Accessibility for the Blind/Visually Impaired: 9/11 Memorial & Museum NYC

Accessibility for the Blind/Visually Impaired: 9/11 Memorial & Museum NYC

As we approach the 16th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, blind and visually impaired families should consider taking a trip to New York City’s 9/11 Memorial & Museum. The memorial and the museum are located at the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan at 180 Greenwich Street. Visitors can currently access the memorial at the intersection of Liberty Street and Greenwich Street, at the intersection of Liberty Street and West Street, and at the intersection of West Street and Fulton Street.

The memorial features two cascading waterfalls and reflecting pools, set within the footprints of the twin towers in the original World Trade Center Complex. The names of every person who died during the terrorist attacks of February 26, 1993, and September 11, 2001, are inscribed in bronze around the twin memorial pools.

The museum portion is an educational and historical institution both honoring the victims we lost that fateful day and historically examining 9/11’s continued global significance through artifacts and records.

A Staten Islander & First Responder Visit the 9/11 Memorial & Museum:

My husband and I visited the 9/11 Memorial & Museum together last fall. My husband was first responder during the time of the attacks and was stationed at Ground Zero. I, myself, was fully sighted when 9/11 occurred and was undergoing cancer treatments. I volunteered with the Red Cross and several organizations in the vicinity of Ground Zero with my therapy dog, a black German Shepherd named Samson. Those first few months after the attacks were dark days for New York City.

While we knew the memorial and the museum had been open to the public for some time, emotionally, my husband and I had decided to wait before revisiting the site. I had also delayed the trip for fear I would not be able to independently participate in the exhibits as a visually impaired patron.

The Memorial:

The 9/11 Memorial was absolutely breathtaking. I stood for a long time just listening to the flowing sounds of the tranquil waterfalls of the reflecting pools. My husband guided me around the perimeter, and we were easily able to find the names of the many friends and colleagues we had lost. It was a somber moment, but an inclusive one, as I was able to run my fingers over the deep cuts of the engraved bronze over the names of my friends.

The 9/11 Museum:

We had taken my guide dog, Frances, with us on our visit. As expected, security was very tight after you entered the 9/11 Museum. Shoes, bags, coats—everything—was removed as both Frances and I were directed to go through the metal detector. Frances was even thoroughly wanded by a hand-held device. All this was done professionally and politely.

Most of the museum is 70 feet below street level on the bedrock that was the foundation of the World Trade Center towers. The flow of the exhibits is organized in a winding, downward, sloped walk in the form of ramps. Stairs are located in certain areas, and an accessible elevator is available. The one downside from the perspective of a guide dog user is the slick, shiny floors. I could hear the tap, tap, tapping of Frances’ nails as we made our way further through the museum’s corridors.

While I didn’t make arrangements for a guided tour, several docents (museum volunteers) independently approached us to offer some of the best descriptions of the exhibits that I have ever received from any museum. It was obvious that the 9/11 Museum staff had been well trained and were comfortable with assisting visually impaired visitors. Equally surprising, not one staff member asked to pet my guide dog!


While both my husband and I were happy we had such an informative visit to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, we left feeling emotionally drained. We spent approximately three hours in the exhibit halls. During that time, we found ourselves reliving the personal experiences we had shared with so many victims and survivors all those years ago.

9/11 Museum & Memorial
Holly & Guide Dog Frances @ Footprints.

As a visually impaired mother, I would strongly caution any parent considering taking their young children to this site. While all the information is extremely educational, you will most certainly encounter people who become emotional throughout your journey to bedrock. I, personally, could not see other visitors crying, but I could hear them. Boxes of tissues are positioned throughout the museum.

The accessibility features throughout our visit far surpassed anything I have experienced in my five years living as a visually impaired woman. Undoubtedly, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum did their diligence in order to provide an interactive, tactile, and audibly accessible experience for all blind and visually impaired visitors.

Accessibility Features of the Memorial & Museum for Visually Impaired Visitors

Audio Description Tours:

The 9/11 Museum offers some wonderful accessibility features for the blind and visually impaired. You can download the 9/11 Museum Audio Guide to your smartphone or by asking for a handheld device at the Information Desk. This guide includes an audio description tour, allowing visitors who are blind or partially sighted to independently explore the museum through vivid and detailed descriptions of the museum’s exhibits. The 9/11 Museum Audio Guide is VoiceOver compatible on all iOS devices, including devices offered by the museum.

Guided verbal description tours are also available upon request with three weeks written notice. You may contact (646) 583-3419 (voice), (212) 266-5212 (TTY), or [email protected] to place a request.

Braille & Large Print:

Large print commemorative guides to the memorial are available upon request at the same distribution point as other commemorative guides on the memorial. Select braille and large print materials are available upon request at the Information Desk in the museum.

Interactive Exhibits:

Staff are available throughout the museum to assist visitors in navigating the touchscreen interactive exhibits. Please see a Visitor Service Host in a blue blazer for assistance.

Electronic Directories:

Electronic touchscreen kiosks are located on the Memorial Plaza to explore the arrangement of the 2,983 names on the memorial. The same information contained in the electronic directories is also available at Visitor Services hosts are also available on the memorial to assist with navigating the electronic directories and locating names on the memorial.

Service Animals:

Service animals are welcome at both the memorial and inside the museum.

Memorial Design & Tactile Touch:

The design of the bronze names parapets surrounding the twin memorial pools allows visitors to experience the names of the victims by touching the contours of the letters. Affiliations featured on the memorial, such as company or flight names, are embossed, while individual names are cut out of the bronze.

To review all accessibility information for the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, head to their website, click on “Visit” in the header menu, after the page is redirected, scroll to “Accessibility.” The museum specifies Access Programs & Services for visitors on the Autism Spectrum Disorder, Blind or Partially Sighted, Deaf or Hard of Hearing, and those with limited mobility.

For additional information about programs and services for visitors with disabilities, please contact the museum staff at (646) 583-3419 (voice or VP), (212) 266-5212 (TTY), or [email protected].

Know Before You Go:

Finding a Name on the Memorial:

The names of the nearly 3,000 men, women, and children killed in the attacks of September 11, 2001, and February 26, 1993, are inscribed into bronze parapets surrounding the 9/11 Memorial’s twin pools, set within the footprints of the original twin towers.

The website denotes names of each section of the 9/11 Memorial follow these headings:

World Trade Center: Those who were working in or visiting 1 WTC (North Tower) on 9/11
Flight 11: The crew and passengers of American Airlines Flight 11
February 26, 1993: Those who were killed in the bombing of the WTC on February 26, 1993

World Trade Center: Those who were working in or visiting 2 WTC (South Tower) or other areas of the WTC complex on 9/11
Flight 175: The crew and passengers of United Airlines Flight 175
Pentagon: Those who were working in or were visiting the Pentagon on 9/11
Flight 77: The crew and passengers of American Airlines Flight 77
Flight 93: The crew and passengers of United Airlines Flight 93
First Responders: Those who received the 9/11 Heroes Medal of Valor awarded by the White House on September 9, 2005

The site also indicates, following each heading, the names are arranged so that those belonging to the same affiliation—for example, coworkers of the same company or the crew of each flight—are listed together. The next-of-kin of the victims and surviving colleagues have requested the names of specific individuals next to whom they would like their loved ones’ names inscribed. Some were with relatives, friends, and colleagues; others were with people they barely knew or had just met but with whom intense bonds were quickly formed as a result of a shared response.

Cost & Hours:

Visiting the 9/11 Memorial is “free.” The memorial is open daily to the public from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

The 9/11 Memorial Museum is open daily Sunday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., with the last entry at 6 p.m. The museum has extended hours on Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., with the last entry at 7 p.m. While visitors are free to walk the exhibit at their own pace, an average visit takes approximately two hours to fully experience everything.

Tickets can be purchased up to six months in advance. All admission tickets include entry to all exhibits. 9/11 families do not pay admission.

General admission is $24 for an adult. College students, seniors (ages 65 and over), and US Veterans pay $18. Youth ages seven to 17 are $15. Children six and under are free. There is also a 45-minute guided museum tour and 60-minute museum/memorial guided tour ticket option for an additional cost.

Members of the Fire Department of New York City (FDNY), New York City Police Department (NYPD), and Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) pay $12 with a valid identification card. 9/11 rescue and recovery workers are free with advanced online registration. Active or retired US military are also free with a valid ID.

There is free admission to the museum on Tuesdays from 5 p.m. to closing. Tickets for free Tuesdays are distributed on a first come, first serve basis beginning at 4 p.m.

The 9/11 Memorial & Museum website cautions “the historical exhibition may not be appropriate for visitors younger than 10. Adults accompanying younger visitors should exercise discretion before considering entry.”

Planing on visiting the 9/11 Museum & Memorial?  Already been there?  Leave me a comment below.