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Saturday, November 7 • 11:30am - 12:30pm
Accessible Apps: Two Approaches to Developing Mobile Products That Utilize Principles of Universal Design

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Universal Design refers to a broad spectrum of ideas meant to produce products that are inherently accessible to people with disabilities. However by implementing these principles we can create experiences that benefit all users and discover new definitions of accessibility as it applies to all museum visitors. This session will feature an existing app being redesigned for use at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and an IMLS grant funded app development project that have each utilized the Principles of Universal Design in their development.

At the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), location aware technologies and a mobile app will be used to create an experience allows low sight, blind and non-English speaking audiences to freely access exhibition content. In this project, the complete wall text, rack rail information and images for the exhibition The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire, opening June 25, 2015, will be grouped into individual “stories” that users can access via the STQRY app (www.stqry.com). Using beacon technology, users will be sent notifications when they enter one of eleven sections of the gallery and offered wall text stories in each of these areas. These stories will be accessible via the VoiceOver screen reader, Zoom screen enlarger, and in guided access mode and automatically translated into 90 languages based on the device language setting. The app will include settings that allow users to choose to view selected highlights of the exhibition thereby providing useful functionality for all visitors to this exhibit. The redesign of the STQRY app and the concept behind making available the entire wall text of the exhibition leverages the principles of universal design. There will not be a version of the app or this tour created for blind users, rather an inclusive tour for all visitors that encourages participation by vision-impaired and non-English speaking visitors. With this project, we hope to provide a model for use in any museum.

The goal of Digita11y App is to create an opensource solution for museums that increases accessibility to collections by adding to the museum’s body of accessible mobile content through crowdsourcing verbal description, American Sign Language video content, and translations of other spoken and signed languages. Funded by a grant from the IMLS, educators, technologists, accessibility professionals, and artists from the Smithsonian Institution, the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, the Peabody Essex Museum, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Prime Access Consulting, and Halsey Burgund comprise the Digita11y team that are developing the app utilizing universal design principles. Members of the Digita11y team have successfully prototyped a mobile app based on an open-source audio platform Roundware (Roundware.org). Roundware is a flexible, distributed framework that collects, stores, organizes and re-presents audio content through which visitors can contribute verbal descriptions of collection objects. When played back through the app, the crowdsourced audio enables everyone, including people who are blind or have low vision, to “see” through the eyes of others. To further support the needs of visitors to museums and cultural sites, and in particular, those who are blind or have low vision, the project aims to develop the Digita11y App platform to be scalable with a number of leading technology solutions for wayfinding and interior location-based services.

This session will present mobile projects that have been built and redesigned using the Principles of Universal Design but most importantly emphasize that a museum that is not accessible is not just failing on its mission with a small percentage of its visitors; it is missing the most transformational opportunity since the Internet to provide deeper engagement with its collections and relevance for all of its audiences.

avatar for Sina Bahram

Sina Bahram

President, Prime Access Consulting
Founder of the inclusive design firm Prime Access Consulting (PAC), Sina Bahram is an accessibility consultant, computer scientist, researcher, speaker, and entrepreneur. In 2012, Sina was recognized as a White House Champion of Change by President Barack Obama for his doctoral research... Read More →

Daniel Davis

Manager, Media Group, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian
Let's talk about Universal Design, mobile, multi-touch table experiences and the emotional power of audio experiences..
avatar for Nancy Proctor

Nancy Proctor

Deputy Director for Digital Experience and Communications, Baltimore Museum of Art
Nancy Proctor is Deputy Director for Digital Experience and Communications at the Baltimore Museum of Art and Co-chair of Museums and the Web. Previously she headed up Mobile Strategy and Initiatives at the Smithsonian Institution (2010-2014), and New Media Initiatives at the Smithsonian's... Read More →

Saturday November 7, 2015 11:30am - 12:30pm CST
Calhoun Hyatt Regency Minneapolis 1300 Nicollet Mall Minneapolis, MN 55403

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