In May 2012, the Museum of Science in Boston hosted the 2012 Creating Museum Media for Everyone workshop to develop tools and strategies for universal design (UD) and universal design for learning (UDL). The first two days featured talks and demonstrations from experts on creating inclusive museum environments and building engaging interactive experiences for visitors with a wide range of disabilities. For the rest of the week, researchers, accessibility experts, designers, and creative programmers worked together in four teams to prototype a dynamic haptic interface for exploring graphs, gesture-based descriptive audio layers for multitouch surfaces, a physical interface for exploring graphs via data sonification, and strategies for personalizing exhibit and museum experiences to increase accessibility.
Here are some of the outcomes from the workshop which show the power of collaboration in rapid prototyping. The following demo shows how a user might explore a graph via touch and sound through a physical sonification interface. Two axes move above a tactile graph which produces sound to represent data:
A similar haptic interface was created with vibration instead of sound to represent data points on a two dimensional graph:
Touch tables offer interesting accessibility challenges in a shared interactive space like a museum. This prototype uses an audio puck to allow users to explore a multitouch surface with touch, sound, and vibration:
The workshop has created some powerful momentum within the accessibility and museum communities. I had the pleasure of working with Sina Bahram, a doctoral student from North Carolina State University, on the sonification prototype. Sina has since developed a mobile device platform for exploring astronomy data through touch and sound as seen in this demo created for the 2012 transit of venus across the sun:
Some of the ideas represented in the CMME workshop have already made their way into new exhibit designs at the Museum of Science. More links as tools/resources are shared publicly!