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Children’s Museum director presents at national conference

Posted 7/6/22

Donna Migliaccio, the museum director of the Utica Children’s Museum, and Brandi Candido, ICAN director of brand management, attended the Association of Children’s Museums national …

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Children’s Museum director presents at national conference


UTICA — Donna Migliaccio, the museum director of the Utica Children’s Museum, and Brandi Candido, ICAN director of brand management, attended the Association of Children’s Museums national conference: Play the Long Game: InterActivity 2022 in St. Louis. 

Migliaccio presented on the panel “What’s the Big IDEA Behind Universal Design?” along with Greg Belew from Hands On! Studio, the exhibit designers for Utica’s new Children’s Museum; Anne Fullenkamp, from the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh; and Krista Macy from Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access at University of Buffalo, which is working closely with representatives of the Utica Children’s Museum.

The Utica museum director shared her experience of collaboration with the teams of experts museum staff is working with to create a fully “universally designed” museum space. Nearly 70 attendees actively engaged with the panel and were eager to learn more about how they can begin to make needed improvements in their own spaces, according to an announcement by the museum.

Being the first-of-its-kind in the country, the co-location of ICAN’s Family Resource Center and the new Children’s Museum, at 106 Memorial Parkway, along with the entire building being trauma-informed and universally designed, is causing a buzz in the national conversation of children’s museums and our project is becoming a model and inspiration for others to make improvements and advancements in increasing equity in design for underrepresented groups, the announcement added.

What is universal design?

Universal design is a process that enables and empowers a diverse population by improving human performance, health and wellness, and social participation, according to experts. It is not the same as accessibility. While accessibility refers to the minimum compliance with codes and standards for people with disabilities, universal design is performance-based and addresses usability for people of all abilities.

According to the announcement, there are a multitude of benefits from universal design, including:

Children experience safety and security;

Adults have reduced stress;

Older adults find support for independence;

People with disabilities have independent function and those with varied size, stature and sensitivities will experience a space or building with ease;

Those with different non-physical characteristics – income, gender, cultural or educational – will also feel comfortable and welcome.

Some examples of how universal design will be implemented in the new Children’s Museum include:

Variety of benches – with backs to offer additional support to those with limited trunk control, varying heights for younger guests as well as those with mobility issues (i.e. knee issues), benches that offer ease of transfer from a wheelchair;

Signage in sizes and fonts that offer the most readability;

Traffic flow throughout the space that allows for ease of movement; and

Good sight lines throughout the space.

The Utica Children’s Museum and ICAN have partnered on the development of the new museum and family resource center. Nationwide, family resource centers (FRCs) are community-based hubs where families can access traditional and non-traditional supports to promote their health and well-being – mental health services, parent skill training, home visiting, respite and crisis care services and more.

Many FRCs aim to be “one-stop shops” for children and parents that increase parenting skills as well as strengthen families’ protective factors such as:

Parental resilience;

Social connections;

Concrete support in times of need;

Knowledge of parenting and child development; and

Social and emotional competence of children.

According to the announcement, family resource center’s support the development of strong communities by supporting parents and caregivers through a multitude of programs and services. They are welcoming spaces that are prevention-focused, strengths-based, culturally sensitive and most importantly driven by family needs and serve as a link between families, schools, support services and the community.

As a result, officials added, these centers help to significantly reduce the risk of child abuse and maltreatment.

The ICAN Family Resource Center is set to open for services this year. The grand opening of the Utica Children’s Museum is planned for late 2023.


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