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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

Categories
3D-printing accessibility exhibits research tactile

MCN 2020 Presentation, Accessible Touch Objects

Last week, I gave a presentation on accessible touch objects in partnership with my colleague Lauren Race from the NYU Ability Project. Our talk was part of the MCN2020 virtual conference. Here are the highlights and links for further reading.

Defining the problem

Most information at museums and historic sites is presented visually, but some people learn through tactile exploration. For accessibility, we need to be considering all senses when presenting information at museums.

Yet, tactile access has faced looming threats, notably the lack of expertise and funding, before Covid-19, and the current pandemic is accelerated these issues.

Some museums have responded to Covid-19 by closing hands-on exhibits with tactile components. For example, the Please Touch Museum extended its closure into 2021.

Knowing that touch objects are threatened, it is important to determine which are worth saving in the future.

Summarizing the research

Lauren described interviews that she conducted with 15 museum access specialists from art museums and historic sites across the United States. Then she considered common themes from their responses in conversations with 6 accessibility experts who are blind or have lo vision.

There are 4 findings.

•            1. Tactile experiences must be preserved

•            2. They should be consistently created

•            3. They read as infantile when poorly-crafted

•            4. They cannot be replaced by audio (verbal description) or digital-only solutions. People who are blind receive touchless experiences secondhand, filtered through the observations of a sighted person.

Recommendations

We made the following recommendations.

•Tactile experiences must be preserved

•Digital fabrication over poorly-designed techniques

•Provide tactually accurate reproductions

•Choose materials that can withstand frequent cleaning

•Establish tactile design guidelines

For my section of the presentation, I discussed ways to preserve tactile access despite Covid-19. I described my other projects that complimented Lauren’s interview findings.

People are problem solving in the moment. When the pandemic began, I had ongoing conversations with tactile artists about ways to safeguard tactile access.

Two colleagues, Ann Cunningham, and Matt Gesualdi and I identified specific examples drawn from our work that we proposed as models for safe practices during the Covid-19 pandemic. We described this work in a blog post for the American Alliance of Museums.

Staying in touch: addressing concerns to allow tactile exploration at museums

 I will summarize with this quote.

“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.”

That blog post included photos of small- and large-scale examples of tactile handouts. At small scale, the 3D-printed replica of a stone spear point can be manipulated with one hand. The attached wooden coin is a QR code that when scanned directs a smartphone to read more information about it such as might be found on an exhibit label.

At larger scale, people can be encouraged to maintain physical distance as they explore separate tactile panels. This idea is loosely based on an interactive art installation titled “Mission to Nocterra,” created by Matt Gesualdi. He incorporated use of antibacterial wipes into the exhibit with a story line that the puzzles were alien artifacts that must be protected from human germs.

Highly-skilled tactile artists can create accurate tactile reproductions using hand-crafted techniques. These individuals plan and construct their work very carefully and they account for scale and accuracy. With questions of high-fidelity in mind, we ranked different techniques by their cost in the same blog post.

Returning to Lauren’s interview findings, we recommend digital fabrication methods such as 3D printing over poorly-designed, hand-crafted techniques. In our opinion, digital fabrications are preferred for the accuracy of tactile reproductions. This is contrasted with the analog nature of most poorly-designed tactile objects that her interview findings indicated were produced by interns or volunteers with no training in tactile design.

Due to Covid-19 and safety concerns, we recommend fabricating touch objects from materials that can withstand frequent cleaning. This would favor plastic or acrylic resin commonly used to fabricate 3D-printed replicas.

We mentioned other work that supports accessible touch objects. Fortunately, we are not the only people seeking ways to safely conduct tactile exploration. Here is an international example.

Tactile Studio posted their proposed solutions including the development of a tactile sanitation station for touch objects.

I am encouraged by these proposed solutions because the work to preserve access to tactile objects in museum exhibits is ongoing and it will require sustained efforts in the Covid-19 era and beyond.

Categories
3D-printing accessibility 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.

Categories
accessibility publications research

Attitudes of Blind People About Museums

In 2018, my colleague, Don Winiecki, and I conducted an online survey that collected data about the museum experiences of adults who are blind or have low vision. We document strategies that survey participants employ to gain information about the content of exhibits despite facing access barriers to their participation. Strategies can be characterized as either in-sourcing (using resources provided by museums, or out-sourcing (gathering information from sources not provided by the museum, for example a sighted companion or third-party accessibility application on a personal device). I presented a paper about the survey results at MW20.

Categories
accessibility exhibits publications research

museum information on cell phones

The smartphones that many of us use daily have the ability to receive content about museum exhibits. People who are blind or have low vision can use their preferred accessibility settings on their personal devices to access content in museum exhibits. I presented work on this topic at the MW20 conference. Here is the link to my paper.