Art galleries and museums are powerfully visual spaces that inspire us, help us understand our world and our place within it, and open our eyes to new ideas and perspectives.
However, many world-class cultural institutions don’t often cater to the accessibility needs of people with different impairments, particularly those with vision impairment.
We wanted to push the boundaries of technology to solve social issues creatively and innovatively and develop a digital product to help people with vision impairment experience art.
What We Did
Our final product is ‘Moon’, an app prototype that involves exploring the other senses to create a multi-sensory gallery experience.
Moon uses soundscapes and detailed audio descriptions to help people with vision impairment experience art through their sense of sound, while also allowing them the autonomy to navigate the gallery in a more exploratory manner.
Moon works by using beacon technology placed behind artworks and in gallery spaces to trigger two different experiencences:
- Upon entering a gallery space, the user hears a soundscape specifically composed for that room and the artworks in it - it imagines the space in sound form, giving the user an idea of what to expect and guiding them around the room and to different artworks.
- As the user walks closer to an individual artwork, the beacon triggers a rich, highly descriptive and imaginative audio description of the artwork, its context and the artist. The user can then choose to stay and listen or move on to a new artwork.
Moon allows people with vision impairment to choose their journey in a gallery space, unencumbered by numbered artworks and linear audio guides. Moon lets their ears do the walking.
What We Learned
It was heartening to learn that major tech companies have started taking accessibility more seriously in the last few years. We worked with members from the vision impaired community on this product, and discovered there already exists a myriad of mobile accessibility options for the blind, including voice-over text, magnification, zoom, changing colour into black and white, and many more. As one of our users said, “Just design this like you would any other app - like you would for a sighted person.”
Moon has the potential to make a real impact on the way galleries and other cultural institutions cater to not just the vision impaired, but also the broader accessibility community, who have largely been excluded from easily accessing and enjoying cultural experiences. Not only that, but by designing for the needs of one set of users, we have created a multi-sensory gallery experience that can be enjoyed by all.
Moon was awarded an Honourable Mention in the Fast Company Design Awards in the Games & Apps category.