COVID-19 daily living advice for people with vision impairments

In our survey about the vision impaired community’s access to information to COVID-19, you told us that you want more information about recommended daily living practices for people who are blind or have low vision. We hope that the collated information below is of value.

Health and daily living advice – general

The Coronacast podcasts from ABC are highly recommended. Designed for listening audiences, all information is fully described.

Restrictions and advice in Australia

Refer to the Australian Government website for the most up-to-date essential information on issue such as who should be self-isolating, public gathering restrictions, and what services are available.

COVID-19 symptoms

The Coronavirus Checker is an accessible tool to evaluate your health and provide advice based on best clinical practices, CDC guidelines, illness severity and risk factors like age and pre-existing conditions.

Hand washing

Proper hand washing with soap is an important means of preventing the spread of COVID-19. Thanks to Audio Described Aotearoa for providing this hand washing technique description.

illustration of the 11 steps for hand washing

Face mask sewing instructions

The Canadian Network for Equitable Library Services have provided instructions on how to sew your own face mask. The instructions are descriptive and no tracing is necessary. See https://nnels.ca/covid-19-mask-sewing-instructions.

Note that the use of masks is controversial and effectiveness depends on the materials and method of use. Please research this topic if considering sewing your own masks.

Health and daily living advice for people with a vision impairment

Virtual meetings

Blind Citizens Australia are working hard to provide COVID-19 information and resources for people who are blind or vision impaired. They are offering “BCA Happy Hours” for people who are blind or vision impaired, regardless of whether they are a BCA member or not. The first two weeks of meetings will focus on hearing from you around how BCA can support you to remain connected during these changing times as well as provide a social outlet whilst we are all self-isolating. Based on your feedback, they will then provide an updated schedule of virtual catch-ups and activities. The BCA Happy Hours will take place on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 11:00am – 12:00pm, and on Tuesday and Thursday at 7:30pm to 8:30pm.

The Braillists in the UK offer a range of advice for vision impaired people in relation to daily living practices during the COVID-19 pandemic. They also offer weekly virtual meetings.

The World Blind Union will be holding a series of Facebook Live sessions to advocate an inclusive response to COVID-19. The first session on Thursday 16 April is on the topic of “Guidance and mobility, personal security in COVID-19 times”.

Sighted guide technique

Blind SA recommends that blind people and sighted guides avoid sneezing in the crook of the elbow
as advised by the authorities. They recommend that blind persons and sighted guides instead sneeze into a disposable tissue.

Rather than holding the elbow during sighted guide, the upper arm or shoulder can be held.

Sighted guide technique can also be adjusted through use of a belt. The belt should be sanitised before using. The guide takes the one end while the blind person holds on to the other end. That is, the belt looped on the upper arm of the blind person and the guide. This will provide information through the movement of the guide.

Guide Dog Handling

Guide Dogs Victoria have assured their clients that taking your dog for a walk for exercise is permitted and helpful. However, do not let people pet your dog while on a walk. When you get home you can wash your dog’s feet in soap and water, just as you would wash your hands, to minimise the chance of contact contamination.

Guide Dog Handlers are being asked to sit in the back seat of taxis and ride share services to maintain social distancing. The dog should sit in the foot well of the back seat with you. Ask the driver to move the passenger seat as far forward as possible and remove the dog’s harness so it does not become caught under the front seat. Recommended steps are given on the Guide Dogs Victoria COVID-19 update page.

Learning, working and leisure from home

Natalie Shaheen has compiled a comprehensive list of resources for distance learning and blind students. Refer to https://nlshaheen.com/covid19/.

The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) are compiling a list of free accessible resources for students and adults to use at home. Refer to the APH Resources and Activities for accessible lessons and books, access technology tutorials, Zoom webinar accessibility tips and more.

Paths to Literacy have compiled a list of fun and meaningful activities to support children with vision impairments learning at home.

Melissa Riccobono, first lady of the NFB, will be hosting a webinar on “Home schooling, how to help our children in time of Covid-19″ on Wednesday 22 April at 12 noon EST, which equates to Thursday 23 April at 2am Australian EST. The live event can be joined at www.facebook.com/BlindUnion/ and it will be recorded for later viewing.

Zoom is a popular platform for online meetings and gatherings. Advice on accessibility in Zoom can be found at:

Shopping

Australians with a disability are eligible for priority online shopping and delivery. You must first set up an account on Coles or Woolworths online shopping. NDIS are sending out the required code via SMS, email or post. If you have not already received your code, phone NDIS on 1800 800 110.

Pharmacies around the country can offer free delivery to customers on prescriptions under 500g. The initiative incorporates Australia Post’s contactless delivery in line with current COVID-19 guidelines. For more information on this service, please contact your local pharmacy directly.

Blindness services operations

Aira continues to operate its full service, offering live visual descriptions and assistance by phone. However, it has relaxed its policy of no background noise in order to accommodate agents who are parents and must keep their children home from school.

The Brailler Boys are “business as usual” for Perkins brailler repairs, albeit by mail only.

Alternative format production and lending libraries, including Vision AustraliaQueensland Narrating HouseBraille House and RIDBC continue to produce and distribute books in accessible formats.

Potential transmission of the virus via tactile reading materials

COVID-19 can survive for up to 24 hours on paper. It is suggested that braille books be placed in quarantine for a day before being shared.

Thermoform pages are made from PVC. It can be cleaned with soap and water, alcohol, bleach solution or hydrogen peroxide. Do not use acetone to clean thermoform pages.

Swell paper is made from polystyrene and can also be cleaned with soap and water, alcohol, bleach solution or hydrogen peroxide. However, the rough surface of the raised areas may be resistant or susceptible to cleaning. Options are to spray the page with lacquer before use then clean as above; or place the tactile graphic in quarantine for 72 hours after each use.

Survey on access to information about COVID-19

survey iconHow accessible is information about COVID-19? How have you been accessing information about the spread of the virus, health tips and shopping services? What further information would you like to access?

If you are an adult who is blind or with low vision, you are invited to complete a brief survey to answer these questions and and help direct creation of accessible media by Monash University’s Inclusive Technologies group.

The survey and related information can be found at the following links:

 

If you would prefer to complete the survey in a different format, please contact Leona.Holloway@monash.edu

Understanding the curve – Access to COVID-19 graphics

2020 has been a time of rapidly evolving information, with data visualisations used as an important means of understanding the spread and prevalence of COVID-19. Efforts are being made around the world to ensure that people who are blind or have low vision are able to access the same information.

Data tables and graphs

Accessible data tables

The Accessible COVID-19 Statistics Tracker by Tyler Littlefield gives up-to-date data on the spread of coronavirus as simple, easy to navigate data tables. This includes global statistics on total cases, deaths, active cases and recoveries; along with statics by country.

The Australian Government’s “Coronavirus Australia” app, free for download on apple and android devices, gives the number of confirmed cases in each Australian state as a list under “Current Status”.

Descriptions

The Australian Government Department of Health website provides meaningful descriptions of the trends and data shown in their Coronavirus at a glance infographic on the current COVID-19 situation in Australia. It is updated daily at 3pm.
Note: The PDF graphic for download is inaccessible. Instead, stay on the web page and skip to “Description:” at the end of the page.

Sonifications

Our team at Monash University has created the following sonifications, best heard using stereo headphones or speakers.

Flattening the curve

On the left we hear the curve (number of active cases) without protective measures as a siren, with higher pitch indicating more cases. White noise static comes in when the healthcare system exceeds capacity.
On the right we hear the curve with protective measures as a choir. The white noise static fades in as the healthcare system approaches its capacity but fades out quickly.

COVID-19 cases in Australia from 24 February to 20 April 2020

A week is marked with a ‘Grandfather clock’ in all of these sonfications for COVID-19 cases in Australia from 24 February to 20 April 2020.

Active cases are the metallic ‘glockenspiel’ in the left speaker:

 

Recoveries are the ‘harp’ in the right speaker:

 

Deaths are ‘bleeps’; between 1 and 7 notes per beat:

 

Active cases, recoveries and deaths are also given together:

Spread of infection worldwide from 21 January to 25 March

Professor Pedro Rebelo from the Sonic Arts at the Sonic Arts Research Centre, Queen’s University Belfast, has produced a sonfication using sound to illustrate the spread of COVID-19 infection and deaths using WHO data from 21 January to 25 March 2020. Further information and the sonification are available at http://www.qub.ac.uk/sarc/research/Covid-19DataSonification65/.

Tactile graphics to print or emboss

"Flatten the curve" tactile graphic with print and brailleNaomi Cogan Rosenberg of the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired has created a series of tactile graphics on COVID-19 that can be printed onto swell paper or embossed using a ViewPlus Tiger embosser.

See https://drive.google.com/drive/u/0/folders/1L3Gvw4uuAoZWTv5i2iIT1f2HRYW6boMF for tactile graphics illustrating the concept of flattening the curve, speed of spread, symptoms, total number of cases by location, and instructions on how to print/emboss them.

Desmos “flattening the curve” graphic

The concept of “flattening the curve” is also explained and illustrated using a Desmos accessible graph.

SAS accessible graphs and maps

SAS is a data analytics software, transforming data into information graphics to help aid understanding and decision making. The SAS Graphics Accelerator is a free plugin for Google Chrome created by SAS to enable people who are blind or have low vision to gain interactive access to such graphics. On behalf of the SAS accessibility team, Ed Summers has created free sample accessible data visualisations about coronavirus (COVID-19) that support alternative presentations such as enhanced visual rendering, text descriptions, tabular data, and interactive sonification. You must download the SAS Graphics Accelerator in order to use these graphics.

white on black circular map with virtual cane and target points. Text on the right describes the target point in focus.

See https://support.sas.com/misc/accessibility/Samples/COVID-19/index.html for instructions on how to use the graphics and links to the sample graphics: bar charts depicting locations with the most confirmed cases overall, confirmed cases in the last 5 days, deaths and deaths over the last 5 days; maps showing confirmed cases, deaths and death rate; and time series line graphs showing total confirmed cases vs death rate for the world, Canada, China, Italy, Spain and the USA.

Enquiries can be sent to accessibility@sas.com

Structure of the virus

3D printable model of the COVID-19 virusThis tactile graphic is designed to be printed on swell paper. It gives a COVID-19 structure tactile graphic with labelled components.

A 3D printable model of the virus created by Sean Tikkun is available for download and printing.

For a more fun activity, you may like to make your own paper-mache COVID-19 pinata and then smash it to pieces!

Daily living advice

Advice on daily living practices during the COVID-19 pandemic, including advice that is specific for people with a vision impairment, is given at http://accessiblegraphics.org/covid-19living/.

Have your say by joining our participant pool

Help shape future technologies for the people who are blind or have low vision by registering to assist with research by Monash University’s Inclusive Technologies group.

In order to ensure that our work is community driven, Inclusive Technologies is creating a register of people interested in our work who are blind or have low vision, educators, accessible formats producers, O&M experts and other members of the accessibility community.

colourful balloons floating in a poolThe register will be used for invitations to your chosen activities: Serving as an expert advisor or participating in research on topics such as 3D printing for touch readers, optimal layout for tactile graphics, interactive audio labels, sonification, e-textiles and accessible virtual reality.

The explanatory statement, consent form and questionnaire are given below in print and braille. You may also respond via phone. The process should take no more than 15 minutes to complete.

For more information or to register via phone or email, please contact Kate Stephens at Kate.Stephens@monash.edu or 0439 291 301.

Please note that you must complete the consent form before filling out the questionnaire. Links to the BRF files will take you to dropbox, where the download option allows you to save the file to your device or to your dropbox account.

Survey on Accessible Materials in the Classroom – early primary years

Do you work in a classroom with a touch reader in the lower primary years?
If so, please let us know about your use of accessible materials for the curriculum via an online survey at https://forms.gle/BDy4fPpysUqLFe3XA.

An offline version is also available.

The survey asks what materials you use with your student in the classroom, what other materials you would like to use, and what factors are most important in determining your choice of materials. Responses to the survey will help shape our work designing 3D printable models, providing kits of 3D printed materials for evaluation in the classroom, and writing Round Table Guidelines on 3D printing for accessibility.

survey question regarding what materials are used for fractions - braille, tactile diagram, commerical manipulatives and/or 3D printed manipulatives

 

 

Accessible maps of the Brisbane Museum District

While at the 2019 Round Table Conference in Brisbane, a group of attendees (touch readers, family members and accessible format producers) took a short excursion to explore the accessible maps of the museum district in South Bank.

We found several wall-mounted print/braille maps along with a large table-top model, located on the Grey street side of the State Library. It was wonderful to experience these inclusive accessibility measures in public spaces.
3 photographs: walking with dog and cane; clear print and tactile map; large 3D model of buildings and roads

Do you know of any similar maps or models in your area? Please let us know!

Inclusive Maps at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show

The Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show took place at the Carlton Gardens from Wednesday 27 to Sunday 31 March 2019. Guide Dogs Victoria partnered with Kangan Institute and Bendigo TAFE to sponsor the Rob Waddell Show Garden and host their own sensory garden, featuring scented plants, auditory cues, beacons and braille. As an added tool for accessibility and inclusion, researchers from Monash University’s Inclusive Technology group created 3D printed maps of the Carlton gardens, the Rob Waddell Show Garden and the Guide Dogs Victoria sensory garden. Visitors who were blind or have low vision were able to use the maps to gain a better understanding of their surroundings.

3D printed map of the Carlton Gardens and Exhibition Building, placed in a garden with herbs and bee hives

Workshop – Accessible Interactive Story Book Pages at MPavilion

MPavilion is an annual architectural commission in Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Gardens, opposite the Arts Centre. As part of their STEM series, we were excited to be invited to run a free public workshop on using eTextiles to create interactive accessible story books pages. Creating Tactile Stories was presented by Leona Holloway, Kirsten Ellis from Monash University and Louise Curtin from Feelix Children’s Library.

People sewing in MPavilion 2018, an open-air wooden architectural space.

In celebration of Braille Literacy Month, we talked about the importance of early, engaging tactile experiences as the first step towards (tactile) literacy for blind children. We then learned how to use eTextiles to sew a simple circuit with lights or buzzers, which we embedded in our handcrafted tactile story book page. We were delighted to see so many beautiful, creative and ingenious designs.

Some simple instructions on how to make your own eTextiles at home are given on the SensiLab website at sensilab.monash.edu/news-events/creating-tactile-stories/. Watch this space for more tips and resources to come.

Workshop participants touching a page depicting a furry blue cat with googly eyes.
This tactile cat purrs (vibrates) when its tail is patted.

Anuradha’s achievements in accessible mapping

With the holiday season around the corner, we had another reason to celebrate this week. PhD candidate Anuradha Madugalla has been working on the automated conversion of house floor plans to accessible formats: a written description, tactile graphic and interactive GraVVITAS diagram with audio labels on the iPad. Her work has resulted in two major publications:

  • Madugalla, A., Marriott, K. & Marinai, S. (2017). Partitioning Open Plan Areas in Floor Plans. 2017 14th IAPR International Conference on Document Analysis and Recognition (ICDAR).
  • Goncu, C., Madugalla, A., Marinai, S. & Marriott, K. (2015). Accessible On-Line Floor Plans. WWW ’15 Proceedings of the 24th International Conference on World Wide Web.

Anuradha has submitted her thesis and is looking forward to a well-deserved break before pursuing work goals. We wish her all the very best.

Anuradha (3rd from the right) with staff and students from Monash FIT's Computer-Human Interaction & Creativity group.
Anuradha (3rd from the right) with staff and students from Monash FIT’s Computer-Human Interaction & Creativity group.

Positions vacant: Lecturer/Senior Lecturers in Inclusive Technologies

We are currently seeking two Lecturer/Senior Lecturers to join the newly formed Inclusive Technologies Subgroup of  the Computer-Human Interaction and Creativity (CHIC) Research Group at Monash University, Australia.

Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) is a key strategic direction for computing research at Monash. Building upon pre-existing strengths in interactive data visualisation and creative computing, over the last two years CHIC has been actively recruiting leading researchers with the aim of positioning Monash as a leader in HCI research. CHIC’s world-class research facilities include AR/VR labs and SensiLab, a multi-million dollar interdisciplinary research space for innovation, digital design and fabrication.
prototype haptic device with iPad
CHIC researchers have strong links to national disability support organisations, and have a track record in partnering with them to develop innovative technologies that support people with disabilities as well as their families and educators. We wish to build on this and create one of the world’s top inclusive technologies research centres. As a first step, we are hiring two leading early- to mid-career researchers to spearhead our research.

Applications close January 22, 2019. See http://careers.pageuppeople.com/513/cw/en/job/583291/lecturersenior-lecturer-inclusive-technology for more details or contact Kim.Marriott@monash.edu.