Abstracts from - Founding a Community of Practice for Sensing Culture Through Inclusive Capital - University of Bath, UK, 26th-27th March 2018

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Workshops and Presentations


Alastair Somerville a.somerville@acuitydesign.eu Acuity Design, UK

Maps are a very cost-effective way of making your organisation’s space accessible to people with a range of physical and cognitive impairments. This workshop shares Alastair Somerville’s experience of making tactile maps for museums, transport hubs and visitor attractions in the UK and US. You will learn how to draw a map of your place and provide information that can benefit people before and during their visit. Learn about maps, symbols, user journeys and wayfinding and how they can be applied in your place.

Alastair Somerville a.somerville@acuitydesign.eu Acuity Design, UK

Interpreting art and sculpture in tactile form can be hard when there is a lot of detail. Touch is not good at reading fine detail and tactile images can become confusing, overwhelming and off-putting very easily. Using comic book ideas to break images into a sequence of panels can work. For UK projects, we have used high contrast, UV print tactile panels that guide a user through a process of comprehension. This talk will use physical examples to explain the design process and how it benefits other visitors.

Anna Fineman anna@vocaleyes.co.uk VocalEyes, UK

The museum visitor journey increasingly begins online. For blind and partially sighted people the presence and nature, or absence of access information on a museum website, will act as a gateway or barrier to a sense of inclusion. In 2016 VocalEyes researched the State of Museum Access; auditing the websites of all 1700 UK Accredited museums for access information for disabled visitors. 27% contained no access information at all. We published guidelines to support more inclusive practice and issued direct calls to action to the 27%. In 2018 we will repeat the study to chart change in the sector.

Annie Lucas annie.j.lucas@gmail.com Independent Heritage Consultant, UK

As the appointed evaluator for Sensing Culture I will be approaching the end of the report writing phase of the project at this time. I will therefore be in a position to prevent an overview of the findings of our project. It has been a massive project with challenges presented in the evaluation process, so for this presentation I would be looking specifically at these key points of learning ( and possibly one or two more ) :
- What didn’t work so well
- Unexpected surprises
- How collaborations can be effective
The importance of building good relationships with the right networks (and the time that that takes)

Barry Ginley b.ginley@vam.ac.uk Victoria & Albert Museum, UK

The Victoria & Albert Museum has tried to take an holistic approach to providing access for visually impaired people, by looking at what prevents blind and partially sighted visitors from visiting a museum; and then considering how it can improve access for such an audience. The museum has improve its visitor experience by removing the physical barriers to the collection by providing touch objects and tactile books; staff being trained in visual awareness or object description; a programme of monthly activities; as well as looking to the future to see how technology can play a part in improving access.

David Johnson davidjohnsonandart@gmail.com Independent Artist, UK

I am a blind artist; my art explores blind aesthetics. I propose to present aspects of my art at the symposium with a ‘pop-up’ exhibition and a power point presentation. I would also like the opportunity to run an interactive workshop where all delegates would be invited to make a small plastocine piece that would form part of a group art installation. This installation would represent the key themes of identity, inclusion and ‘difference ability’ (diff-ability).

Elli Dimaki dimakielli@gmail.com University College London, UK

One of my greatest achievements in terms of my museum work has been at the Hellenic Children’s Art Museum in Athens, where I was a member of the Educational team. A highlight of this role was my participation in the design and organization of a special programme for visually impaired students. I had the opportunity to build on the general overview of special needs education I had gained through my undergraduate studies by attending specialized seminars and visiting the Greek Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Blind (CERB) and the Athens Special Primary School for the Blind several times in preparation for this project. The programme aimed to achieve a creative participation and collaboration between both visually impaired and sighted pre-school and school-aged children through the conversion of specific artworks in relief, and the inclusion of audio material, smells and selected texts in Braille. The programme highlighted for me the importance of creating specific programmes tailored for visitors with special educational needs, for example, through the multi-sensory approach outlined above and making the most of the available technology, in order to ensure that museums and galleries are accessible and inclusive to all.

Gemma Shaw gemma_birchley@hotmail.com Independent Teacher, UK

Encouraging collaboration in the creation of art, specifically for vision impaired students. With an aim to remove barriers and inspire participants to create using audio description, voice recording onto an audio device, such as the participants own mobile phone; highlighting the accessibility of technology for expression and creativity. Participants record describing instructions for another to perform/create the artwork. The described instructions/ device, is passed to the second person in the party to create the artwork, and Vice versa, allowing a freedom of expression and interpretation. Artwork is then accessible to those with or without vision, and draws attention to the art of listening, breaking down the barrier of sight, achieving a state of equilibrium. Lack of sight should not inhibit the creation or appreciation of art.

Jessica Hayton & Kate Thorpe jessica.hayton@ucl.ac.uk University College London, UK

Fostering engagement with exhibits in museum settings are an essential part of education. Vision affords an individual to engage with such items via observation. Children with visual impairment (VI), are denied/have restricted access to this form of learning, so engagement is facilitated through preserved sensory routes. The current study examined the existing support strategies for inclusive practice in 5 museums in London. The types of provision were noted, as were the age ranges of which the provision was deemed “suitable”. This then informed new strategies pertinent to encouraging motivation and engagement of children with VI specifically through an audio-haptic narrative.

Kalliopi - Christina Spathi kalspathi@gmail.com University College London, UK

Despite museums, galleries and other heritage institutions being aware of the importance of social inclusion and cultural engagement regarding people with disabilities, a lack of good practice is notable. Not only in relation to visiting the premises and the display methods, but also searching a website is quite challenging. Trying to outreach the barriers of online exclusion, in this presentation I will evaluate initial findings from my current research in online accessibility websites that advocate social inclusion in the cultural sphere. In addition, I will attempt to demonstrate a rather more appropriate alternative to advance the undermined disciplines of inclusion.

Maria Oshodi maria@extant.org.uk Extant, UK

Finding Flatland is a demonstration taken from a ground-breaking experiment in performance supported by the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts. Flatland was a large-scale, pilot installation which used haptic technology – the science of communicating by touch – to guide audiences through an immersive, pitch-black world of sensation and sound, produced by Extant, the UK's leading theatre company of visually impaired artists. We would like to present the touring demonstration of some of the sensory and navigational effects that Extant pioneered in the full-scale FLATLAND haptic adventure, which aims to open up conversations about the wider power of haptic engagement in navigation and the environment. We will present a brief introduction to the project and outline its findings as well as present an interactive demonstration of the technology involved.

Martin Bazley info@martinbazley.com Martin Bazley & Associates, UK

Martin Bazley will run a simulated user testing session, with some recommendations on how to develop digital content. Shelley Boden will present experience on the Sensing Culture project, with particular reference to creating accessible apps and websites, user testing and blind and partially sighted (BPS) users.
Mostafa Attia ml07mmk@leeds.ac.uk University of Leeds, UK "While the concept of sensing culture is growing in the minority world, Egyptian schools have deprived blind students from developing their sense of shapes, maps and surroundings. Although Egypt has a large number of museums and graveyards with historical significance, the lack of audio descriptions and touch tools etc has segregated the blind from engaging with their heritage. This paper will present a sample of the challenges that face blind Egyptian children, documenting some initiatives from museums, schools and NGOs to improve inclusion. My experience as a blind researcher who has lived in Egypt, and traveled abroad where various reasonable accommodations exist, will be presented.

Nathan Geering nathangeering@hotmail.com Dance Professional, UK

Early research findings have shown that breakdance seems to be the most visible dance form to a number of people with visual impairment. It was also revealed that a lady who sees in 2D reported that watching breakdance live allowed her to see in 3D! It is based on these early findings that we will be conducting fMRI scans on people with visual impairment to study brain activity for when they watch a number of dance forms. The implications from these findings could go on to help enhance accessibility on many levels both inside and outside cultural industries.

Nathan Geering nathangeering@hotmail.com Dance Professional, UK

Many people with visual impairment struggle to engage with conventional methods of audio description. As a direct response to this The Rationale Method of Audio Description was created which utilises the skills of vocal percussion/beatboxing to give a richer soundscape to people with visual impairment. In research conducted to both sighted and visually impaired participants people with 100% of participants preferred the Rationale Method of Audio description. This is a technique that can be applied in many galleries and museums to give a heightened experience of exhibits that bring both sighted a visually impaired patrons closer together.

Noemí Peña Sánchez npenasan@ull.edu.es Universidad de La Laguna, Spain

Based on a previous research study that introduced photography to blind and visually impaired people, we came up with an educational approach in which photography plays a meaningful role that awakens blind and visually impaired people's interest in images. This inclusive method has three interconnected steps: the act of looking at images, the process of thinking and creating pictures, and finally, modeling the images through words. Undoubtedly, giving meaning to pictures that people have created on their own, gives them the confidence to be part of the world of images to which we all belong and consequently achieve to an inclusive capital.

Peter Hall & Christof Lutteroth P.M.Hall@bath.ac.uk; C.Lutteroth@bath.ac.uk University of Bath, UK

We have an ambition: to make photographs and artwork accessible to the visually impaired. We are not alone: in Vienna there is a tactile version of Klimt’s “The Kiss”, but that is an expensive and specific example. We have something much cheaper and more accessible in mind: a computer system that turns visual images into tactile images.  The key is recognition of objects, so real objects can be presented as tactile icons (tactons) – a human as a stick figure, say, rendered on a raised-pin panel. Our prior work makes this ambition feasible.

Rachel Hutchinson & Alison Eardley w1580109@my.westminster.ac.uk University of Westminster, UK

Given that previous research has suggested that multisensory stimuli enhance memory, this research is exploring the potential for Audio Description (AD) as a tool for inclusive design in museums. Initial results will show that AD embedded with multisensory imagery can enhance both experience and memorability in sighted people. Further developments of this work, exploring the impact of additional, congruent sound in AD on both blind and sighted audiences, will also be discussed. The impact of the museum visit is being evaluated through qualitative and quantitative measures exploring engagement and memory.

Rafie Cecilia raffaella.cecilia.14@ucl.ac.uk University College London, UK

My research project examines the impact of assistive technology on the embodied experience of blind and partially sighted people in museums. The main overarching question discussed is ‘how do blind and partially sighted visitors make meaning of the embodied experiences of technology in museums?’. The key elements of the research are embodiment, identity, habitus, learning, impairment, and technical capital. The target of the research is to acknowledge the diversity and pluralism of possible meanings, to explore the different ways in which BPSP construct their experience in museums, and to critically assess how assistive technology can facilitate the museum experience.

Richard Navarro & Cal Hewitt richardnavarro@live.co.uk Canterbury Sensing Culture, UK

Through the workshops that I gave as musician for Canterbury’s ‘Sensing Culture’ project, I developed - with the help of school students - a system called ‘The Butterfly Machine’. Through the use of a sensor and bespoke software, it connects people with the visual arts through movement and music. In recent months I have designed and delivered schemes of work based on the system at KS3 and GCSE and created projects for the Butterfly Machine with primary and secondary schools, including young people with visual impairment. The recent development of a website means that many more heritage organisations and musicians can contribute to the project.

Sally Jenkinson sallyjenkinsonpoetry@gmail.com Independent Teacher, UK

My practice is delivering sensory stories and poetry for clients with PMLD. This involves augmenting the words of a text, story or poem by including multi-sensory elements which support PMLD audiences to access the content or atmosphere of the text through these sensory interactions. Many PMLD clients are blind or partially-sighted. Regardless, their sensory experiences when accessing museums and galleries can be significantly reduced by their differences in ability to access culture (being non-verbal, being a wheelchair user / having limited mobility, sensory processing issues, or communication barriers). Insight into the practice of sensory storytelling could enrich curators, staff and volunteers understanding of how to engage PMLD visitors and make their experience and access meaningful.

Simon Taylor simon.taylor@worc.ac.uk University of Worcester, UK

Simon Taylor is former Head of Learning at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham. This paper includes examples of participatory programmes designed to widen access to contemporary culture, supporting visitors who are blind or visually impaired to engage with exhibitions of contemporary art. It includes details of an innovative programme of audio-described tours and large print guides for visitors, alongside visual awareness and guiding training for staff and visitor assistants working in the gallery. The paper concludes by making the case for an inclusive pedagogy based on a social constructivist model, using practical and experiential learning in museum, gallery and heritage settings.

Susan Griffiths susan.griffiths@museums.ox.ac.uk Oxford University Museums, UK

Sensing Culture has been an important project for Oxford University Museums. Our presentation will detail the project, but, more importantly, the effect the project has had on the development of the museums practice in engaging with blind and partially sighted visitors and as a springboard for further involvement with our local BPS community.

Tanya Smith Ms.Tanya.Smith@hotmail.co.uk Sensing Culture Ezine, UK

The focus of my presentation is to showcase the role of audio both in the Sensing Culture ezine and at Lewes Castle.  The ezine was set up by volunteers in order to report on the progress made by the partners and my role has been to contribute audio articles charting the work done with the soundscape and audio app at Lewes Castle. The podcasts were also featured on the Infosound audio information service for vision-impaired people and one is currently embedded in the Sussex Past website. In the presentation I discuss the process involved in the making of the audio and the rewards and the challenges of volunteering in this field. (I work four days as Head of History in a London state comprehensive) I will present one of the podcasts (attached) which feature interviews with Lynn Gayford, the Head of Learning at Lewes Castle and Joseph Young, the sound artist responsible for the soundscape. I will celebrate good practice, evaluate the impact of audio and raise awareness of the role of volunteers.

Dani Iglesias d.iglesias2@arts.ac.uk Central St Martins, London

The idea is to relate my design as much as possible to the subject matter, in order to make the context more obvious. I want to deeply introduce the reader to the reading, by including techniques for visually impaired that I mention in the essay.
The positive challenge for the design of my thesis, is that there is a lot of relevant techniques to explore, and possibilities for the design outcome, from which is guaranteed that I will learn.
The Visually impaired is my target audience, making sighted people the ones not able to read it unless they knew braille was my intention, I could ́t afford to produce my document in Braille. Therefor, Large print text was the only solution that I had left, which consists in a minimum of 18pt text size.

Tayfun Esenkaya T.Esenkaya@bath.ac.uk University of Bath, UK

We live in a multisensory world that appeals to all of our senses. Consequently, in the absence of senses (i.e. sensory impairments), survival becomes challenging. Contemporary scientific and technological advancements (e.g. sensory substitution devices (SSDs)) enable the development of non-invasive and cheap sensory aids and assistive technologies. Sensory substitution basically attempts to substitute an impaired sensory modality by making the sensory information of a lost modality accessible to another intact sensory modality. At the Crossmodal Cognition Lab, we study how SSDs can be utilised to enhance navigation and object recognition, and improved to be more accessible and usable.

Felicitas Sisinni, Simon Hayhoe, et. al fsisinni@museothyssen.org EU H2020 ARCHES

The presentation discusses visual access needs as part of the EU H2020 project, Accessible Resources for Cultural Heritage EcoSystems (ARCHES). ARCHES is a European Union Horizon 2020 funded project, and involves heritage and technology partners across Europe – these partners include technology companies in Spain, Austria and Serbia, and museums in the UK, Spain and Austria. Participants in the project are also currently researching and evaluating strategies which enable an exploration of the value, form and function of mainstream technologies by and for people with disabilities. The aim of ARCHES is to create more inclusive cultural environments for people with differences and difficulties associated with perception, memory, cognition and communication through an in-depth research analysis and the development of innovative applications, functionalities and experiences based on the reuse and redevelopment of digital resources. During its lifetime, ARCHES will develop online resources, software applications and multisensory technologies to enable access to cultural institutions, such as museums. The focus of the project is adults (people over the age of eighteen years).

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