Accessible Audio Layer for Multitouch Exhibits

Our commitment to inclusive design leads to flexible gesture-based audio accessibility features for multitouch tables and touch walls

Audio Accessibility for Multitouch Exhibits: White Paper

Published: January 5th, 2018

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hereTwo men stand at a touch table. The man on the left touches the screen to control the accessibility layer. The man on the right observes video.

by Jim Spadaccini, Creative Director

Nearly five years ago, as part of an National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored project focusing on inclusive design, Ideum began development of the first accessible audio layer for multitouch tables and large touch displays. This experimental application was developed in conjunction with the Museum of Science in Boston, the WGBH National Center for Accessible Media, and Audience Viewpoints. This NSF project, Creating Museum Media for Everyone (CMME), explored a variety of ways in which digital interactives could be made more inclusive. During the last six months, Ideum has investigated new approaches to audio accessibility and has now developed new software with a variety of interactive modes for visually impaired visitors in public spaces.

We’ve been building on what we learned in our early experiments, and once again we’ve worked with Sina Bahram, an accessibility consultant and founder of Prime Access Consulting. (In fact, Ideum collaborated with Sina to host a workshop on inclusive design for digital experiences last fall.) Our new gesture-based audio accessibility layer has multiple modes to allow customized interaction for different types of exhibits and contexts. The goal for our new audio accessibility software was to go beyond simply providing information and create deeper, more meaningful experiences for both visually-impaired users and sighted visitors.

The new development of this audio accessibility layer started as an R&D project here at Ideum, but has now been developed and deployed for a number of exhibits for Hoover Dam, along with an installation for corporate exhibit space for a large social media company. We are thrilled to be able to make our multitouch tables and touch displays more accessible. You can learn more in our newest white paper, Embracing Inclusive Design in Multitouch Exhibit Development, which explains more about the development of the software.