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accessibility exhibits publications research

Bring Your Own Accessible Device

I am pleased to announce the publication of our work creating and testing an accessible mobile guide for the Intrepid Sea Air and Space Museum. This paper describes a web-based mobile guide that visitors can access via their personal devices. “The guide features visual descriptions of artifacts, non-visual wayfinding directions to exhibitions, summaries of exhibit content in easy-to-read bullet points, open-captioned videos kept under two minutes, video transcripts, and photos with alt text.”

The Intrepid mobile guide is free and can be viewed online.

Our article citation is:

Race, Lauren, Charlotte Martin, Xinwen Xu, Cheryl Fogle-Hatch, and Amy Hurst. 2021. “Bring Your Own (Accessible) Device: A Mobile Guide Solution for Promoting Accessibility, Social Distancing, and Autonomy in Museums.” The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum 15 (2): 1-23. doi:10.18848/1835-2014/CGP/v15i02/1-23

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publications

When Accessible Content Meets an Inaccessible Interface

This post describes the results of submitting a paper about accessibility to an organization that does not follow best practices for accessibility. We submitted the paper to the Society for Experiential Graphic Design (SEGD), and we also recorded a video for their virtual conference. The links to download the paper and watch the video are listed near the end of this post.

Highlights from our paper

Our paper is:

“Strategies for Incorporating Anti-ableism Into Design Curriculum” by Audra Buck-Coleman, Cheryl Fogle-Hatch, and Robin Marquis.

In this paper, we share reflections about incorporating accessibility into student projects in graphic design classes. Audra Buck-Coleman taught the University of Maryland students who created the exhibit Redefine/ABLE: Challenging Inaccessibility. Robin and I served as consultants on the exhibit answering student questions in class and offering feedback on their content. Naturally, we filled a similar role in writing this paper commenting on Audra’s drafts.

Here are some highlights from this paper.

“disability is caused by the way society is organized and designed. For example, a person is not disabled because they use a wheelchair but rather because the building was not designed with an elevator to give them access to all floors.”

“Recruit collaborators from the disability community to share their experiences and to co-design with students throughout the project. “Nothing about us without us” is the motto of the disability community for good reason. Too many assumptions about their needs and the best ways to meet them have been uninformed, ineffective, and insulting. Invite people who not only have a disability but are also knowledgeable about related issues and are willing to work with those who are not.”

“Design with multi-sensory and duplication in mind. In this case, more is more.”

“Don’t wait for perfection. Communication is key to building trust with people with disabilities. Give audience members a clear idea of how and if they would be able to navigate a space. They then have the autonomy to decide whether they visit or not.”

Another Paper Recommendation

One other paper on accessibility was included in the conference and the journal issue.

“Cripping the Crit: Towards a More Accessible Design Academy” by Gabi Schaffzin.

This paper discusses obstacles that students with disabilities face when taking design classes. I highly recommend it.

Access Limitations

SEGD is not following best practices for accessibility. We discovered this as we were preparing to present our work in their virtual conference in June of 2021.

We felt that it was important for us to model best practices for accessibility by including captions and ASL interpretation in our video presentation. When Audra contacted the event organizers, she learned that they had not made provisions for captions or ASL interpretation. Therefore, we pre-recorded our presentation to include both ASL and captions.

watch our video.

Publication Issues

Given the lack of awareness about accessible videos, I was expecting to find problems with the accessibility of the SEGD journal, Communication + Place.

The pdf that is provided is a single file containing the entire journal issue.

The pdf was recognized as text, so it is readable by screen readers (voice output) software used by people who are blind. However, there are significant problems with the pdf that hinder navigation.

•            Each scanned page includes facing print pages (even and odd). This means that the page numbers in the journal issue do not match the page numbers in the pdf file. It is impossible to navigate directly to a specific page.

•            The document does not have headings at the beginning of each paper so they cannot be easily located.

•            Paper titles are not presented as hyperlinks in the Table of Contents, so titles cannot be activated to go directly to each paper.

It is difficult to navigate this file with a keyboard. I assume that people using a mouse will also find navigation time-consuming because they must scroll through many pages searching for a specific paper.

Citations and Download Link

Here are the full citations for papers mentioned in this post.

Buck-Coleman, Audra, Cheryl Fogle-Hatch, and Robin Marquis.

2021, “Strategies for incorporating anti-ableism into design curriculum” Communication + Place, PP. 130-141.

Schaffzin, Gabi.

2021, “Cripping the Crit: Towards a More Accessible Design Academy”, Communication + Place, pp. 112-119.

Download the journal issue.

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accessibility exhibits publications

Redefine/ABLE exhibition catalog

I begin this post by quoting from an announcement for a new book that contains essays that I co-authored with my excellent colleagues and one piece that I wrote as a sole author.

“Redefine/ABLE: Challenging Inaccessibility aims to inform audiences about disability issues, to share the challenges and success stories of those with disabilities, and to identify ways we can create more accessible, inclusive spaces.”

This book includes content from the Redefine/ABLE exhibition hosted by the Peale Center for Baltimore History and Architecture as well as essays contributed by project collaborators. Instructions to get a copy are at the end of this post.

The Redefine/ABLE exhibition was a collaboration between University of Maryland graphic design students and members of the disability community in Maryland. It was scheduled to open in two physical spaces, the University of Maryland, College Park, and in downtown Baltimore, in mid-March 2020. Like so many events, the physical exhibitions were suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Redefine/ABLE was also scheduled as an online exhibition to open in March 2020, but the pandemic delayed the website launch to July 2020. Between March and July 2020, many of the contributors wrote, or re-wrote their essays in response to the pandemic.

Two essays describe the online exhibition and associated programs that were held in July and August of 2020.

•            An Exhibition Redefined by a Pandemic by Audra Buck-Coleman

•            Redefining Redefine/ABLE: From Access to Inclusion at the Peale by Nancy Proctor

Content Written Before the Pandemic

The exhibition panels designed by University of Maryland Students present what they learned about accessibility for people with disabilities in a pre-pandemic world (fall 2019 semester through March 2020). The panel titles are:

•            Discover/ABLE: What does it mean to be disabled?

•            Deny/ABLE: What isn’t accessible?

•            Access/ABLE: How are objects and spaces inclusive?

•            Confront/ABLE: What does it mean to be ableist?

•            Relate/ABLE: What do we have in common?

One essay does not mention the pandemic. It is “Listen Very Carefully” by Ruth Lozner

Content Written During the Pandemic

As we prepared for the website launch in July 2020, we wrote two essays that expanded on the exhibition themes.

“The interconnected-ness of Covid-19 to discrimination against the disabled” gives examples of pandemic responses that had negative effects on people with disabilities. Both Audra Buck-Coleman and I have undergraduate degrees in journalism. Writing this piece on current events drew on that training.

“Bearing witness to the ableism embedded within the pandemic” is a Q&A between Audra, me, and a third colleague, Robin Marquis, offering our personal reflections on this topic.

Contributors discussed how access to museum exhibits changed during the pandemic. I wrote a first draft of my essay “Please Do Touch the Art!” in February 2020. Later, I expanded the essay to incorporate my thoughts about ways museums could continue to display touch objects during the pandemic.

I also recommend the essay by Kevin Bacon and Lara Perry “Technology, Covid-19, and accessibility: Challenges and opportunities for museums”.

Finally, Audra Buck-Coleman, NALIYAH KAYA, and I described “Five Accessibility and Inclusion Insights from Producing an Exhibition During Covid-19”.

How to Get This Book

This book is available as a free download from The Peale Center’s website  A pay-for-print version via Blurb.com will be available soon. Check the same link for an order form.

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publications research tactile

In Their Own Words: Adults Who Are Blind Describe Museums

I submitted the following text as a poster for the American Alliance of Museums conference #AAAM2021, held online on May 24 and June 7-9 2021. The poster was behind the paywall until July 14 2021, and now I am publishing it for everyone to read.

In Their Own Words: Adults Who Are Blind Describe Museums

By

Cheryl Fogle-Hatch, Ph.D. and Don Winiecki, Ph.D. Ed.D.

audio description (18)

audio (5)

boring (2)

braille and tactile graphics (1)

braille tactile exhibits (1)

braille (3)

can touch (2)

can’t access independently (1)

can’t participate (1)

can’t touch (2)

disappointing (1)

dislike planning visit in advance (1)

doesn’t ask companions to read (2)

enjoy (9)

enjoys visiting with friends (1)

explore (1)

frustrating (2)

fun (1)

goes with family (1)

hands-on (2)

hard to navigate (2)

improving (1)

inaccessible (27)

information (3)

inspiring (1)

interactive (1)

interesting (2)

kids museums hands-on (1)

learn (6)

love (3)

most information is in print (1)

multisensory (2)

need more audio Braille tactile (4)

need more braille exhibits (1)

need more tactile replicas (1)

need sighted person to read (5)

no audio (1)

noise makes hearing audio difficult (1)

objects (1)

por lighting (4)

pre-recorded audio guide (2)

rely on others (2)

science and kids museums encourage tactile access (1)

small print (4)

tactile art (3)

tactile experience (10)

tactile materials (1)

tactile models (6)

tactile replicas (2)

tactile representation (1)

tactile representations of the real thing (1)

teach my children (1)

took a sighted child (1)

tour guide (3)

under glass (9)

valuable (1)

visits with group (2)

waste of time (1)

wonderful (1)

This word cloud was created at TagCrowd.com.

Background

This poster expands on findings reported by Fogle-Hatch and Winiecki (2020). Assessing Attitudes of Blind Adults About Museums. The word cloud pictured above highlights words and phrases from comments on an international survey of adults who are blind or have low vision. We conducted an online survey receiving 124 responses from June to October 2018. We asked a series of questions about the last museum visit made by a survey participant. Then we encouraged survey respondents to comment on museums generally.

Findings

Each comment was coded thematically. Most comments were classified as both positive and negative. Positive codes signify strong relationships between personal enjoyment of the exhibits and design features that facilitated accessibility. Examples:

• tactile models, tactile replicas, tactile graphics

• braille, This code includes comments about brochures and signs.

• audio description, Sometimes This code referred to tour guides and docents, and at other times to pre-recorded audio.

Emotional keywords: “enjoy” “learn” “valuable”.

Negative codes focused on instances when participants could not access exhibits independently. Examples:

• need a sighted person to read, This code refers to print labels and describing exhibits.

• under glass, this code also includes the phrase “behind glass”.

inaccessible, This code includes variations “lacks access” and “not accessible”.

Emotional keywords “boring”, “disappointing”, “frustrating”

Conclusion

These data underscore the value of accessible museum exhibits that allow everyone to enjoy their museum visits. Positive comments referenced the availability of tactile experiences (models, replicas, graphics), and braille and audio descriptions. The lack of tactile, braille, or audio components in exhibits was common in negative comments. The Survey participants valued museums despite the consensus that most exhibit content is inaccessible.

About the Authors

Cheryl Fogle-Hatch, Ph.D. designs multisensory experiences. Visit her website MuseumSenses mailto:info@museumsenses.org.

Don Winiecki, Ph.D. Ed.D., is a professor of ethics and morality in professional practice at the Boise State University, College of Engineering, mailto: dwiniecki@boisestate.edu

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publications

FDR Memorial report

My report that describes issues with accessibility at the FDR Memorial is now available. To read it, start with this article from the FDR Memorial Legacy Committee.

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about exhibits publications tactile

2020 in review

In December 2020, as I reflect on the year, I am struck by how completely the closure of physical spaces pushed activity online. My work was no exception. Meetings became conference calls, physical exhibits moved to websites, and in-person conferences were transformed into online presentations.

collaboration was another theme for this year. I am thankful for the contributions of my smart and talented colleagues who contributed to the work that I produced in 2020.

The Unintended Consequences of Current Events

I found myself reflecting on how responses to the coronavirus pandemic affected people with disabilities. Here are essays that I wrote with colleagues for an online exhibit called

Redefine/ABLE: Challenging Inaccessibility

The Interconnectedness of Covid-19 to Discrimination Against The Disabled

Bearing Witness to The Ableism Embedded Within The Pandemic

Covid-19 and Museums

A major theme of 2020 as finding ways to safeguard access to touch objects.

In this post written for the American Alliance of Museums, colleagues and I strongly recommend that museums produce re-usable tactile handouts so that individuals can borrow their own touch objects.

Staying In Touch Addressing Concerns to Allow Tactile Exploration at Museums

This post summarizes a presentation about accessible touch objects.

MCN-2020 Presentation Accessible Touch Objects

Here is another essay that I wrote for the Redefine/ABLE exhibit about tactile art before and during a pandemic.

Please Do Touch The Art

Documenting the Museum Experiences of people who are blind

Early in 2020, I presented work about museum exhibits before the pandemic. As far off as that seems now, there are still valuable data for making improvements when physical museums re-open.

Assessing Attitudes of Blind Adults About Museums

Bring Your Own Device BYOD Programming Facilitates Accessibility For People Who Are Blind Or Have Low Vision

Here is an article that Jo Morrison wrote summarizing the papers included in our MuseWeb 2020 conference panel.

Voice User Interfaces And Multi-modal Accessibility

Finally, 2020 saw the release of one of our papers that was delayed in the publication process.

Designing a portable museum display of Native American stone projectile points (arrowheads) to ensure accessibility and tactile quality.

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3D-printing accessibility archaeology exhibits publications research tactile

Designing an Exhibit of 3D-Printed Replicas

I’m pleased to announce the publication of Designing a portable museum display of Native American stone projectile points (arrowheads) to ensure accessibility and tactile quality written with Joe Nicoli and Donald Winiecki  in the Journal of Blindness Innovation and Research.

We describe making 3D-printed replicas of artifacts found in the collections of the Maryland Archaeological and Conservation Laboratory. Then we prototyped a design that attached QR codes to the replicas by a lanyard.

Scanning these QR codes with a smartphone prompted the user to access a webpage with more information about each artifact. Participants at a Tactile graphics conference were successful in scanning the QR code with their smartphones and following the link to the associated webpage.

I also included this project in another paper about using smartphones to access information about exhibits. Start by reading this blog post from April 2020 to learn more.

13 3D-printed replica stone points, with3D-printed replicas of projectile points attached by lanyard to QR codes. QR code coins.

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accessibility exhibits publications tactile

Please Do Touch The Art

My second essay written for the Redefine/ABLE exhibit is titled Please Do Touch the Art

The essay is a discussion of tactile art. When I wrote the first draft in February 2020, it was about the need for more tactile objects in museums.

Then the coronavirus pandemic started, touching objects became taboo, and that essay required significant revisions. Now, it includes recommendations about safely touching objects in museum exhibits, and it links to a few resources. I offer this essay as a conversation-starter because I plan to revisit this topic in the near future.

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accessibility exhibits publications

Redefine/ABLE

Redefine/ABLE

During the 2019-2020 academic year, I consulted with the 2020 University of Maryland, College Park graphic design cohort that researched and created an exhibit about disability, ableism, and the benefits of universal design. Ableism is the discrimination against those with disabilities. Universal design counteracts ableism. Universal design is an approach to creating systems, spaces and objects that meet the needs of all people.

Originally designed as a multi-site, cross-platform exhibition, due to the COVID-19 pandemic Redefine/ABLE: Challenging Inaccessibility is now an online experience that addresses diversity, inclusion and ableism. It seeks to engage audiences about the successes and challenges of persons with disabilities in Maryland and beyond.

The Covid-19 pandemic became a discussion topic for this exhibit. The project director and I wrote this essay examining the effects of post-pandemic responses on people with disabilities.

We also submitted this Q&A to another University of Maryland blog.

Additional content will be added to the Redefine/ABLE project website during July and August 2020. It will remain online after that date. I would like to thank the project team for their dedication to this project and their determination to display it virtually.

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3D-printing accessibility exhibits publications tactile

Creating Re-Usable Tactile Handouts

I’m pleased to announce publication of a guest post on the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) blog about creating tactile handouts. Special thanks go out to my co-authors, Ann Cunningham and Matt Gesualdi, for their contributions.

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating new norms that discourage touching all manner of objects to curtail the spread of the virus. However, when public spaces reopen, understandable concern about disease transmission may lead museums to prohibit tactile exploration of objects, creating an unintended access barrier for people who are blind. We imagine a scenario where visitors could borrow tactile handouts, use them for reference as they tour an exhibit, and then return them to the museum for treatment and later re-use.

Read more on the AAM website.