Inclusive Design and Accessibility: Answer hour Notes

April 3, 2020
Panelists: Corey Timpson, Sina Bahram


Sina opens the session by setting the tone and expectation, explaining why they decided to go with a Q&A. Encouraging participants to ask questions that will benefit everyone. 

Corey talks about expanding and building community practices. Important to note that the focus is inclusive design, and accessibility is an output.

1. Any notes or product that we could look at from last year?

Sina answered that he wasn’t sure but then mentioned the Museweb wiki. 

2. Any resources we should look at as a starting point? 

MW archives – 2016 – paper. (Inclusive design from approach to execution)

3. Can you talk to us about screen readers, text images and content for low vision users?

A screen reader is an application that exists on many devices. The program reads out loud what is on the screen. For that to work effectively we have to consider the semantics and we should be aware of those things so we can apply it properly.

Example: Corey sends me a 20 page document, and I have to jump to the section on Visitor Services. I can because he uses headings, and that helps me jump from one section to the next without having to listen to the whole thing.

Regarding images, please remember that social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram allow you to describe your images when you’re posting. It’s important to include these details so that everyone can understand the humor or the situation.

4. Can user testing be done virtually?

In a physical environment I would say it would be difficult to achieve user testing virtually. With so many different pieces coming together and you never really know how things are going to turn out. I think some parts can maybe be tested online but for the whole experience it would be better in person. I would recommend to schedule some user testing at any point even if its post opening and consider your remediation resources. Wayfinding – you can put a minimal amount of tactics and then you watch how people respond to that environment and then adjust at a later time. You can test the digital virtually but you won’t grasp how it fits in the built environment.

Example: Digital installations in gallery where we have a digital platform and presentation sits in a physical structure in an environment that will be full of people and programming. That’s going to be super difficult for you to test online.

5. Do you have any inclusivity pet peeves in museums? Or things that must be fixed now?

Deliberate decision making not being the default. If we are making a decision that we know won’t be ideal, we want it to be informed about why we made that decision and communicate that decision out to ensure that people understand the rational. 

Example: A digital screen in gallery, we want to make sure that everything surrounding that ecosystem has been decided deliberately because there is nothing more frustrating to see all this inclusive work such as the semantics, the GUI is high contrast and everything works really well but its sitting in an exhibit that is not physically accessible.

6. Do you have any suggestion that may be helpful for short term alt-text solutions?

Do not use automated text generation of descriptions or images The AI is not there yet and museum descriptions are highly variant and highly suboptimal. I would like to mention Coyote which is an online tool to help organizations do their visual description work

Example: “Great day at the Beach.” Auto text – image might contain two people smiling outdoors. It still requires me to add the information like this is my friend and his wife and based on their captioning I’m assuming they are at the beach. 

7. What is your favorite method for deploying audio descriptions in a museum?

It’s not a matter of what works best, it’s more what will work best for the situation. Looking at museums such as the Andy Warhol museum or the Canadian Museum for Human Rights they both did these really well. The CMHR has kiosk stations with keypads to access content audio through a headset that way its not being broadcasted throughout the entire exhibit or the close captioning and audio described are left on by default but if the visitor has a choice to turn off therefore we are not forcing the experience.

8. (Considering our current pandemic) What are some things we should be doing changing now to be more inclusive on our digital platforms?

Best practices over all are really important now. This is an opportunity to make things accessible for a wider audience. For example, some people can’t travel to museums regardless of the current restrictions so by taking the steps to more accessible online you can now engage with them at home. Be conscious of the digital system that you are using. Making sure that your environment is as flexible as possible so that if people tell you about their needs you will be able to accommodate. Ask for a VPAT, it’s a voluntary accessibility template that is authored by a vendor and it is designed to let you know how accessible the system really is before you buy it. 

9. Tell us more about platforms. How does Teams compare to Zoom?

A lot of platforms are doing the work to offer more accessibility. Slack, for screen reader users at least, tends to be reasonably accessible. Zoom is incredibly accessible. I would say these two over Teams. We also started to mitigate away from Google Docs and Drive towards Dropbox because the accessibility affordances in the Microsoft products we use are a lot better.

10. Anything new or exciting that you’ve seen or worked on this year (2019) in the world of inclusion?

The interaction lab at Cooper Hewitt. It was a gallery event that was sorta like museum theatre or public programming and performance within a gallery space.  Thinking about those scenarios and what can be done in a more inclusive manner. It was really encouraging to see organizations thinking about not just the structure of their spaces and those intangible and more susceptible to improvisation scenarios.

Interaction Lab

11. Can you speak to any prefab web builders that are more accessible? Any specific templates?

Despite really lots of advocacy on behalf of persons with disabilities, those companies don’t seem very interested in making deliberate choices to make their offerings more accessible even though there is a ton of opportunities. As a computer scientist, I’ve built systems and had them generate accessible output. Squarespace  and Wix tend to produce far less accessible websites than WordPress.

WordPress however you have the ability to make a 100% accessible website as you do with Drupal or any other content management system. In which you have control and thats really what it comes down to is when you have control over the system. You can control the accessibility, or you can install a plugin that can help you know different kinds of markup and use different kinds of widgets.

12. (The question was unclear and a few people spoke at the same time.)

Follow up to the audio question. Location awareness of guidance in walking through a museum? 

We developed Universal Access Points, a system of five components. It was a low energy Bluetooth Beacon. It was a content management system. It was mobile app. It was a cane detectable floor foot Braille strip, and it was a tactile marker that placed in the gallery.

We created a content hierarchy, some wayfinding information, descriptions of spaces and installations as well. That project is about seven years old now, we have learned that there is maintenance required such as changing the batteries on the Bluetooth Beacons. We had the redundancy with a tactile marker also had a number embossed so you could use low energy Bluetooth and do the near me mode and see what you’re prompted to based on your physical location. But you could also cane-detect: feel the embossed number or see the number and type that into your device. Our evaluation post has demonstrated that people are actually using that as a bookmarking system so they can come back to that content at a later time outside of the museum. The technology has gotten better over the years and so much more feasible.

We have also found that using this system for wayfinding is helpful for everyone and its not just for people who are blind.

13. A question in the chat about the most accessible museum website.

Sina provided a list of good websites but answered that it’s a difficult question to answer. He didn’t want the websites to just be mimicked and added that you can use those websites as examples but there is so much more that can be developed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.