The District

In Travel by Jeff McAllister

Besides being the capital of the United States, Washington D.C. (or as the locals refer to it “The District”) is also home to some particularly wonderful museums. Most of these museums are relatively accessible, however one stands out as a shining example of what good accessibility can be. That is the National Gallery of Art on the National Mall.

The accessibility features can be seen in the post-ADA sculpture garden as well as the 1970s east building and the original west building of the 1930s. Of course, it helps that this museum is funded partly by Congress who despite all their wrangling manage to do some good things.

Outside: Getting to the Museum is easy for wheelchair users, through the nearby Metrorail station (the entire system is accessible) and driving. There are about a dozen nearby handicapped parking spaces; spaces are located directly in front of the east building and along Madison Drive. To enter the west building it is necessary to go around the building, but it isn’t far and is completely level. There are two wheelchair accessible entrances, one in the east building (4th Street) and one in the west building (Constitution Avenue), unfortunately the main entrance to the west building has about 30 stairs. One entrance has a button activated door and other is monitored by the guards who will open the door.

Inside the Museum: Elevators provide access to all levels of the Museum and are located throughout. An underground concourse provides a direct connection between the two buildings of the Museum and is completely accessible. There are many moderately accessible bathrooms, including one with button activated doors. There are also to companion restrooms for people who require assistance, one on the Mezzanine Level of the East Building and one on the Main Level of the West Building in the hallway by the men’s restroom.

Of course, a visit to the National Gallery would not be complete without a visit to one of the foodservice areas. There are at least four. All the restaurants are accessible, including the Pavilion Cafe in the Museum’s sculpture garden which has push button activated doors and moderately accessible restrooms.

Now of course, accessibility is not only measured in physical access. Staff members and guards are all very helpful and more than willing to help you out. If you get lost or simply do not know where an accessible restroom is, just ask and guards will usually take you to them. Also, recently someone complained to the Museum that one of their very large paintings by Salvador Dali was in a stairwell and was not viewable by someone using a wheelchair. The Museum responded and within a reasonable amount of time located a new display area for the painting and relocated the painting.

So, as you can see the National Gallery of Art has transformed itself into one of the most accessible museums in Washington D.C. I certainly hope than anyone who visits the city takes advantage of this wonderful institution. Hopefully, the accessibility is so good that you don’t even have to think about it. And if you do have to think about it, let me know and I will reimburse you for admission!

OKAY! You got me.

The Museum is free to get in. 😉