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Mount Vernon Makes History More Accessible

April 08, 2014
Mount Vernon

April 8, 2014 — Houston, TX — For visitors with hearing and visual disabilities, the nation’s most popular historic location, Mount Vernon, now offers more accessibility options.

The estate of the President of the United States, George Washington, has welcomed more than 85 million people since opening to the public in 1860. The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association (MVLA), which owns and operates the Mount Vernon Estate, introduced technology this fall to make the estate experience available to guests with hearing and visual disabilities.

The installation is part of a groundbreaking initiative to make the historic facility accessible for its more than one million visitors, and ensure that the content of its historic structures, select public programs, and other offerings is accessible and effectively communicated to its millions of visitors.

The assistive technology uses the DURATEQ device developed by Softeq, a leading provider of embedded software development services.

We pride ourselves on being the most visited historic home in America, and we make it our goal to teach the largest possible audience about the life and legacy of our first and greatest president,” said Jamie Bosket, Mount Vernon’s Vice President for Guest Experience. “We consider it our responsibility to make available the necessary tools to ensure an equitable and positive learning experience.

The DURATEQ system provides a wide range of assistive technology to the historic estate, both indoors and out, including:

  • Handheld captioning for guests with hearing disabilities: The DURATEQ displays captions at the tour of the Mansion, several outbuildings on the grounds, and many exhibits which feature sound effects in the Education Center.
  • Assistive listening for guests with partial hearing loss: The device amplifies the audio for the five Mount Vernon theaters through headphones, making it possible for visitors to better hear and understand the film audio. Visitors with hearing disabilities may additionally choose to view captions.
  • Audio description: The DURATEQ provides audio descriptions of the rooms on the Mansion tour, several outbuildings on the grounds, and exhibits in the Education Center and Museum, with over five hours of playback time in total. Tour guides provide Audio Description on large group tours using a DURATEQ supplemented by a portable FM system.

The DURATEQ device was designed and developed by Softeq with proprietary Disney SyncLinkTM Technology to provide a highly immersive and interactive experience for people with hearing and visual disabilities. This makes the DURATEQ the device of choice for the nation’s most popular public venues such as museums, parks, memorials, and other vaunted landmarks.

Originally developed for and installed at Disney parks and resorts, the technology also is available at The World of Coca-Cola Museum in Atlanta, Georgia and Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota. “Disney engineers have worked for years to make the magic of Disney come alive for Guests with hearing or visual disabilities. The DURATEQ was clearly the right platform for the assistive device we wanted to build. Collaborating with Softeq made our vision a successful reality enabling us to share our patented technology with the world,” said Greg Hale, vice president Worldwide Standards and Auditing, and Chief Safety Officer Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.

We’re thankful to the Mount Vernon Ladies Association for the opportunity to provide our assistive technology, the DURATEQ, to support their efforts in extending accessibility of the Estate and deliver a truly engaging and rewarding experience to its numerous guests of all abilities,” noted Chris Howard, Softeq’s Founder and CEO.

About the Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens

Since 1860, more than 85 million visitors have made George Washington’s Mount Vernon the most popular historic home in America. A privately-owned national treasure, Mount Vernon is maintained and operated by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. Since purchasing the estate from the Washington family and assuming stewardship in 1858, the Association has embraced a heroic mission to preserve, protect, and maintain the estate for the American people, relying exclusively on private donations, admission fees, and restaurant and retail proceeds. Through robust education and outreach programs, the Association expands awareness about the exceptional life and character of George Washington, sustaining his legacy through research, interpretation, and public education. In experiences on the estate and through its digital outreach platforms, Mount Vernon strives to preserve George Washington’s place in history as “First in War, First in Peace, and First in the Hearts of His Countrymen.”

With its latest initiative, The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, Mount Vernon is affirming its status as the preeminent center of learning about George Washington, his life, character of leadership, and legacy. In addition to safeguarding original books and manuscripts, the Library serves as a center for leadership, where scholars, influencers, and other luminaries come together to talk about the past as well as the future, inspired by Washington’s extraordinary life, achievements, and character.