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28 February, 2019

How Museums offer Accessibility to the Blind and Sight Impaired

Seeing the art through touch and sound...

Tactile 3D technology is making art accessible to those with vision impairment, allowing the Blind and sight impaired to experience art of all kinds, including historical and ancient art and sculpture.

Now the blind and visually impaired can visualize what the art looks like by touch.  Museums all over the world are participating in touch tours and recreating famous art with special 3d machines, making these duplications in a highly detailed tactile way so that those who are blind can fully enjoy the art.  This has expanded a new world for sight impaired art lovers, creating a unique accessibility. Besides audio descriptions that are offered at most museums, verbal description and touch tours offer blind museum goers a chance to experience art through touch and sound, helping those with sight impairment to "see" and imagine the artist's creative intentions.  Allowing a sight impaired museum goer to understand the emotion and intention of the artist by touching the details of the art greatly enhances their whole museum experience.  

Blind Art Museum

Along with verbal tours that the museum guide describes in great detail, touching actual sculptures and art paintings expands the knowledge and broadens the art encounter.  

Art Accessibility Blind and Low Vision

John Olson, a photographer who started his career covering the Vietnam War, began his company, 3D Photoworks, in 2008.  Since then he's been perfecting a patented fine art printing process that will change the way blind people "see" art forever. With a team of 3D technicians and engineers, Olsen and his team came up with a way to convert any 2-dimensional painting, photo or drawing to a three-dimensional tactile art print, complete with touch-activated sensors that provide audio information about the artwork.  The sensors are embedded throughout the prints that when touched, activate the sound.  The prints have length, width, depth and texture-- capturing color and relief of an artist's brushstrokes.  Olsen demonstrated the technology at the National Federation of the Blind convention and took along a 3D copy of the “Mona Lisa,” in addition to “George Washington Crossing the Delaware.

Tulip 3d Slick Primary Set Tactile Markings Tulip 3d Slick Primary Set Tactile Markings

Advocates for the blind are praising Olson’s invention as the greatest thing since the arrival of Braille, nearly 200 years ago. "When I experience a painting on my own without someone explaining it to me, that to me represents freedom, independence and equality.”--Lynn Jackson, an art lover who became blind at age 60.

Tactile and 3D paintings are enhancing the museum experience all over the world for the blind and visually impaired. "The Louvre in Paris was one of the first museums to set up a permanent gallery specifically for the visually impaired, opening its Tactile Gallery, where visitors can touch reproductions of art from its collection, in 1995. Since then, other museums have made accessibility for the blind a priority, too: the Denver Art Museum, Madrid’s Museo del Prado, and Florence’s Uffizi Gallery all have exhibitions that include touchable artworks. Meanwhile, the Museo Nacional de San Carlos in Mexico City also pioneered a concept of using collage to reproduce paintings that can be touched, according to the New York Times."  --Audrey Leonard

MaxiAids has been a provider for products that help enhance the lives of those with physical challenges.  Look to MaxiAids for products for the blind, low vision aids, blind accessories, low vision products, tactile products, and mobility products to safely move about, explore, create, and enjoy life to the fullest.

18 October, 2017

New Developments: Enabling Vision for Individuals who are Blind

Enabling blind people to see again is the dream of many neuroscientists. We still have a long way to go to make this happen, but we have also made a lot of progress over the last twenty years, says Richard van Wezel of the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behavior. He presented his research into the development of a 'prosthetic for blind people' on the occasion of World Sight Day (October 12th), an annual event that focuses attention on blindness and vision loss. Van Wezel and his colleague Marcel van Gerven belong to the NESTOR consortium, consisting of participants from a range of disciplines including neurobiologists and engineers specialized in microelectronics and wireless apparatus. NESTOR, which received a grant last November from NWO Applied and Engineering Science AES, is working on the development of a prosthesis that uses micro-electrodes to stimulate the brains of blind people to evoke phosphines. "These are phosphines, comparable to the stars you see when you stand up too quickly. Blind people can also perceive them," Van Wezel explains. "We use electrodes to stimulate the brain in such a way that blind people can have a limited form of vision to see what is happening in the world around them." It is a potential solution for people who have become blind because their eyes or optical nerves are no longer functional. "For this group, stimulating the visual cortex is the only option for restoring vision."

Evoking phosphines

"The beauty of the visual cortex is that it is organized very logically. In a sense, the visual cortex contains a map that we can use to evoke phosphines very precisely at certain locations. Even with a limited number of electrodes, you can create all kinds of patterns. We are still at a very early stage and are working with experimental animals, but our ultimate objective is to make this possible for blind people." Within the project, Van Wezel is focusing primarily on psychophysics: understanding the relationships between stimuli and perception. "I am especially interested in how much information you need to see certain things. We know that even a small number of moving points is sufficient for people to see the contours of a person or the layout of a room. For someone who sees nothing at all, even this limited vision can be extremely valuable."

Positive expectations

For Van Wezel, the cochlear implant is one of the great success stories in neuroscience. "Worldwide, more than 300,000 people have benefited from cochlear implants, but I expect it will be several decades before visual implants become so widespread. Many attempts have been made, but few of them have succeeded." Nevertheless, the researcher is optimistic. "Our starting position now is much better than 20 years ago, when trials with brain implants usually failed. Much more is now technically possible, due in part to artificial intelligence and developments in deep learning. Another positive note is that we now understand much more about the functioning of the brain and the retina."

In the near future, Van Wezel also expects that gene therapy will provide solutions for certain types of hereditary eye diseases caused by a genetic mutation resulting in blindness. "At present, a great deal of research is being done with injections of genetic material into the eye to stop eye diseases. The developments are promising." However, Van Wezel argues that the greatest gains can currently be achieved in developing countries. "The majority of people in the world who are currently going blind are from developing countries in which no money or suitable treatments are available, for cataracts for example. This disorder requires relatively simple surgery, which is widely available in developed countries."

Recognizing facial expressions

Another project, known as Sixth Sense, is a very practical application of the type of research being conducted by Van Wezel and his colleagues. In cooperation with the University of Twente, a belt has been developed that can be worn around the abdomen and is linked to a smartphone and a camera that recognizes facial expressions. "Based on the emotion shown in the face of the conversation partner, the wearer feels certain vibrations. Half of our communication is nonverbal, and cannot be perceived by people who are blind or have low vision. A tool like this enables them to sense emotions that they cannot perceive otherwise."

Check out these products that are also improving the lives of people who are blind or have low vision.

Provided by: Radboud University

04 October, 2017

Legally blind seven-year-old sees for the first time through high-tech glasses

Davin Bazylewski, a legally blind seven-year-old boy, is seeing clearly for the first time, thanks to a pair of eSight glasses. 

Davin was born with optic nerve hypoplasia (ONH) also known as septooptic dysplasia (SOD) or DeMorsier syndrome, a congenital disorder characterized by underdevelopment (hypoplasia) of the optic nerves, which causes continuous eye shaking and poor vision. In Davin’s case, he is completely blind in one eye and has poor vision in the other.

Davins's miracle was set in motion earlier this year when his parents got wind of this high-tech eyewear that could help him. They learned that these unique glasses have the capability to capture high-definition video and then optimize the images into an easily viewable format. They were even more pleased to find that the glasses actually did as advertised, after having Davin try them out. Davin's parents then started a GoFundMe page to assist them with the $10,000 purchase price and were beyond grateful to see absolute strangers donate towards covering the costs.

These glasses now allow Davin to see patterns and textures as well have the ability to read, watch TV and engage in all visual activities. Davin's parents are assured that with time, he will gain even more independence and confidence. 

Check out these products that are also improving the lives of people who are blind or have low vision.

Photo Courtesy: Winnipeg Free Press