My family and I visited Boston for a few days, and decided to go to the New England Aquarium. We had gone many years ago, before my vision deteriorated, and were excited to return, even if I wouldn’t be able to see much. Surprisingly, I was able to see more creatures than I expected, and I even got in for free! Here are my tips for visiting the aquarium with a visual impairment.
Guests with visual or mobility impairments can get into the aquarium for free, which is an awesome benefit! We purchased our tickets at the information desk, where a staff member was able to see my blindness cane and give us the discount. The rest of my family (three adults) still had to pay for admission, though.
The ground is very smooth and the only obstacles around are people- no worries about running into poles here. There are ramps to travel to most exhibits, though there are also elevators and stairs available that are easy to access. Because of the crowds, I would highly recommend using a human guide when navigating.
The aquarium does not allow flash photography, as it can hurt the eyes of the animals, though there are still some guests who use flash photography anyway. Only one exhibit featured a flashing/strobing light, and that was the electric eel tank, which had a battery graphic at the top that flickered quickly, to simulate the electric charge of the eel.
I found it easy to read a lot of the exhibit descriptions, as they had very large text and clear, high-contrast pictures. I didn’t have to worry about having a large print exhibit guide.
Watching the fish
I could probably see about half of the fish on exhibit, due to my vision impairment. The bright colored fish were easy to see, but more common river fish like trout, salmon, and other dark colored fish were next to impossible, due to the poor contrast. While taking pictures with my phone helped me see some fish, I just accepted that I wouldn’t be able to see every fish.
There were no loud exhibits on display, or animals making loud noises in general. However, there were lots of crowds, even when we visited at an off-peak time. If noise is a concern, I would recommend bringing a pair of ear plugs.
There were friendly volunteers stationed at many of the popular exhibits, allowing guests to feel different textures and models. There were also exhibits with 3D models of skeletons and other illustrations that guests were able to touch. There are also touch tanks, including one for manta rays- I found the slimy texture very unsettling, but my brother enjoyed petting them.
One of my favorite exhibits, there are many species of penguins on display, and the penguin exhibit is the center of the museum. I was able to see penguins clearly on the entrance level, and watch them jump around and swim. It got more difficult to see them clearly on the higher levels.
My favorite exhibit
My favorite exhibit of the day was a tie between the penguins and the sea lion. The sea lion was very easy to see, since they were directly in front of me- behind the glass, of course. It was easy to take photos and look at this adorable creature up close.
I highly recommend visiting the New England Aquarium, as they are amazingly accessible to guests with visual impairments, and I enjoyed getting to learn about all sorts of different animals. Even though I couldn’t see everything on exhibit (and didn’t expect to), I still had a lot of fun and know that I will visit again if I’m in the Boston area.