Before I begin, I would like to send a birthday shout out to my mom who turned 50 on August 16th!!! Happy Birthday Mom! I hope it was a great time and I love you.
This will be a two-part blog. The first post will be about my experience as a disabled visitor at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum. When I started doing a bit of background research for this blog I uncovered the rich history behind the museum. It is this history that will be the focus of the second post.
Now let’s get “Rollin”!
On Tuesday, August 16th, we decided to celebrate my mom’s birthday by spending the afternoon together at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum at 700 N. 12th Street on the east side of Wausau. We invited our friend Kaytee to join us. Kaytee has been a part of my life since I was a kid, so I was really looking forward to the day.
It was a beautiful, sunny day when we pulled into the parking lot of this local art museum. We observed 4 handicapped parking spaces, all of which had van access. Two of those spaces had direct sidewalk access. The amount of handicapped parking spaces is actually more than the required amount based on the size of the parking lot.
We decided to take in the gardens and the outside sculptures first. Every walkway, sculpture and garden was accessible. My body does not fare well on uneven and bumpy pathways; I was so pleased at that ease my chair was able to get around the outside grounds. There was plenty of shade and benches to enjoy the serenity of this area.
As I drove into the building I took note of the automatic doors with easy to access buttons. During my past visits to this museum I have always been impressed by the friendly, warm volunteers at the front desk. It has been my experience that they always get up from behind the desk to greet us and give us directions on where to go, this time was no different. This personal touch only adds to the experience.
The museum has a consistent exhibit of paintings and sculptures of birds. However, they have special exhibits throughout the year. As you go from section to section it seems like an unscripted video game, where there’s always places undiscovered and anything’s possible! It brings out the fantasy side of me that not even wrestling could satisfy!
On our way to the exhibit we noticed that they have a station for strollers and wheelchairs. They supply strollers and wheelchairs free of charge! Woohoo! Oh, I forgot to mention…the museum is also free, completely free! We noticed that in this area they have 2 separate coat hooks. One set is the standard height you would find anywhere. The other set was lower, perfect for wheelchair bound visitors to hang their coats independently.
We did not look up the latest exhibit, so it was a complete surprise for us. The exhibit was ironically enough called “The Art Of Seating.”! Imagine that! The exhibit displayed chairs from the 1800’s-1960’s. Some of chairs looked spine crushing, and others looked like ones you would see on those beach vacations in a movie perfect world…which I’m too broke to afford! Unfortunately, it was not an interactive exhibit…look but don’t touch…or sit! They were made from so many different materials, including the horns from a Texas Longhorn! There were wooden chairs, lawn chairs, pool chairs, and handcrafted chairs. I’m not a museum expert but either these chairs had a spectacular makeover or they are in excellent, original condition. Either way, I was really impressed! Many of the wooden chairs look like they were built fresh! I think the coolest one I saw was a chair which had basket lining in the middle.
I have always thought Leigh Yawkey was a pleasant museum to get around in. The exhibit areas are spacious and never overcrowded with the displays. I have to worry in places with valuable items! I am literally a bull in a china shop…even worse, I am a bull on wheels!
Headphones are available while you are touring the museum. I think this is a wonderful option for the visually impaired. Most disabled individuals live within an abled bodied family. Making these culturally enriched experiences accessible for the entire family is really incredible. Additionally, ever door within this museum was automatic. They also have a wheelchair accessible emergency exit and an emergency assistance area.
Writing this blog has greatly heightened my awareness of my surroundings. In the past I failed to take note of the bathrooms. This visit I peeked into the bathrooms. Regular readers know that this is usually my mom’s job, as many places we visit do not have family restrooms. I discovered Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum has something almost unheard of…bathrooms with automatic doors!!! The bathroom on the main level was multi-stalled, so there is still the issue of times I have an opposite sexed caregiver. When we checked out the lower level, we were thrilled to discover a family restroom in the kid’s section!
Speaking of the lower level, the elevator was wide enough for me to do donuts! Many elevators I encounter are too narrow to turn around in. My visual perception deficit makes backing up my chair a hazard to every toe and knee in the elevator! Just ask my mom…
As we finished up the tour inside, we stopped at the reception desk. We wanted to let the receptionist know about my blog. There we met Becca! She was so friendly and was very interested in our feedback. The accessibility is wonderful, the exhibits are interesting, but the staff really is the shining gem in this museum.
We did not want our time to end quite yet, so we decided to walk the garden area again. It was then we discovered a Secret Garden! Again, I had the same accessibility as the abled-bodied visitors. The one statue that stood out was that of a horse. Why did it stand out? It brought to light how my visual perception deficit affects how my brain processes the visual information it receives. The only reason I know that it was a horse is because Mom pointed it out. Embarrassingly, from my vantage point it looked like a giraffe! Hey, I knew it was in the animal kingdom, so don’t judge me!! Another outside favorite for me was a small pond with a mountain lion drinking from it. I really did not want to leave…
How many wheelchair stars will this Wausau Gem receive? Drumroll please….
For the first time ever…FIVE STARS!!!! Five stars for total accessibility and great service. Be sure to “roll with me” for part 2 when I talk about the history of the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum.
For more information about the museum and the museum hours check out their website:
Until then, keep rollin’, and keep smilin’!!
Photo and Graphic Credit: Sandi Kelch
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