somerset house, v1

Day 9: Accessibility, Our First Pup Visit and a Guessing Game

It was excellent to have a visit from Kirin, Ros, Matthew, Toby and his dog, Willow this morning. They came to us from VocalEyes, a nationwide audio description charity, providing access to the arts for blind and partially sighted people. We were really curious to hear their impressions on the idea of Museum in a Box.

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Here’s our first canine visitor, Willow, with her human, Toby.

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Sighted people make so many assumptions about how things are perceived in the world. Ros, who is a describer-of-things (including all the audio descriptions of things you can hear at the British Museum), helped Kirin to understand what was in the room, and talked through the main installation in the centre of the room, and then our wall of other projects we’d done each day. It was interesting that she read the papers from the top down — perfectly natural — but the papers were oriented from the bottom up, because of the museum/table surface’s orientation in the room. It was lovely to witness how Kirin processed inputs by touch as well.

We noticed lots of things! It was particularly interesting to hear from Kirin about what was a bit confusing and how we could fix it.

  • Scale of items in the box should be accurate in relation to each other, and perhaps we should also have a specific object that is designed to be used for scale reference.
  • We could be specific about what the bottom of each object is, and which side is the front, so each can be oriented correctly. A face is a recognizable set of features, but it takes a while to parse what’s being touched of the stranger objects (like the House post or a Rosetta Stone).
  • It might be useful to have the design of the box itself represent the institution the objects come from, so to have it be in the shape of the floor plan, and have the objects generally placed in their correct spots. This observation opened up a nice possible game in a museum, if you have an object before you visit, you could go on a treasure hunt once you get there to try to find it.
  • It’s a big deal for some sight-impaired people to actually visit on-site. There’s so much to take in and process it can be really overwhelming. That’s a big part of what VocalEyes does, to help prepare for a visit by describing in detail what to expect. We thought that the Museum in a Box could be a good way to help people prepare to .
  • The box should contain an index. Whether it’s printed or audio or another format, it’s really important to be able to know easily what you’re dealing with.
  • The work we did on Day 5 with Adrian and Frankie seemed to really strike a chord. (That chord was struck with me, too, on the day!) It’s hugely helpful to hear information, and other audio mood-setting stuff too, like our waves crashing and museum hubbub form Day 2.

We’re looking forward to continuing to work with the VocalEyes team as we move forward with Museum in a Box. It is indeed the case that any design work we do to make our project accessible to sight-impaired people will also mean it’s more accessible for everyone.

Harriet is bringing her kids in this afternoon, so Tom, Felix and I are working on a guessing game.

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