I’ve always thought I’d make a great spy and since having Braeden I’ve further honed my skills. I’m observant, I think I’m keenly in tune with human behaviours and I’m great at anticipating situations and taking action. Given my confidence in my spy skills, I was especially pleased to receive ‘official’ confirmation of my credentials when I visited the highly engaging, informative, accessible and fun International Spy Museum in Washington DC earlier this year.
International Spy Museum – accessible Washington DC
During my short stay in Washington DC I visited many museums, and they were all wonderfully engaging and accessible but the International Spy Museum was by far my favourite experience. This is one of the few museums that attracts an entry fee, but I can assure you it is worth it. If you’ve ever wanted an insight into a world that we usually only see in the movies, this is a must-visit attraction. Although watching a Bond movie is fun, nothing beats trying your hand at being a spy yourself.
Arriving at the International Spy Museum I joined a group of fellow spy recruits for a briefing before entering the “shadow world”. As a recruit I was advised to pick an Undercover Mission Badge (small plastic card like those you use to enter a hotel room) which unlocked my identity. Based on my personality I was provided with a cover to allow me to move around covertly while on my mission in Jakarta, Indonesia. At this point, having a good memory is a helpful skill because recruits need to remember the provided cover name, hometown, occupation and a secret codeword. My mission was to locate the safe house where a rebel group was hiding a terrorist.
While I was on my own spy mission during my visit, exhibits provided an incredible insight into the life of a spy told by those with lived experience. Gadgets, real life scenarios and examples of how spies hide messages are displayed throughout.
Technical Operations officers are the gadget gurus of the spy world, inventing the tools that help in the field whether that’s something used for spying, or a gadget that can assist in evading capture, or escaping if the worst should happen. Reading up on the gadgets built by the Technical Operations officers assisted me when it came time for me to enter the virtual Gadget Lab to build my own gadget to secretly track the movements of one of the rebel group members.
My observation skills were put to the test as I completed missions and learnt about how much preconceived ideas can skew our thinking and opinions about people. It was another reminder that having an open mind in life is not only wise but beneficial. Recruits are given many hands-on opportunities to learn about coding and the various ways to hide messages and decipher them.
The methods used to extract information from those captured proved interesting. I learnt that in the aftermath of 9/11, US Agencies blasted music from Metallica and the Barney & Friends TV show’s theme song non-stop in the hope the detainees would talk. A strange and unusual punishment I thought. I’d love to know if it worked!
As I continued my mission, I was required to alter my appearance to avoid detection. After reading the various information displays at the exhibits I felt armed with the knowledge I needed to nail this portion of the mission. Despite the high praise I received from mission control I was not convinced I’d fool anyone with my disguise, and it was all the proof I needed to know that I could never pull off being a blonde.
I was happy to complete my mission safely and capture the terrorist. A mission debrief had my spy halo shining brightly. I am apparently a “tech ops whiz” and I have a strong memory and my “mind is like a steel trap”. I thought it was wise to get photographic evidence in case the family questions my superior skills at any point. They will have to up their game if they think they can get anything passed me!
International Spy Museum accessibility
Like most of the attractions in Washington DC, the International Spy Museum offers exceptional access and inclusion. Wheelchair accessibility is good throughout with a step-free entrance, lift access inside the museum, lowered mission stations and good circulation space throughout. Large touch screens are used for the interactive missions.
A visual story (the museum refers to this as a visual schedule) and sensory map are available on arrival or you can watch a video prior to your visit. For guests who are sensitive to flashing lights and loud noises, warning signs are displayed with instructions regarding an alternative route. Sensory bags with fidgets are available at the front counter, large print signage and maps are offered for guests with vision impairment, open captioning and ASL tours (by pre-arrangement) are also offered. Accessible bathrooms are also provided.
The International Spy Museum has extensive accessible information for a range of disabilities on its website. The information provided is a fantastic example of a museum being accessible and inclusive and something other attractions could use as a template for their own access and inclusion webpages.
Whether you are travelling to Washington DC as a family or as an adult, this museum is sure to keep you entertained. The interactive nature of the museum ensures that while you learn you are engaged.
A visit to the International Spy Museum had been on my wish-list for many years after I heard about it during a convention in the US many years ago and it did not disappoint. My visit was hosted but as always, my opinions are my own and I had a truly wonderful time.