Integration of accessibility best practices in an onsite mobile application

Courtney OCallaghan, Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution, USA, Scott Brewer, Art Processors, USA

Freer Thinking is a new audio app and podcast series launched in conjunction with the reopening of the Smithsonian’s Freer|Sackler Museums of Asian Art. We wanted to not only encourage our audience to more freely rethink our collections and how they experience our museum, but we internally wished to rethink how we approached our digital offerings and how we connect to new and existing art lovers, in particular we were wanting to push for creating the most accessible application the Smithsonian had released to date.

To do so we surveyed the field for best practices and then set out to further refine and test what are the most impactful ways to keep the content and rich stories at the forefront in a variety of enriched and accessible formats.

In undertaking this work we partnered with Art Processors (digital experience/software development), accessibility expert Sina Bahram, and the Smithsonian’s accessibility Expert User Group lead by Beth Ziebarth.

While there are set guidelines on accessibility for web, video, and in-gallery design, there remains a gap in how museums should best apply existing ideas and recommendations for mobile apps, and other emerging technology such as AR and VR. By keeping the visitor-first, story-based design central to the project, we were able to let that mission guide us to key decisions.  In this demonstration we will highlight the three key phases of the process (mobile application and experience design; integration with mobile development best practices; user testing, feedback and change requests) and discuss the outcomes of this work as they have been experienced since launch in October 2017.

Material Design (
IBM Accessibility Research (
Center for Accessibility and Inclusion Research (