Mystic, Conn. – State leaders and members of advocacy groups recently applauded CRIS Radio and Mystic Aquarium for their collaborative efforts to improve accessible and inclusive experiences for people who are blind or have low vision at an event recognizing Blind Americans Equality Day.
The event included a demonstration of CRIS Radio’s talking exhibit service, called CRISAccess, and the Aquarium’s accessible penguin encounter for students served by the state Bureau of Education and Services for the Blind.
The two nonprofits teamed up this summer to expand upon their previous collaboration by updating and adding new “talking exhibits” at the Aquarium. They also added recordings describing 20 exhibit-related items that visitors are invited to touch.
The CRISAccess audible exhibits are instantly triggered when a visitor scans a QR (Quick Response) Codes displayed on CRISAccess signs with their personal smartphone.
Gov. Ned Lamont applauded efforts to improve inclusiveness within the community. “I want to thank CRIS Radio and the Mystic Aquarium for partnering together today to further improve access and inclusivity for our state’s blind residents at museums and aquariums by offering talking exhibits and sensory bags,” Lamont said.
Deb Reed, president of the National Federation of the Bind, Central CT Chapter, praised the collaboration. “With your efforts and CRISAccess in our corner, our world is becoming more enriched,” Reed said.
US Sen. Chris Murphy also applauded the partnership. “Today we recognize the profound efforts the Aquarium has done with CRIS to provide better access for their visually impaired guests,” Murphy said. “With the help of an app developed by CRIS, the Aquarium is able to provide short, descriptive and informative narrations for visually impaired guess so they can easily access all the Aquarium has to offer.”
“Mystic Aquarium is a shining example of how partnerships with organizations such as CRIS Radio and the Dept. of Aging and Disability Services can increase accessibility in our state,” said Amy Porter, commissioner of the state Dept. of Aging and Disability Services. “By partnering on accessible audio description technology and tactile exhibits, the Aquarium brings students with limited or no vision directly into the experience. [The students] come away with a greater understanding and appreciation of the aquarium and its many learning opportunities.”
Future collaborations will expand upon these initiatives, said Stephen Coan, Ph.D., president and CEO of Mystic Aquarium. “As Connecticut’s largest cultural attraction, Mystic Aquarium is excited to continue to collaborate with CRIS Radio and its CRISAccess program,” Coan said. “This program furthers our efforts to increase accessibility across our campus and offers new opportunities to guests with disabilities to enhance learning about the ocean and its inhabitants. We applaud CRIS Radio for working diligently to ensure everyone has the opportunity to learn what is happening in their world, both here at Mystic Aquarium and beyond.”
About CRIS Radio
CRIS (Connecticut Radio Information System) is a 41-year-old nonprofit based in Windsor and is Connecticut’s only radio-reading service providing audio access to news and information for people who are blind or print-challenged, including those unable to read due to physical, learning, intellectual or emotional disabilities. CRIS operates with nearly 200 volunteers at its broadcast center in Windsor and regional studios located in Danbury, Norwalk, Norwich, Trumbull, West Haven and at ESPN in Bristol. For more information, visit www.crisradio.org.
About Mystic Aquarium
Mystic Aquarium, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, is counted among the nation’s leading aquariums, offering exemplary care to a variety of species while also serving as the northeast’s premier marine mammal rescue and rehabilitation center. Robust conservation and education programming along with unparalleled visitor experiences serve to strengthen personal connections to the animals and their environments. The mission of Mystic Aquarium is to inspire people to care for and protect the ocean planet through conservation, education and research, and introduces approximately 800,000 guests annually to thousands of animals through structured interpretations, specially-curated exhibits and hands-on interactions. As a leading research organization, Mystic Aquarium employs a full staff of scientists engaged in projects focused on the conservation and sustainability of our ocean planet.