KNFB Reader

Just before Christmas I downloaded the KNFB Reader. It’s an app that allows a visually impaired person to scan text and have it read aloud on their smart phone. It is really fast and very accurate, particularly with clear text on a plain background. So, all we have to do in the museum is loan visually impaired visitors a device with the app installed on it and that’s them sorted, right? Wrong!

Even if all visually impaired visitors could use a smart phone confidently, which is far from the case, museum text is usually written on the assumption that the reader can see the objects that it refers to. Unless we produce Inclusive Text, which contains enough visual information for visually impaired people to know what we are writing about, we will continue to exclude them. This is really important now that even more visually impaired people will be able to read text independently in museums and galleries.

You can learn more about the KNFB Reader app by following the link:


Inclusive Technology Challenge

On 16 October the innovation charity Nesta launched an Inclusive Technology Challenge with a prize of £50,000.

They are looking for “innovation in products, technologies and systems that enable disabled people, their families, friends and carers equal access to life’s opportunities. Innovations must involve co-creation with disabled people and can relate to any aspect of life including, but not limited to, education, home, leisure, transport and work.”

You can find out more about the Inclusive Technology Prize by following this link:


That includes you!

When I told my friend Claire that I was writing some principles on Inclusive Design for our service she asked me how they would differ from those that are already available on the internet. I replied that mine would be specific to museums and heritage sites. There is more to it than that though. For me Inclusive Design goes beyond Universal Design, which focuses mainly on usability for disabled people. It is also concerned with age, gender, sexuality, race, religion, language, etc.

Inclusive Design is a process, not a finished product.

It aims to produce things that are user-friendly for people with a wide range of needs.

It begins with the questions “If we do it this way who will we be excluding?” and “How can we do it differently so as to include them?”

Testing with a wide range of potential users has to be done at every stage in the project, to avoid costly and embarrassing mistakes.

There is no place for assumptions or guesswork in the Inclusive Design process.

You can read about the principles of Universal Design, which were developed in the 1990’s by following this link:


How We Read

Anyone who is interested in next June’s Blind Creations conference (which I wrote about on 18 September) might also be interested in a free exhibition this November at the Peltz Gallery, School of Arts, Birkbeck, London. Called How We Read, it “aims to expand conceptions of what it means to be human, by exploring the many ways in which we do something as simple as read a book.”

“From raised print to talking books and optophones, a fascinating array of historic artefacts will be on display from museums, archives, and other centres dedicated to preserving the heritage of blindness.”

For more information follow this link:


Moved by Conflict

Last weekend the museum’s World War One exhibition opened. Entitled Moved by Conflict, it focuses on the way the war affected people and society, rather than on the fighting.

I am glad to say that DiscoveryPens are available, for visually impaired visitors and others who want enhanced audio access, and there is a brilliant tactile model of the “White City” which I am sure people will enjoy touching as well as looking at.

You can find out more at: –


Eye wish!

My friend Ben came to see me last Saturday. He is a director of Eye Wish Access, a company based in the north east which provides training for organisations that want to be more accessible and inclusive of visually impaired people. All of the training is delivered by visually impaired people.

Eye Wish Access is also trying to do something about the appalling rate of unemployment amongst visually impaired people by running an accredited course to train more trainers.

If you are looking for training about access for visually impaired people take a look at their website:

Blind Creations

A few weeks ago I received a call for papers for an international conference on blindness and the arts. It is called Blind Creations and will take place in London next June.

The conference aims to explore the relationship between blind people and artistic creation. “It sees blind people not only as subjects in their own right, but also as active creators; as such it rejects the ‘medical model’ of disability which posits blind people as passive objects of medical investigation and rehabilitation. In so doing it hopes to challenge and reconceptualise the myths and stereotypes of ‘blindness’ which continue to circulate by recasting ‘blindness’ as a multi-faceted and positive creative force which might be usefully explored by both non-blind and blind people.”

Sounds interesting! I’ll probably offer a paper. Inclusive Audio in museums and galleries would be a safe topic, but I might just try something a bit different as well.

Follow this link for more information on the conference:


Filling in the gaps

I’ve been thinking about accessible text this week. There are two aspects to it – the visual quality and the actual content.

I have a hunch that if you can understand the words in a piece of text, it makes it easier to read visually (i.e. to see). I assume that intuitive understanding of the text helps the brain fill in the visual gaps. It’s rather like lip readers. They don’t recognise a lot of what is being said, but they get enough to work it out. The context also helps of course.

According to the guidelines on clear print, if you print large blocks of text in capitals you make it much more difficult to read, because you remove the familiar shape of words, which normally help people recognise them. It seems likely to me therefore, that if you use unfamiliar language, it makes it harder for the brain to recognise it when you see it.

I must try to find out if anyone has done some proper research into this.


Village People

Yesterday I spent the day at Sight Village. This is the major exhibition of equipment and services for visually impaired people, held in Birmingham each year. I didn’t see anything startlingly new, but I did meet up with lots of people I know from various organisations, and got to know others for the first time, so it was a great networking opportunity.

Follow this link to learn more about Sight Village: