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.

Bendigo Art Gallery accessible tour and web pages

In the next phase of our project with Bendigo Art Gallery, we had the pleasure of exploring ideas for accessible art with the Gallery and vision impaired communities.

laser cut representation of "I ate the rainbow up ..." with separate layers of acrylic to represent the background, figures, faces and handsIn a day-long workshop, gallery staff, artists and community members came together to talk about why accessible art is important, who it impacts, and the best ways to make it happen.

At a special tour, vision impaired visitors were treated to a guided tour featuring four artworks in Bendigo Art Gallery’s permanent collection. Alongside vivid audio description of the artworks, visitors were able to touch the sculptures and an old frame, take the role of a character from a painting with representative props, and explore

Accessible trial web pages were also produced to enable more independent exploration of a range of paintings and sculptures. Each page included a visual description of the artwork, information about the artwork, enlarged and high contrast images, and a soundscape related to the subject matter or period.

Watch this space for announcements regarding publications reporting our research findings.

CHI 2018

We were thrilled to have a paper accepted at ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, the premier international conference of Human-Computer Interaction. The paper is entitled Accessible Maps for the Blind: Comparing 3D Printed Models with Tactile Graphics.

Kim Marriott represented our group, presenting the paper and participating in the invitation-only workshop on Inclusive Educational Technologies: Emerging Opportunities for People with Print Disabilities.

DemoLAB

DemoLAB is a creative tech demo night co-hosted by Media Lab Melbourne and ACMI. Participants are invited to come along to share ideas and projects over pizza.

As part of Melbourne Design Week, we will be speaking at DemoLAB about our work creating innovative accessible objects for the vision impaired community using emerging low cost technologies. Registration is free.

Date: Tuesday 20 March 2018
Time: 6-10pm
Location: ACMI X, 2 Kavanagh street, South Melbourne

demolab

OMAA Conference

The 6th Australasian Orientation and Mobility Conference will be held on Friday 6 and Saturday 7 April 2018 in Melbourne at Bayview on the Park.

Monash researchers Matt Butler and Leona Holloway are excited to be presenting at the conference on the topic of 3D printing for accessible maps.

Earlybird registrations are open until February 14 and the draft program will be available on the OMAA website in early February. We hope to see you there!

3D printed map with indented roads and buildings of varying shapes and heights.
3D printed map of Bayview on the Park and surrounding area.

2017 Tactile Reading Conference – wrap up

The Tactile Reading Conference on braille and graphics for vision impaired children and youth was held in Stockholm in April 2017. Video recordings are now available for all of the presentations. Some of the highlights included:

      • 3-3 shapesThe National Institute for the blind, visually impaired and deafblind in Iceland provided packs of 3D shapes for young vision impaired students for more engaging interaction with maths concepts. (video)
      • Swell form diagram of a thermometer with bead on a string to indicate the mercury reading.Staff from the Valteri Center for Learning and Consulting in Finland spoke about creating tactile picture sets with generic pictures relating to the National Curriculum. Notes on how to use the graphics were provided along with sound scenarios to enrich the learning experience for all students in the classroom. (video)
      • Thinkable demonstrated their Motorised Drawing Arm, capable of very quickly transferring an electronic diagram into a tactile graphic by drawing on the TactiPad.
      • Les Doigts qui revent - little breath of wind page 3Phillipe Claudet spoke about the paradox of presenting tactile graphics based on images to people with no experience of vision. He also displayed his beautiful tactile books from Dreaming Fingers, now available in UEB through APH. This image is from “A little breath of wind”.

We also managed to do some sightseeing in charming Stockholm. Europe seems to lead the way in terms of accessible maps and models at tourist attractions.

It is hoped that this Conference will be the first of many, to be held in a different country every three years.

Carved wooden map.