Building Accessibility with New Tools

This previous article established the many different kinds of learning disabilities that impact how patrons interact with art organizations. An arts organization needs to consider dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, auditory processing disorder, visual processing disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and autism when creating accessible experiences. The first step is to find people from these different communities to serve as consultants in developing the technology. The next step is to build methodically by researching the disability and then building and iterating the experience. An organization doesn’t need to have a solution for every community at once, so make a plan for every exhibition or art event. Once arts organizations start to use technologies to accommodate learning disabilities, the arts will become more welcoming and accessible to a variety of audiences.

With so much to consider, picking what tools and options to provide can be a difficult task. Here are a few emerging technologies that can make the process of improving accessibility a little easier.

1. Lingusio
Created by an organization called PIKSL in Germany, Lingusio is a “sound carrier scarf” device that is invented according to Universal Design. One end of the device serves as a speaker and the other serves as the volume control. A reader can automatically identify the artwork within a certain radius. As soon as the speaker-part of the scarf is raised for listening, the corresponding track starts to play. This device improves visitors’ conscious perceptions of the environment through its scarf-like design. Previously museum visitors were closed off from their environment due to headphones. In contrast, the scarf enables an “open ear” and thus a more awareness of the environment.

  Source: Author Screen Shot of Lingusio’s information slides.

Source: Author Screen Shot of Lingusio’s information slides.

  Source: Author Screen Shot of Lingusio’s information slides.

Source: Author Screen Shot of Lingusio’s information slides.

The contents of the audio guide are created by curators and people with learning disabilities. The co-creation workshop aims for gathering three different opinions or ideas for each piece of art of a future exhibit. These contents are transferred to audio guides that are visually differentiated by three different colors. Visitors are able to exchange scarves or have three different experiences if they like to come to a particular exhibit often. In addition, the co-creation workshop stimulates personal development and builds co-designers self-confidence and curiosity. It realizes the right of people with disabilities to equally participate in others cultural activities.

2. MyTalk Tools

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Arts visitors who have dyslexia or are on the autism spectrum, encounter difficulty in communication. MyTalk Tools is an innovative application that helps children with communication difficulties use a series of texts, sounds, and images to express their feelings. It makes Augmentative Alternative Communications (AAC) easy and affordable, with the free mobile version available on the App Store and Google Play.

Users select the content of grids or boards with images, and play the recorded sound when they touch the cell. These sequences can even form complete sentences.

MyTalk Tools is effective in improving the quality of museum tours or learning disabilities programs. For instance, museum educators will be able to understand how children with specific learning disabilities feel and what they want to say. They can respond to immediate needs, which builds a more constructive conversation.

3. Text-To-Speech Assistive Tools
Text-to-speech (TTS) software is designed to help children who have difficulties reading text. These disabilities can include blindness, dyslexia or any type of visual impairment. In addition, it can also benefit children that have other types of learning disabilities such as autism and ADHD.

  Source: Author Screen Shot of V&A’s Scanning Pens

Source: Author Screen Shot of V&A’s Scanning Pens

Using text-to-speech assistive technology, the Victoria and Albert Museum offers scanning pens for visitors with learning disabilities. These hand-held scanners can be used to read. They also provide narrated gallery guides and they read label texts around the museum. This enables learning difficulties to explore the works of art in the museum without help from others.

4. Stop, Breathe & Think

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For visitors with anxiety and stress disorders or participants with autism spectrum, Stop, Breathe & Think is a meditation application that encourages users to think about how they are feeling, and provides short mindfulness and meditation exercises tailored to their mood.

The function of this app is simple and user-friendly, and arts organizations can use this tool to support visitors with learning disabilities, specifically visitors on the autism spectrum. The application will suggest meditations depending on an individual’s mental, physical, and emotional conditions. This tool is useful for arts organizations to accommodate visitors who have anxiety and stress disorders. For instance, if an arts organization has a visitor who has a panic attack due to the lighting of the performance, it can provide meditation exercises to help the visitor to relax.

  Source: Author Screen Shot from Stop, Breathe & Think’s Homepage

Source: Author Screen Shot from Stop, Breathe & Think’s Homepage

Arts organizations can consider using these tools when developing accessible programs for learning disabilities. This will ensure the arts to be more friendly and accessible. Additional technologies can be found and sorted through Tech Finder on Understood.

What do you think of these tools and designs? Let us know in the comments below!


Resources
“Disability & Access.” Victoria and Albert Museum. Accessed March 30, 2018. https://www.vam.ac.uk/info/disability-access.

“Lingusio: the audio guide that removes barriers.” MuseumDCN. February 16, 2017. Accessed March 30, 2018. https://www.musedcn.org.uk/2017/02/16/lingusio-the- audio-guide-that-removes-barriers-antonia-eggeling/.

Lynch, Matthew. “7 must have app and tools for students with learning disabilities.” THE TECH EDVOCATE. August 6, 2017. Accessed March 30, 2018. http://www.thetechedvocate.org/7-must-app-andtools-students-learning-disabilities/.