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Smithsonian Institution Accessibility Overview

  • Manual wheelchairs are available at no cost at all Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Visitors are welcome to use their own personal mobility devices in the Smithsonian museums.
  • Access services for public programs, such as real-time captioning and sign language interpretation, can be arranged by contacting the museum hosting the program in advance, or by emailing
  • Open captioning is provided on all museum exhibition videos.
  • Assistive listening devices are available at all Smithsonian museums. Contact the individual museum to inquire. 
  • Tactile and visual description tours can be arranged by contacting the individual museums, or by emailing 
  • Tactile elements are available throughout many Smithsonian museums.
  • The Smithsonian Institution guide and map is available in braille and large print at each museum's information desk. 
  • Aira Access mobile information and verbal description service is available at Smithsonian museums in the Washington, D.C., metro area. Visitors can download the free Aira app on a smartphone, connect to each museum's free Wi-Fi, and use the app to speak to an Aira agent using minutes provided courtesy of the Smithsonian.
  • Bathrooms are located throughout the Smithsonian museums. All bathrooms have an accessible stall, and some museums have a Family/Companion Care restroom. Inquire at the museum Information Desk or look at the museum's map to find bathroom locations.
  • IMAX movies shown during museum hours have assistive listening devices, audio-description, and rear-window captioning. For details, view the IMAX Theater and Planetarium Accessibility FAQ.

General Museum Tips

  • Visit the Smithsonian's main website for hours and admission information and to plan your visit.
  • Visitors must go through the security screening at the entrance of the museums. Security officers will look inside bags, and visitors will walk through a metal detector.  
  • Some of the museums or specific exhibitions can be loud on busy days. Visitors may bring noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs with them on their visit if they would like. 
  • For some objects in the museum, an alarm will go off if someone gets too close to the object. If the alarm goes off, visitors should take a step back to give the object space. 
  • Most museum bathrooms have automatic flush toilets, automatic on and off sinks, and automatic electric blow hand dryers. The hand dryers and the automatic flush toilet may be loud for some visitors. 

Social Narratives and Pre-Visit Videos

Social narratives and pre-visit videos are designed to help prepare visitors for situations they may encounter at the Smithsonian's museums and zoo. They address what to expect, museum rules and routines, safety information, and more. Social narratives and pre-visit videos can be found on the Pre-Visit Resources page. 

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