An Inclusive Experience
“Please Touch!” and the ARCHES project as a whole enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities to better experience art and cultural heritage, and allow them to be an active part of it. Using a Design for All approach, we have made sure that the results can be used by everybody, in a fully inclusive environment. In other words, our solutions help museum visitors, young or old, local or new to the country, visually impaired, hard of hearing, with intellectual or motor disabilities, to enjoy artworks and learn about them. Using a novel participatory research approach, which has been recognized by the European Commission’s Innovation Radar, twelve European institutions (museums, tech companies, and universities) teamed up with around 200 volunteers with various disabilities. Over the period of three years, they all worked together in participative research groups in Vienna, London, Madrid and Oviedo.
The outcomes include a museum handbook in three languages and Best-Practice guidelines, as well as technological solutions: 1. An avatar-based sign language translation including mimic and gestures to give additional meaning. 2. A fully accessible museum guide and other Guidelines for museums that want to reach out to all people. 3. A game for iPads and tablets, which is a fun way to explore selected artworks and encourages the users to remix and create their own versions. The game uses high contrast, large buttons, sounds and voice-over technology to make it equally accessible for visually impaired and blind users. 4. A novel 3D relief printer working with a re-usable material, which can bring the artworks to the people, outside the museum context (e.g. during restrictions due to Covid-19) 5. An interactive computer station using tactile reliefs as well as multisensory and fully accessibility features.
This computer station is called “Please Touch!” and was developed as an on-site installation for each museum. Using a custom-built relief design software, tactile interpretations of selected paintings were designed, and realized as CNC-machined bas reliefs, in different materials, in the format 40x30x3.5cm. A computer-vision system detects hand gestures that trigger audio descriptions, animations and story elements. In addition, a 3D-spatial soundscape was composed to give all parts of the painting a distinctive sound. All accessibility features can be highly customized and stored individually using QR-code cards, to be quickly retrieved at the next visit.
This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement Nº 693229.