Who can and cannot play?

A set of brightly coloured play equipment. There are no people in the picturePlayground equipment design needs to keep pace with current expectations to be more inclusive. So a method for predicting the degree of exclusion in play activities is welcome. Researchers in Italy have taken this task on board and in their article they explain what they have done so far to measure inclusion and exclusion in play equipment and actitivies. This is a SpringerLink article and will need institutional access for a free read. The paper was published in Advances in Design for Inclusion. The title of the article is, “Playgrounds for All: Practical Strategies and Guidelines for Designing Inclusive Play Areas for Children”. It’s worth remembering the inclusion of parents, carers and grandparents in the design too.

Abstract: To date, outdoor game equipment and playground facilities worldwide are increasingly oriented towards a wide range of solutions in support to gaming activities for children of any age, independently from their motor, cognitive and social impairments. However, due to the complexity of variables interplaying between product demands and user capabilities, many efforts are still needed for making games and playgrounds as much as possible inclusive. The present work proposes a novel methodology useful to designers and other stakeholders for predicting the degree of user exclusion when performing play activities. User trials, focus groups, interviews together with the analysis of accessibility standards, disability descriptors by ICF, and Task Analysis were used for cross-correlating the required tasks with user capabilities. This led to creating an evaluation tool useful to get an immediate feedback and reliable information on the level of inclusiveness of any type of game equipment and user disability. It revealed to be also effective for assessing personal and environmental factors of interest and identifying design requirements. 

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Neighbourhood fun for everyone

A suburban street in Bristol with cars parked on both sides of the road. Children are playing in the street.Roadways take up a lot of land. Time to make that land more flexible for more than just vehicles. The video below shows how closing down a residential street for two hours can produce a lot more activity just for people, not people in cars. The video explains how this has reduced obesity and social isolation. It also shows how it can become an inclusive space for everyone. When there is an inclusive communal space at your front door there is no excuse not to get involved. See the video for how this idea got started. Would be good to see more of it. But as always, it takes a leader to get it going. Would, or do councils in Australia support this initiative? This looks like a cost effective method for tackling childhood obesity.

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How fast should subtitles be shown?

a desk with two computer screens and subtitles at the bottom It seems most of us can read subtitles more quickly than first thought. Recent research has revealed that the golden standard of the six second rule doesn’t have any (traceable) evidence to back it up. Now that we know people watch audiovisual materials more frequently with subtitles and captions, this is an important topic – what is the optimum speed? A study from Europe has helped answer that question and it isn’t one-size-fits all. Using evidence from eye movements, Agnieszka Szarkowska , Olivia Gerber-Morón found that viewers can keep up with fast subtitles and that slow speeds can actually be annoying. However, future research needs to include a wider range of people with different levels of reading skill. The title of the paper is, Viewers can keep up with fast subtitles: Evidence from eye movements. Here is the abstract:

“People watch subtitled audiovisual materials more than ever before. With the proliferation of subtitled content, we are also witnessing an increase in subtitle speeds. However, there is an ongoing controversy about what optimum subtitle speeds should be. This study looks into whether viewers can keep up with increasingly fast subtitles and whether the way people cope with subtitled content depends on their familiarity with subtitling and on their knowledge of the language of the film soundtrack. We tested 74 English, Polish and Spanish viewers watching films subtitled at different speeds (12, 16 and 20 characters per second). The films were either in Hungarian, a language unknown to the participants (Experiment 1), or in English (Experiment 2). We measured viewers’ comprehension, self-reported cognitive load, scene and subtitle recognition, preferences and enjoyment. By analyzing people’s eye gaze, we were able to discover that most viewers could read the subtitles as well as follow the images, coping well even with fast subtitle speeds. Slow subtitles triggered more re-reading, particularly in English clips, causing more frustration and less enjoyment. Faster subtitles with unreduced text were preferred in the case of English videos, and slower subtitles with text edited down in Hungarian videos. The results provide empirical grounds for revisiting current subtitling practices to enable more efficient processing of subtitled videos for viewers.

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Playspaces: What children said

Front cover of the report with a child's drawings of two people and the sunThe voices of children are rarely heard in research literature. So the Launceston Children’s Views of Play Spaces report is good to see. The researchers believe that children are competent social beings and have a right to be heard. The report’s findings detail what the children wanted from a playspace. Socialisation was a key theme. Children wanted activities they could do with their parents as well as other children. So equipment that could be used by both adults and children were popular ideas. The research covers all aspects of design including, active play, imaginative play, challenging activities and risk taking. With a focus on wellbeing the report provides a good underpinning for playspace design that incorporates the importance of play in the lives of both children and parents. For more on inclusive playspaces see the Touched by Olivia Foundation which has several good examples. Also the Good Play Space Guide by the Victorian Government.  

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Landscaping a walkway: A case study

A distant view of the place and gate showing the winding path, steps and sitting areasIn this case study, landscape architect Johan Østengen, explains the problem of adapting a city space and a heritage wall and gate on a sloping site into a pleasant place to walk, and to have informal get-togethers. The height difference of seven metres was the main challenge, but with some universal design thinking to drive the design they were able to come up with a successful inclusive and accessible design. For more of this story about this universally designed open space and the difficulties they had to overcome, go to the Inclusive Design Norway website for the article on the Schandorff Walkway. Several photos illustrate the final design. 

Editor’s Note: Norway has almost no flat land and is at the forefront of rolling out universal design everywhere. So the myth that you can’t do UD on sloping sites is put to bed.

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Soccer from a deaf-blind perspective

Five football players stand waiting for play to start. Three are dressed in red and blue, two in white and the goalkeeper in black. The grass is very greenWith the FIFA World Cup approaching, the report of a case study from Canada of a deaf-blind person enjoying a soccer match is timely. Using an iterative user testing process a system was developed for sighted spectators to use to interpret the game from a visual to a tactile modality. This research will go a long way towards describing games where spatial relations are key to the experience. The title of the article is, Inclusive Design as a Source of Innovation: A Case Study & Prototype on Soccer Spectatorship, by Felipe Sarmiento. You can access a copy of the article from the Secured tab and sending an email request to OCAD University Open Research Repository for a PDF copy.  

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Inclusive play is an international concept

A distant picture of a playground with shade sails and sand on the ground. A large low blue platform has a yellow hump on it. Children and parents are actively playingLots of pictures tell the story of inclusive play in this article from Turkey. The concept of inclusive play spaces is not new to Australia. The article is comprehensive and goes into some of the details that need to be considered including ground treatments. Interestingly, the Australian invention, Liberty Swing, makes an appearance in the article. It has lost popularity in Australia because it is not inclusive. It is, however, accessible for wheelchair users under supervision, but as it is fenced off and needs a key to operate, other designs have taken favour with designers and play space users. And that goes beyond just swings. Nevertheless, in certain circumstances, such as group homes, the Liberty Swing can be appropriate. Examples from America and Australia are used and there are links to other resources in the reference list. One that has lots of information and pictures is the Together We Play website.  For more on Australian inclusive play spaces, see Touched by Olivia Foundation.The NSW Government is actively promoting inclusive play spaces with its Everyone Can Play in NSW Project.

 

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Tactile or 3D?

A metal model showing a town layout in relief with Braille on buildings and streets. There is a church and lots of houses and a town square represented.Three researchers from Monash University carried out a study to see if 3D printed models offered more information than tactile graphics such as maps. There were some interesting findings that were presented in a conference paper. The abstract gives a good overview:

Abstract: Tactile maps are widely used in Orientation and Mobility (O&M) training for people with blindness and severe vision impairment. Commodity 3D printers now offer an alternative way to present accessible graphics, however it is unclear if 3D models offer advantages over tactile equivalents for 2D graphics such as maps. In a controlled study with 16 touch readers, we found that 3D models were preferred, enabled the use of more easily understood icons, facilitated better short term recall and allowed relative height of map elements to be more easily understood. Analysis of hand movements revealed the use of novel strategies for systematic scanning of the 3D model and gaining an overview of the map. Finally, we explored how 3D printed maps can be augmented with interactive audio labels, replacing less practical braille labels. Our findings suggest that 3D printed maps do indeed offer advantages for O&M training. 

Paradoxically, the freely available PDF version is in two columns and in Times New Roman font – both aspects that are not recommended for people with low vision or for screen readers. The full title of the paper is, “Accessible Maps for the Blind: Comparing 3D Printed Models with Tactile Graphics”.  You can see a related article that found 3D models helped everyone’s understanding.

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Captioning – how is it done?

Front page of the video - deep yellow background with white text and an Auslan interpreter is standing readyThe Australian Government has produced an interesting video showing how captioning is done. It is a behind the scenes look and captioners tell how they do it. You can see them at their desks in action. One point of interest is that programs made overseas often have captions, but they don’t always come with the program when a network buys it. Intellectual property rights become problematic and in the end it is often quicker and cheaper to re-do the captions here in Australia. So that might account for why SBS is more likely to have uncaptioned programs than some other networks – unless they are subtitled of course. It is worth noting in live captioning situations that the captioner has to be able to hear the speaker and manage the speed of their speech. Good reason to speak up, speak clearly and not talk too fast. Good for other listeners and lip readers too! There is a second video showing how to turn captions on.  Note: automatic captions by Google can’t interpret speech properly and there is no punctuation. Some people call this “craptioning”. 

 

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Bush-wheeling with a Sherpa guide

View of the back of a volunteer Sherpa wearing a dark green shirt and shorts pushing the special equipment in a ferny gullyParks Victoria is leading the way with their approach to making sure all visitors can enjoy the natural environment on their park trails in the Dandenong Ranges. Volunteers act as Sherpas and use specially designed equipment that provides a comfortable ride for wheelchair users. The equipment can be borrowed by family members and friends as long as they have the strength and fitness to operate it. The program is also available in the Gampians.  The short video below gives a good idea of the equipment and the user experience. There is also an article and more pictures on the ABC websiteThanks to Bill Forrester’s blog for this one.

 

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