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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In 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.
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
Location: ACMI X, 2 Kavanagh street, South Melbourne
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:
The 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)
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.
Phillipe 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.
The National Federation of the Blind’s National Convention will be held in Orlando, Florida from 10-15 July. Those of us unable to attend will still be able to reap the rewards of their STEM tutorial being hosted by John Gardner, with many of the speaker talks already available online at http://access2science.com/indexAccessibility.html. There are some great resources here on reading, writing and converting math to accessible formats; technologies for accessing graphics; and guidelines for accessible teaching of STEM materials.