Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton now boasts several new exhibits for guests with impaired vision, hearing and mobility.
The exhibits include a raised-letter/Braille map table, a tactile scale model of the roundhouse area, a vintage passenger coach mock-up and a three-dimensional scale model of the popular cutaway Spang, Chalfont & Co. locomotive No. 8 that sight-impaired patrons are encouraged to touch.
The product of several years of planning and design, the exhibits are located in Steamtown’s visitor center and technology museum. Funding for the project came from the National Park Service’s Targeted Accessibility Improvement Program, which aims to improve accessibility so all visitors, including those with disabilities, may enjoy America’s national parks.
A National Center on Accessibility study of the site completed a few years ago listed a number of deficiencies officials have been working to address, from raising the height of certain benches at the facility to installing push-button automatic door openers throughout the complex. The new exhibits are part of that process, Steamtown Chief of Visitor Services and Resource Management Bill Fischer said.
“(Our exhibits) are 30-plus years old and we’re really trying to focus on universal design so that all of our visitors have the same great experience,” Fischer said. “We’re chopping away at things to try to make our site accessible to everyone.”
Keith Williams, chairman of the Lackawanna County Disability Action Committee, lauded Steamtown and the National Park Service for making the attraction more inclusive.
“This is another example that shows that people with disabilities and (their) family members … want to participate in the same kinds of publicly funded venues that are already available to everyone else,” Williams said. “Anything that can be done to make the park attractions … more accessible and usable, the better it is for everybody.”
Steamtown is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. much of the year and typically from about 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from January through March. There is no charge to visit the site.
For information, call 570-340-5200.