Integrating universal design was a priority in the redesigning of the Gateway Arch Museum in St Louis. A gently sloping plaza, architecturally integrated ramps, and engaging exhibitions. An article in the St Louis online news gives a good run-down of the features. The touchable exhibits have been a great success with everyone. The universal design concepts allow people to interact with exhibits rather than just look at them. There are other enhancements for people with disability too. The arch and the park are now easier to access by foot or bike as well. The Archinet website features a brief overview by the architects, and pictures of the museum. The timelapse video of the construction is interesting because of the landscaping of the parkland around it.
Museums play an important role in understanding the world we live in and giving context to our lives. Making the content of museums available to everyone in the community is now an important part of the work of exhibition designers. The Helen Hamlyn Centre in UK conducted research to assist with this. Their findings and conclusions are reported in their article, Using Design Thinking to Develop New Methods of Inclusive Exhibition Making. The project has, “identified the creation of clear, concise, and – most importantly – incentivising guidelines as a crucial, necessary factor in a universal approach to exhibition design. Making sure that designers feel like they are not obliged, or demanded to follow overly pedantic and stifling requirements, but rather encouraged and inspired by a reconsideration of access design as a space for innovation and experimentation, is a necessary in fostering and maintaining the principles of co-design, and a dialogue between user, institution and design team.”
Abstract : Museums and galleries are now making significant developments in the area of inclusion and awareness of disability rights. There have been noticeable advances in the design of cultural, physical and digital spaces, which provide wider access to a museum’s physical and intellectual resources, for individuals of diverse ages and abilities. However, responses have varied in consistency, efficacy, and legacy. This year-long design research project, in partnership with the Wellcome Collection and the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, Royal College of Art, develops a working set of tools that can be used by museums to improve accessibility in a more permanent and reiterative manner, with a view towards gathering and sharing relevant data, and design responses, within a broad network of museums and cultural institutions. This paper outlines recent approaches by relevant experts in the field and outlines a new approach to incorporating inclusive design within the process of exhibition creation. It uses co-design methods to provide a set of principled guidelines that respond to all relevant stakeholders. These guidelines are predicated on the understanding that establishing empathetic links between exhibition-makers and exhibition audience members is essential, resulting in a positive collaboration, combining the skills of museum professionals with the lived experience of people with disabilities. A central goal of the research is to explore how design issues surrounding access can be framed as an essential and positive component of the design process, and, more importantly, an opportunity for innovation, not simply an obligatory requirement. This paper comprises the observations of a current research project of a 12 month project, commencing in September 2017 and concluding in September 2018.
The article is from the proceedings of the UDHEIT 2018 conference held in Dublin, Ireland, an open access publication.
It’s often assumed that music education programs are not something for people who a deaf. An article in the Journal of American Sign Languages & Literatures says this is not so. Using a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) approach, the authors challenge these preconceptions. The article begins, ” Music is not bound to a single modality, language, or culture, but few music education programs represent a multimodal spectrum of music…” and overlook the contribution of Deaf culture. There is no one way of engaging with music, so different ways of experiencing the sensory, linguistic and cultural diversity of music is something music education practitioner might like to look at. The title of the article is Universal Design for Music: Exploring the Intersection of Deaf Education and Music Education.
An Auslan interpretation of Handel’s Messiah was performed by a Deaf choir in 2015 at the Sydney Opera House. The video below is of the complete two hour concert where there is interpreting throughout by individuals and groups. If you just want the Hallelujah Chorus where all interpreters get involved, go to 1hour 38 minutes into the video.
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.
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.
The 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”.
The Sydney Opera House has produced a guide to the number of steps in various paths of travel throughout the venue. This is to help patrons decide which seats are best to book for the greatest convenience, and to help with traversing such a large building, particularly if you are not familiar with it. Of course there are lifts and escalators in some places, and more will be added during the current major refurbishments. The Theatre Access Guide can be downloaded from the Sydney Opera House website. The picture shows one page from the Guide.
Editor’s note: It would be interesting to know how many other venues in Australia have this type of guide – not just a standard access guide, which is usually for wheelchair users, people who are blind or have low vision, or are deaf or hard of hearing. Knowing how far you have to walk is important for non wheelchair users and people accompanying wheelchair users.
A nice article about access to the displays and contents of art galleries and museums for people who are blind or have low vision. Audio description is one way of providing access, tactile representations are another. The Beyond Disability webpage article shows how art is becoming more accessible for blind and low-vision communities around the world.
3D printing has changed many things and 3D representations of prints are now possible. Braille can also be introduced into visual art. See the article to find out the interesting and creative ways that art and other exhibits can be made accessible. Indeed, these methods are an art form in their own right.
The Sydney Opera House is keen to be inclusive with their performances, and activities. Accessibility Program Manager, Jenny Spinak, has spearheaded much of the progress in creating an inclusive program. The Accessibility page of their website has more than just information on how to access the building and parking. With the upcoming winter lights festival, Vivid Sydney, the Opera House is staging several accessible performances with audio description and Auslan interpreters.
Previously the Sydney Opera House included an autism-friendly performance of the musical The King and I. You can see more in the video link below.
Many event managers and venues have yet to get their head around their obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act. While many public buildings may have access through the front door and accessible toilet, this does not make for an inclusive event. Did anyone think about a handrail on the steps to the podium, a lower lectern for a seated speaker, or what to do with the guide dog?
Venue owners and managers, caterers and equipment suppliers are yet to get up to speed with what is required. Meetings and Events Australia have a comprehensive handbook on accessible events which was written in consultation with the Human Rights Commission in 2012. However, it appears only to be available to members of the Association and is not visible on their web home page. Nevertheless, a Google search will also find the Accessible Events Guide. The Guide also has a checklist at the end.
Free to access guides include the Victorian Government guide and checklist. This one uses easy access English as well, so the guide itself is accessible, and covers the role of MC and speakers. Also the West Australian Government checklist is available.
Factors that many organisers might not think about are, a drinking bowl for an assistance dog, the way the event or meeting is promoted, and ensuring there is lighting on the face of speakers for lip readers.
Editor’s Note: While trying to think of everything to make the 2014 Universal Design Conference inclusive, we found the suppliers of the staging equipment did not have a handrail for the steps and the wheelchair ramp was too steep to climb without help. The one-size fits all lectern is also a problem. Rarely is there a lectern that a seated person or person of short stature can use.