveying, etc. Keep in mind that “decision-makers” exist at all levels of your organization.
      • Think about any specific roles and responsibilities staff will have on the day of the audit:
        • Cleaning/preparation (especially if on a day that the site is closed to the public)
        • Visitor interactions: Include the ticketing/front desk greeting process as part of the audit. If the audit is held on a day where the site is open to the public, think about how it will potentially impact visitors.
      • Ask staff to aim for a learning mindset and allow for the auditor to view the site with as little bias as possible.
        • If the auditor asks for information that is not visible, staff should resist being defensive or going into too much detail (explaining why a decision was made, making value judgements on others, etc.).
      • Before the audit, set expectations for staff:
The site audit is:

·      A tool for helping to benchmark the site’s current accessibility to visitors

·      One element towards developing an action plan for improvement

The site audit is not:

·      A fault-finding exercise, or judgement of the site or its staff

·      About what has been done in the past or might be planned for the future

·      A comprehensive assessment of site accessibility

  • Compensate site reviewers for their professional knowledge—either pay a consultant to do this or compensate other experts for their time. If the audit is a full day, include multiple breaks and at least one meal.
  • Recognize that this is a first step in the process and may need to be repeated as spaces and objects are added or changed.

Before the visit:

  • Identify an auditor—this may be an independent accessibility consultant or a staff member of your regional Center for Independent Living (CIL).
  • Do a walkthrough:
    • Determine how much time it will take to experience relevant areas.
      • Use the amount of time your staff walkthrough took as the minimum time for the visit!
      • Add 30-60 minutes of extra time from your initial walkthrough when planning the agenda for the day.
    • Make sure any audio/visual elements are functioning correctly.
    • We recommend using the ADA Checklist for Existing Facilities as a basic guide for building accessibility, but you should ask your auditor what they are using and make sure your walkthrough includes all relevant areas.
  • If including meals or food in the day, be sure to ask auditors about any dietary restrictions.

Sample Agenda:

  • 9:30-10:30am: Staff prepare site & meeting spaces for visit
  • 10:30am: Site auditor arrives
  • 10:30-11:00am: Brief introduction to site, overview of outcomes & expectations
  • 11:00am-12:00pm: Begin site visitor experience assessment (exterior & ticketing)
  • 12:00pm-12:45pm: Lunch break
  • 12:45pm-2:30pm: Continue site visitor experience assessment (visitor center, historic buildings)
  • 2:30-3:00pm: Wrap-up and final comments
  • 3:00pm: Site auditor leaves


  • This is best to schedule a few days to a week after the site visit to give everyone time to process, or once you have received and reviewed the auditor’s report.
  • Reflect back on big picture outcomes:
    • Are these outcomes being effectively communicated?
    • Are all visitors getting the same outcome, through the same process/method?
  • What is the low-hanging fruit?
    • Think about anything that could be updated quickly, easily, or at low cost.
    • Use the Action Plan Template to document these quick-impact projects and start planning longer-term work.
  • Plan for the User-Expert Site Visit with people from your community:
    • It is best to have this visit scheduled after you have implemented a few changes from your audit to allow for some real-world testing.
    • Think about who to prioritize in the visit (people with a specific disability, for example).
    • Plan for how to ensure this isn’t extra work (for visitors with disabilities) and still retains the fun of the museum experience.
      • While you may want to think about how to get this as close to a typical visitor experience as possible, planning this on a day that is closed to other visitors or including previews of new things can help give a “behind the scenes” feel.

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