Museums strive to be places that can be enjoyed by all citizens, including those with physical impairments. That is why at Nubart we have conceived our card-shaped audio guides with an inclusive or universal design so that museums can also use them to inform visually or hearing impaired visitors about their exhibits. We’ll tell you how.
Accessibility of audioguides for blind and partially sighted people
The concern to provide an easier experience to blind people when visiting museums goes back a long way. As early as 1913, John Alfred Charlton Deas, former curator of the Sunderland Museum, invited the children of the Sunderland Council Blind School to see some of the collections of the Sunderland Museum through their hands. The success of the initiative encouraged him to extend this type of visit to blind adults as well.
Photo by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums
In a museum, accessibility for visitors with low vision does not depend solely on audio guides, but they are possibly one of the most important instruments to provide value to their visit, since audio guides use hearing as the main sense. If the museum does not have Braille signs or touch panels that reproduce the object and make it visible with the touch of the fingertips, the audio guide may become the only source of information about the work on display, for the blind.
Programming an accessible CMS
Our audio guides work via the visitor’s mobile phone (BYOD). Smartphones are equipped by default with applications especially useful for the visually impaired: TalkBack for Android and VoiceOver for iPhone. They are gesture-based screen readers that allow you to hear a description of everything on the screen, from the battery level to the name of the caller. There seems to be a consensus that VoiceOver is better than TalkBack, so iPhones have taken more root than Android among the blind community.
Nubart audio guides do not use native apps, since they are browser-based. To enable them to interact with either TalkBack or VoiceOver, we have programmed the CMS that organizes our digital content, considering accessibility from the beginning. So Nubart’s digital audioguides are fully accessible and their interface is very well suited for use by non-visual users. Each button adequately indicates in spoken form what it is used for and what can be done with each action, and we make navigation as easy as possible. We have conducted several tests with blind people who have confirmed the correct usability of our audio guides.
Of course, this is only the technical part: we are aware that accessibility goes much further. Above all, the content must be adapted for the visually impaired.
Finger-detectable QR code
The QR codes of our Nubart cards are printed with a slight relief. In this way, blind people can detect their presence and location with their fingertips, which makes it easier to capture them using the QR code reader they have on their mobile phone.
Audio descriptions of the exhibited objects
In order to create an audio guide that is completely suitable for non visual users, it is necessary to incorporate a track with the audio description of the exhibition object. This helps the blind to imagine and mentally reconstruct the object before listening to the conventional explanation provided by the audio guide. At Nubart we can differentiate this track by marking it in another color and incorporating it before the explanatory track. By keeping both tracks separated, we ensure that the audio guide will be enjoyable to all visitors, with or without visual impairment.
Audio descriptions of videos played on-site
Audio description, also called descriptive video or video description, is an optional soundtrack that describes and gives context to visual information. Audiodescriptions allow visually impaired visitors to understand the content of your museum’s explanatory videos, just as captioning is essential for hearing-impaired visitors to understand their auditory information. Thus, to achieve full accessibility, your museum’s videos should both include subtitles and offer audio descriptions.
Thanks to Nubart Sync, our proprietary technology that allows the pairing of a video with a perfectly synchronized soundtrack in any language, Nubart’s audio guides can include synced audio descriptions of videos played on your venue.
Accessibility for the deaf and hard of hearing
There are two ways of providing access to the content for deaf people, both of which are covered by Nubart: the signoguides (video tracks in sign language) or the textual transcription, each presenting its own particular issues. In order to ensure maximum accessibility for the deaf community, it would ideally be best to incorporate both sign language and transcription.
In the case of opting for a signage guide, Nubart would add this option in the language menu. Instead of the audio tracks, anyone who chooses this option will access various videos with a sign language interpreter.
Issues of signoguides:
Sign languages differ from each other, both in vocabulary (set of signs or gestural signs) and grammar: sign language in Spanish is not the same as in English, for example. There are even differences between British and American English! The British use the bimanual alphabet, communicating with both hands, while the Americans use only one. Although an International Sign System (ISS) exists, it is not precise enough to allow for an accurate translation of the text. It is generally recommended to incorporate one sign language in the main audio guide language and another in international language.
The incorporation of the signoguides will not allow access to all deaf visitors: of the 360 million people in the world who suffer from hearing loss according to the WHO, only about 70 million use sign language as their first language or mother tongue.
The production of these videos will considerably increase the cost of the audioguide.
Due to the size of the video files, the guides cannot be preloaded in our offline mode. Although if the museum offers Wi-Fi in all its facilities or a good data coverage, they work perfectly in streaming.
With Nubart you can access the transcription of the audioguide, through a button located near each track, if this function is implemented. This option works perfectly in our offline mode, so it is suitable for museums in areas with poor data coverage or without Wi-Fi. Given the considerable cost of producing a multilingual signoguide, the incorporation of the texts would increase accessibility considerably at a very low cost.
Issues with texts for deaf people:
- For the pre-lingually deaf (those who lose their hearing before language acquisition), learning to read and write represents a major challenge. Even though they can learn to copy letters and identify them through images, they cannot relate the spelling of writing to the sound elements of speech. Hence not all deaf people can read fluently, so the incorporation of textual transcription will not meet the needs of all the collective.
Finally, here is a video with a visual demonstration of some of Nubart’s applications for accessibility:
Whatever your situation is, write to us. At Nubart we will analyze your case and will prepare a price quote according to your needs.