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Amazing reactions to new accessibility tour at Indiana State Museum

September 11, 2018

 

“I don’t know of any museum that has something like this. It’s incredible.”

 

“Museums are usually a flat experience for blind people. This changes that.

 

Words directly from users of Antenna’s latest accessibility app—an innovative multisensory museum tour that enables people who are blind or have low vision to explore the Indiana State Museum independently.

So how did Antenna make this tour that’s being described as a game changer for the industry?

 

Iterative design and community collaboration

Throughout the project, Antenna and the Indiana State Museum partnered with a local school for the blind and with Bosma, a nonprofit organization that helps people who are blind or visually impaired to be self-sufficient and independent during a visit to the museum.

Throughout various stages of development, we carried out in-depth user testing and made changes to continually improve the tour.

This community feedback allowed us to ensure the tour worked for people regardless of how they navigated—whether accompanied by a companion or using a cane, a guide dog, or braille. And it meant we could create engaging content for all ages and levels of technical ability.

For instance, in one stage of testing we noticed tech-savvy visitors using the app in the same way they would use a mobile device, rather than how they would use a museum audio tour. So we adapted the layout of the tour and created an experience that better matched users’ expectations and needs.

 

Immersive elements

The Indiana State Museum is full of exhibits that engage the senses. Visitors to the Natural Regions gallery can stroke bear fur, hear frog calls, and walk through a marsh. In the Contested Territory gallery, they can hear a stirring speech from an 18th-century leader of the Miami people spoken in both English and Miami languages. In the First Nations and 19th State galleries, visitors can discover cannisters that hold interesting smells, step on the different types of road materials settlers used, and get hands-on experience chopping wood or churning butter.

The new tour not only describes exhibits and spaces in detail, it also incorporates touch and sound in a way that enhances the overall experience.

 

Intuitive technology

The availability of smartphones has changed the way that many people who are blind and have low vision communicate.

To make the most of this development, the tour is an app which can be downloaded to a smartphone and provides the same accessibility features that people who are visually impaired often use in their day-to-day life. iPods are also available to visitors if they prefer not to use their personal mobile devices.

 

Leslie Lorance, new media manager at the Indiana State Museum, commented:

It’s rare for visitors who are blind or have low vision to be able to experience an institution like ours independently, but we see embracing and facilitating access tours as a key part of our mission. During one of our testing stages, a participant told me that if we didn’t continue building the tour she would cry because the ability of visiting a museum in this way really excited her. That’s the reaction we wanted because it shows we’re making a positive difference in the community—and in people’s lives.”

 

Miranda Smith, Antenna content designer, led the project and believes a tour with this level of collaboration with people who are blind has created a unique experience:

Over and again, we collected in-depth feedback to identify how we could make each and every stop on the tour perfect. We’ve created an experience that really takes into account the needs and wants of people who are blind and have low vision. In my mind, it’s the best way to create an accessibility tour that works seamlessly.”

 

To find out more about how we are innovating in accessibility and how we can help your institution, click the button below.

 

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We make audio tours, mobile apps, multimedia guides, podcasts, interactives, and superior story-driven content for the museum and cultural sector.

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