Notes from chat with blind user about museum kiosk experience (January 13, 2010)

On January 13, 2010, we visited the ROM with a blind user (herein referred to as U1) to discuss what blind users look for in a museum experience, particularly about kiosk accessibility. Some direct questions from us are indicated in purple.

ROM lobby kiosk/interactive

alison and user standing next to large glass encased touch screen kiosk on first floor of the ROM

- Re: ROM lobby kiosk/interactive:
  - Doesn't give an idea of what's on there or what it contains, from a blind user's point of view; nothing to indicate its function
  - Nothing to indicate its use: no borders, buttons, or any tangible physical pieces to indicate where the kiosk elements are
  - This kiosk is "useless to me [U1]"
  - Ideally there would be physical buttons, and even then, U1 would need to "hunt and peck"
  - There needs to be a logic of where and how to begin
    - Buttons or some other tactile element would be U1's starting point
    - Audio instructions of "start here, do this" would be helpful
  - How would you know what buttons do what?
    - U1 would look for one button that stood out alone, and start by pressing that one
    - That lone button would possibly sit above or below all the others
    - Tactile elements on the button itself (embossments), such as a dot on the button (as on many 'F' and 'J' keys on keyboards, or the number '5' on a keypad) would help to indicate significance

ROM totem pole kiosk

the ROM totem pole touch screen kiosk

- Re: ROM totem pole kiosk
  - This kiosk served just one function: playing a video, which was activated by selecting a language
  - Similarily unusable without buttons or another indicator of what it offers
  - Content has audio commentary; this is useful
  - Physically, the kiosk is much smaller than the lobby kiosk--easier to feel the borders
  - Straightforward use, few options, makes it easy
    - Could have made this kiosk very easily blind-user accessible by having a raised button to activate it
    - Placing the buttons along the border of the kiosk display would have been good

ROM Schad Gallery kiosk

one of the many touch screen kiosks in the shad gallery of the ROM

- Re: ROM Schad Gallery kiosk
  - This kiosk presented a multitude of videos, selectable via touch screen with a 4x5 grid of video thumbnails
  - How would we make this accessible?
    - Automated telephone system-like would be easy
    - Navigate through the videos with a numeric keypad
      - "For English, press 1. Pour le francais, appuillez sur le 2."
      - "For video on ____, press 1," etc.
    - Navigate through the videos via voice (again, a la automated telephone system)
    - Or, "For English, press the left switch", etc.
    - Audio instructions on how to navigate/use the system

General questions and notes

- What do you think of the iPhone model of touchscreen accessibility?
  - "Not my first choice. I prefer buttons."
  - "I'm not a techie."
  - "But[, in the end,] could I make it work? Probably."

- What do you expect at the museum? What kind of museum experience do you look for?
  - Expect very little; museums and galleries are unfriendly places most of the time [to blind visitors]
  - Some exceptions: museums that have a lot of old pioneer stuff; these museums tend to let you touch stuff
  - Why are most museums and galleries not great? Most of the stuff is behind glass cases
  - Lectures, movies, programs:making these usable is another whole
piece of work
  - Ideally: would like to be able to touch everything; lectures often rely too heavily on slides; art/sculpture classes are inclusive and allow blind visitors to participate
  - Having replicas of all the objects [to touch] would be really nice

- How do you connect with content, as a blind visitor?
  - With a really good, *detailed* explanation
  - Want to know about the backstory: what led the artist to... why was it made... what was the artist trying to convey...
  - Used to think paintings weren't a good medium for him; but U1's opinion changing on this: a good description goes a long way

- Re: audio wand experience (at different museums)
  - Want better coverage of pieces (at King Tut AGO exhibit, ~10% object coverage)
  - How did you know what code to enter into the wand?
    - Needed someone (e.g., attendant) to relay it to him, or would have had to hunt and peck and see what came up
  - What's the difference between listening to the audio tour at the museum and at home?
    - Combination of the audio tour + the person or people U1's with creates the full experience
    - Attendant's description of the artifact means a lot (+ ability to ask attendant about the object); makes a big difference
    - Also, listening to conversations of nearby people allows U1 to piece together a good idea about the artifacts
    - Each component gives a difference piece of the puzzle: object label/card + audio tour + person/people

- How often, if ever, do you visit a museum without someone with you?
  - Almost never
  - Exceptions: special events, tours with docents
  - U1 spends a lot of time doing pre-visit planning, finding out if the museum is worthwhile to visit
  - In theory, should be able to just show up spontaneously and visit w/ a tour guide, but sometimes tour guide isn't available or the tour guide isn't good. Thus, not taking the chance to show up spontaneously. Need to plan a lot to maximize fulfillment.
  - Museum wayfinding via attendant

- What's reasonable for a blind user to expect from a museum visit?
  - Tactile tours
  - Audio descriptions
  - Docents that are good describers
  - Raised line drawings
  - Object replicas