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Tray full of artifacts associated with the space.

CVC Guides Help Visitor "See" the Old Supreme Court

When Capitol Visitor Center (CVC) Guide John Claya encountered a guest with a visual disability near the Old Supreme Court Chamber, he used a creative tool to help her "see" the room.

On Thursday, July 9, John was passing through the Small Senate Rotunda toward the Crypt when he noticed a family of three on a staff-led tour headed toward the Old Supreme Court Chamber. One of the family members was a young woman with a visual disability. John noticed that the area was very busy, so he asked the group if they would like a visual aid as they entered the historic room.

John met the group in the Old Court and with the assistance of Visitor Guide Hope Headley who was stationed in the room, moved the group to a quiet corner.

To explain the appearance of the historic chamber, John retrieved a tray full of artifacts associated with the space. The objects allow visitors with visual disabilities to touch and experience architectural design features and furnishings associated with the Supreme Court of the United States during the 19th century. The tactile tray (pictured above), along with a similar one in the Old Senate Chamber, was a collaborative effort of the Senate Curator's Office and the Office of Congressional Accessibility Services to provide touchable items associated with each chamber.

When John described the ceiling, he offered the young woman a rosette from the ceiling coffer so that she could feel it. Her face lit up and she said "neat!" John described the varied size and appearance of the Justices' chairs and the desks with their green felt tops and quill pens. At the same time, he gave the young woman a quill pen from the artifact tray, and her mother helped her handle the pen by running her fingers over the feathers, and pressing her fingertip against the nib of the pen. Meanwhile, John described how the pen was dipped into an inkwell during the 19th century.

John then handed her a book from the tray and spoke about the books placed on the desks in the court. The young woman's parents listened intently during John's description of the room and played an active role in the interpretive experience. The congressional staff member providing the Capitol tour thanked John for his assistance.

As we prepare to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, thank you John and Hope for going the extra mile to provide this world-class experience to our visitors!

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