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Accessibility Project: Seattle Museum of Flight

Accessibility goes beyond what we traditionally think about, such as home entryways and access to stores or offices. Entertainment and educational venues like museums need to provide equal opportunity for visitors to enjoy exhibits, regardless of mobility limitations or devices. In 2015, EZ-ACCESS® worked with the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington to design a wide array of accessibility systems that enabled visitors to explore the sights, including full-size planes on display. With everything from Air Force One to rare early passenger jets and war bombers, the Museum of Flight would need a lot of components to make access a reality. 

Through detailed assessment and planning, EZ-ACCESS was able to create a custom design that encompassed commercial stairs, platforms, and ramps woven throughout the location for a better visitor experience. Innovation never ends, though, because in early 2024, we returned to the Museum of Flight to enhance one of the previous installations. 

Designing a Custom Access System

Much like EZ-ACCESS, the Museum of Flight promotes accessibility that is equal for all to participate in the experiences offered. To help create a fully ADA-compliant museum, they needed safe and secure ADA-compliant stairs, platforms, and ramps that would provide visitors with the ability to see and enjoy each of the real planes on display at the facility. One section of the museum, known as the Aviation Pavilion, stands as a covered open-air gallery where nearly 20 large aircraft are displayed as examples of human ingenuity. With many planes open for touring, the museum needed secure ways to access the elevated spaces. Many of the aircraft on display would need multi-level solutions to reach their doorways for visitors to explore the interior. 


We designed and delivered a variety of aluminum stairs, platforms, and ramps with vertical pickets that enclosed the sides, helping to keep visitors safe and prevent accidents. Made to ADA standards, these components were the proper heights, widths, and slopes required by federal regulations to provide the easiest use possible. As part of the standard EZ-ACCESS design, the ADA handrail requirements for stairs were also met. In addition, the grooved surface of the system is naturally slip-resistant. The durability of the aluminum can withstand frequent use, which was extremely important to the museum as these multi-level access solutions would need to keep visitors safe when touring the tall aircraft. The museum would be able to focus on other priorities and not worry about how well the installations would hold up over time. Additional support was added to the scaffolding of the modular access system to ensure that even at tall heights, the infrastructure was completely supported. Even with the high-strength design, the system would still be capable of swift disassembly should the exhibits need to be moved.

Some of the planes had doorways that were slightly elevated relative to the adjoining platforms, creating a lip visitors needed to step over. Our TRANSITIONS® Angled Entry Mats were used in those situations to gently bridge the height difference and reduce the potential for tripping on the doorway. The slip-resistant nature of the angled entry mat provides ideal traction for anyone crossing it. 


In addition to the more traditional products, EZ-ACCESS was also able to cleverly design personnel barriers to limit access and camouflage operational components like electrical lines. By tying these features into the design of the access solutions, it created a cohesive appearance that helped these areas blend into the environment and eliminated the need to find another solution or vendor. 

Enhancing the Concorde Exhibit

When initially partnering with EZ-ACCESS in 2015 to design custom ramps and platforms to give visitors an up-close view, one of the main requirements the museum identified was a rotating ramp for their Concorde exhibit in the Aviation Pavilion. Connecting the elevated platform and the doorway of the plane, the drawbridge-style ramp rotated up when not in use and then lowered down into the open door of the fuselage for entry. After several years of use, the museum determined it was time to replace the ramp with a new, narrower version to better fit the space while enhancing the mechanism used for raising and lowering the ramp. While the current ramp had held up well over the years, it required effort to lift and lower, which was taxing on museum staff. Seeing the opportunity to enhance the design and help the employees, the Museum of Flight contacted EZ-ACCESS to see how the mechanism could be evolved. 


The Engineering and R&D teams at EZ-ACCESS set out to see the exhibit and how they could make it better. They began by inspecting the existing system and working with the museum to identify what features should be carried over into the new version while outlining exactly what was needed in the enhancements. After gathering pictures and measurements, the team developed a plan to redesign the Concorde ramp to give the museum a practical solution that made its use easier on the staff. 

The Engineering team made an electronic computer model of the new ramp where they exchanged components, enhanced strength through welding changes, and incorporated an off-the-shelf lift assist that the Museum ultimately dubbed “The Gorilla Gizmo.” This device would make the processes of lifting and lowering the ramp far easier on the maintenance personnel at the museum, many of whom were semi-retired. The lightweight nature of the aluminum the ramp would be crafted from would also allow the mechanism to work more easily with a lower load to move. Padlocks would be built in to secure the ramp in either the lowered or raised position depending on what was needed at the time. Handrails on either side with vertical pickets along the way would provide both stability and safety for visitors crossing into the exhibit. 

On January 29, 2024, the new ramp was installed at the Concorde exhibit without any hiccups. After removing the old ramp, the team brought in the modular pieces they’d carefully designed, built, and tested to install at the fuselage door. With much of the assembly done in advance at our manufacturing facilities, all located in the United States, it didn’t take long to put together the final product. The ramp was effortlessly operable with just one hand, greatly facilitating maintenance and use for the museum staff. At just 117 pounds, the aluminum ramp provides excellent stability and sturdiness that will last through years of visitor traffic. The natural resistance to corrosion and wearing will be a huge benefit to the maintenance staff, reducing the burden of caring for the ramp so they can spend their efforts elsewhere. 


Museum staff and leadership have been excited with the changes, especially with the significant improvement in the ease of raising and lowering the ramp. Accessibility is all about making lives easier, and this upgrade accomplished that for the museum team. 

Innovation to Drive Accessibility

Creating a world where mobility never limits enjoyment and exploration is why EZ-ACCESS pioneers unique accessibility solutions. Visiting an enormous museum with a variety of exhibits would be unattainable for someone with limited mobility without access solutions to ease the way. While standard assemblies wouldn’t be enough for something as unique and large as the Museum of Flight, we were able to leverage our resourceful team to create an entirely custom access solution for them. It’s a testament to how passionate our staff feels about accessibility as well as how EZ-ACCESS continues to be the industry leader. We’re driven to help create safety and opportunity in all venues to allow everyone to live life without barriers. 

We are thrilled to work with organizations like the Museum of Flight, who put accessibility at the forefront of the experiences they provide. Their support of accessibility, which includes both mobility considerations such as ramps as well as other disability accommodations like tours for the blind and Sensory Days, is a mission we are proud to share in. 

EZ-ACCESS can make your space accessible, too! Whether you have a multi-story venue, a festival, or an attraction, we can develop customized aluminum access solutions that will let everyone take part no matter how they get around. We’ll help you ensure safety and accessibility for your staff and visitors through solutions you’ll trust. Reach out to our Customer Service team and let accessibility take flight!

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