In thinking about this hypothetical exhibition, a topic that seems imperative to the mission of the companies creating these objects is communication; specifically for creative work and collaboration. The DeafSpace Sensory Design, EyeOn EyeTech, Braille Display HumanWare Brailliant BI 40, and the Code Jumper by Humanware are all examples of new technologies being created to better integrate the voices of seeing and/or hearing impaired people in the workspace and day-to-day channels of communication. With most work and creative spaces not equipped to support the communicative needs of deaf or blind people, the addition of new specific devices designed and targeted to these communities will help spaces become more inclusive and create more opportunities for meaningful collaboration. As the world progresses and becomes more technologically inclined, accessibility to technology should become further normalized and organized to fill the language and interpretational gaps that often separate the impaired and those who are not.
It is important to integrate and make the impaired connected through communication, because they too have valuable insights to offer and have different perspectives than the seeing and/or hearing. The obstacles of communication between the impaired with the seeing and/or hearing have long been a struggle in disability rights. There are Disability Rights laws and acts that have been put in place to protect the blind and deaf in the work place from institutional discrimination, but the disabled still face day-to-day discrimination and this can be largerly attributed to lack of the ability to communicate. With limited capabilities to communicate without technological intervention, these technologies should be more apparent and available as well as better infused in the daily workspace to best incorporate the skills and insights of the blind or deaf.
It is also important to include these accessibility technologies outside of the work space as well. Discrimination does not stop once you step out of the work place and in many ways is ingrained into us unknowingly from an early age. Many people are unwilling to put the extra time and effort into learning sign language, guiding, listening, etc. to enable meaningful interaction with the blind or deaf. This is because the general population have had little or no extended interaction with the blind or deaf, and are taught from a young age through family, media and education that being visually or hearing impaired is a societal disadvantage. However, this is only a disadvantage because our society hasn’t created a space and equal opportunity for these communities to thrive and communicate with the population at large. Specific technologies for the impared are being created to improve communication capabilities for these communities to have a greater opportunity to thrive in day-to-day life. Due to the laziness and naivete we were generationally raised with, the responsibility to help build a place and platform for the deaf and blind to thrive has fallen to the seeing and hearing.
The four objects I’ve selected to represent the need for integration of accessibility tools to improve the capabilities of collaboration range in function and intended audience. Starting at a young age, tools should be incorporated in education for the imaired to better assimilate their needs while also not making them stand out. By normalizing these tools at a young age, children who are blind or deaf will learn new skills and will be better able to express their personalities and interests to their peers, as well as help to facilitate a learning space that bolsters their interest.
The Code Jumper tool from Humanware opens doors into the STEM world that blind students and children might have not had available before. Coding is inherently visual, but tools like Code Jumper creates a more tactile mode to the introduction of coding for young people by creating an opportunity for the blind to potentially enter into a field that was not necessarily equipped to embrace their impairment. Code Jumper is a tool that can be used by students all on the vision spectrum. Code Jumper is easy to set up and the instructions are simple to follow, so all teachers can easily facilitate a lesson on computing coding. Code Jumper teaches “Children not only learn basic programming concepts, such as sequence, iteration, selection, and variables, but will also be encouraged to think computationally, such as solving the same challenge in multiple ways.” Learning these basic coding skills teaches the new digital natives useful tools that can be integrated into daily computing as well as future innovations. So, as blind students are also born into the digital realm, these tools are essential to their inclusion in their generational modes of communication and expression.
The DeafSpace Sensory Design, is another tool that was born out of educational needs but for the hearing impared. This was created with college level students in mind, but I believe this tool as well as other aspects of the DeafSpace project can be injected into future inclusive space architecture and planning. The large immersive screen experience was designed for deaf classrooms but can be beneficial for the greater population. While focusing on reducing the eye strain caused by common teaching boards and computers, they are also attending to deaf learners’ needs for greater space for visual stimulation. These two focuses benefit deaf learners as well as the greater population. So, by embracing and installing these types of screens in spaces such as educational institutions of all levels and in work spaces, will allow for a more collaborative environment where deaf and hearing normative learners and workers can work off the same surface.
Another, more specific tool that can be useful for telecommunication and dictation is the EyenOn by EyeTech. This device uses eye tracking software to create an easy to navigate way of searching, writing, and speaking through motion sensitive AI applications. The EyeOn also addresses “vision and neurology screenings, AAC speech device accessibility, reading assessments, learning ability evaluations, and more.” EyeOn helps non-verbal people communicate while also providing a visual shareable screen for visual/script communication. This device will allow for a faster and more seamless translation of a deaf person’s thoughts and points of view in conversation and is portable and handheld in a way that facilitates communication outside the classroom and in public possible with less disruption.
A similar device to the EyeOn but for the blin, is the Tactile Braille Tablet insideONE by Insidevision. This device is controlled by touch rather than eye tracking. On the bottom of the tablet there is a braille pallet and on the screen there are haptic fingerprints to create a tactile experience as well as a visual display. The screen does display the visuals like a common tablet, it just has more accessibility features, which makes the screen still shareable with the seeing normative and keeps collaboration more smooth and frictionless. These types of portable tablets created with accessibility at the forefront are ways to fill the gap in day-to-day communication on the go as well in the classroom or workspace. The EyeOn and the insideONE are two iterations of the popular tablet format reimagined with the blind and deaf communities in the front of planning. These tablets minimize possible isolation created by having external scribes or interpreters and lets imparied student be more independent and possibly feel more comfortable speaking up.
All of these tools can be essential in creating an inclusive and beneficial space for all. No one is left out with any of these technologies and they can be used by the majority of people. It is important that these technologies not act as barriers for communication, but be able to work and be understood by the seeing and hearing able. Being capable of being understood by seeing and hearing people will give the impaired a more blendable experience in collaborations because their devices more closely resemble the basic devices seeing and hearing normative people are familiar with but with their needs tended to. Objects like the DeafSpace Sensory Design are also objects that are incorporated in the space that have the impaired in mind but are usable and beneficial for all. The incorporation of accessible technology in common, institutional, educational, work and creative spaces will help maximize the communication and productivity of people of different levels of the hearing and seeing spectrum.
This exhibition will help expose the general audience to the types of technology being created today for these impaired communities as well as educate the visitors on what can make technology accessible. Before researching this project I would have never thought about eye strain caused by two similar colors being layered on top of one another. By being exposed to the needs and issues that come up day-to-day in the lives of blind and deaf people, visitors will be more aware of how they can better communicate and ease collaboration between themselves and the impaired. The DeafSpace Sensory Design and the Coding Jumper are two ways teaching curriculum and institutional space can better adapt to these needs as well as improving the interactive capabilities of learning through these new tools. The EyeOn and the insideONE are examples of technologies that give users of all different ages the possibility for easier uninterrupted communication. By incorporating new accessible technologies into the daily workspace, educational institutions and public spaces we will create a more inclusive and collective environment.