REHACARE.com talked to project initiator and manager Professor Ledwig about the possibilities of the "blind kit" and found out why the close collaboration with blind people was so crucial.
Professor Ledwig, museum exhibitions are typically inaccessible for blind people. How can the "blind kit" improve accessibility?
Prof. Christopher Ledwig: We augmented exhibits from the Middle Ages all the way to the recent past with cross-media tools. Using smartphones and tiny antennas, audio descriptions can be accessed by simply touching tactile symbols (NFC – near-field communication technology). Audio texts, mood sounds, tactile reproductions, models as well as smart replicas via NFC tags gave way to creative ideas that allow people with visual impairments to experience the visual relics.
These tools are featured as a blind kit in a handy trolley, which accompanies blind and visually impaired visitors during their stroll through the museum. This allows them to independently and autonomously explore the museum without the need to rely on guided formats such as arranged tours for visually impaired or blind people.
How much were visually impaired and blind people involved in the development of this project?
Ledwig: At the start of the project, I blindfolded the students with black scarves for one hour and made them play a tactile game provided by the German Institute for the Blind (Deutsche Blindenstudienanstalt), BLISTA. This gave them a glimpse of what it is like to manage without the sense of sight.
We also closely collaborated with blind test subjects during both the conception and implementation phase. Mr. Karl Kohlhaas and his guide dog Angelo kindly assisted us in this endeavor for example. Mr. Ludwig from the Tonpost magazine [a hugely popular audio publication for the blind] from Trier also supported us by addressing tactile concerns and offering valuable advice.
Without the close collaboration with blind and visually impaired people, this type of project is bound to fail. It is crucial to address the very unique individual needs of the different target audiences. Recently, one of our blind test subjects put things very aptly: "Ask ten different blind people and you will get ten different opinions!"