Two neatly abiding rows of bankrupt esplanade brochures band the bank of Michele Hartley’s office, aphotic from lengths of photo affectation wire like laundry on a clothesline. Their accustomed black-and-white appellation confined buck the names of about 100 civic esplanade sites, from African Burial Ground Civic Monument in New York to Yosemite Civic Esplanade in California. For Hartley, the brochures are neither keepsakes from visits accomplished nor afflatus for trips yet to be planned. Rather, they are works in advance — book brochures actuality reimagined as brochures for the blind.
“One of the best accepted pieces of media that anybody gets in a esplanade is a brochure. Bodies booty them home. They’re souvenirs,” said Hartley, the accessibility coordinator at Harpers Ferry Center, the media centermost of the Civic Esplanade Service. “If you’re aphotic or accept low vision, you don’t get that one allotment of advice that anybody gets that’s a snapshot of the park, that tells you why it’s special, and tells you area you can go and what you can do. So, we bare to assignment on that.”
In her role with the Esplanade Service, Hartley strives to ensure that the articles she and her colleagues actualize — from wayside exhibits to printed abstracts — are accessible to and accessible by bodies with disabilities. In 2014, those efforts took a big footfall advanced with the birth of the UniDescription Project, or UniD, a accord amid the Esplanade Service and the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa focused on application adaptable technologies to advance accessibility. Their aboriginal adjustment of business: revisiting those iconic brochures.
To date, UniD has created audio brochures for about one-quarter of the 419 civic esplanade sites (including Muir Woods, above). All are chargeless and accessible to the public.
Since 1977, back acclaimed artist Massimo Vignelli alien the alleged “Unigrid” system, civic esplanade brochures accept been standardized, with a blueprint that is both instantly apparent and awful accessible — at atomic by sighted visitors. Though Braille versions of abounding of the brochures accept been created, they serve alone a baby and crumbling articulation of the population. For UniD, the key to the change of the advertisement is audio description, a adaptation of beheld abstracts into aural ones. It is to bodies who are aphotic or accept low eyes what captioning is to bodies who are deafened or adamantine of hearing.
But how absolutely do you accompany bashful esplanade brochures to life? With bare bookish abstract on the affair and no accustomed arrangement for creating and administration audio-described content, the accumulation had to alpha from scratch, said Brett Oppegaard, UniD’s arch investigator and an accessory abettor at the University of Hawai’i School of Communications.
“We spent best of the aboriginal year of the activity aloof deconstructing the brochures and chargeless their purposes as advice artifacts,” he said. “At the time, it seemed like a alluring claiming in abstruse communication. Later, I accomplished it additionally was a above affair of amusing justice, in which some bodies are actuality advantaged and others blank in affiliation to our accessible resources, such as civic parks.”
UniD — arresting like “unity” — initially set a ambition of creating a few dozen audio brochures. But back Google stepped in with added allotment in 2017, the ambit of the activity grew. To date, UniD has created audio brochures for about one-quarter of the 419 civic esplanade sites, all chargeless and accessible to the accessible online and via a downloadable app.
Ultimately, the project’s aim is to advance a ability of accessibility by bringing audio description into the mainstream. Anyone is acceptable to annals and admission UniD’s online assets and tools, including advice on best practices for audio description, easy-to-use templates and instructions for creating audio-described materials. The arrangement converts accounting descriptions to announced text, and with a few keystrokes, an audio-described advertisement can be adored and appear to a cardinal of formats, from websites to adaptable apps. (Not aloof anyone can broadcast a esplanade brochure, however; those permissions abide with UniD.)
Still, the action of advice image-rich esplanade brochures — a autonomous accomplishment on the allotment of anniversary accommodating esplanade assemblage — can be time-consuming, which presented a challenge. Oppegaard addressed this by instituting what he dubbed “descriptathons.” Modeled afterwards the hackathons captivated by software developers, these basic gatherings accompany calm participants from about the country for abrupt but acute periods of assignment that accommodate training, accord and affable competition. Dozens of volunteers from the American Council of the Blind, which abutting the activity in 2017, serve as judges, appraisement and baronial the descriptions of beheld actual to ensure that they are objective, bright and abrupt — abundant and active after venturing into abstract estimation that could blush the listener’s perception.
UniD’s fifth and best contempo descriptathon in August admiring agents apery added than two dozen esplanade sites, mostly beyond the Southeast. Those audio-described brochures are slated to be field-tested by aphotic and low-vision users afore advancing online this year.
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Sajja Koirala, a University of Hawai’i doctoral apprentice and analysis abettor for UniD, conducted a 2017 focus accumulation with bodies who approved out the brochures at Yosemite Civic Park. “I heard over and over how this audio-described advertisement fabricated the appointment added agreeable for aphotic and visually broken individuals,” she said.
Koirala, who is blind, has immediate ability of how accessible the brochures are. In the past, back she’s visited esplanade sites, she’s consistently relied on her bedmate to apprehend printed actual to her. But afore traveling to Denali Civic Esplanade aftermost year, she downloaded the UniD brochure. “We were able to plan the cruise together. The chat became animated, we were both talking at the aforementioned time, and I acquainted like an according contributor to our itinerary,” she said. “When we appointment parks with audio-described brochures, it’s a altered story.”
A achromatic atramentous and white photo from 1902 or 1903 is captioned, “Trade routes beyond the High Sierra.” and is accustomed to the Civic Esplanade Service. It is a close-up Paiute ancestors photo of bristles airish in advanced of their horse or mule. The account was taken as the ancestors visited Yosemite Valley from the Mono Lake arena on a two anniversary cruise to aggregate acorns. From larboard to right, a built-in woman of general age stands absolutely adverse the camera in a abounding breadth white dress with aphotic polka dots. Her arresting cheeks are in the ablaze and aperture are almost upturned. In her arms, she is captivation an infant.. The adolescent is belted in a aphotic checkerboard blanket, the girl’s ample fists acclaim balled up in front.
Beside the woman angle two preschool age accouchement in nearly-matching checkerboard dresses. Although she is airish to face the camera, the babe on the left’s arch is agee against her mother, her aperture is hardly afflictive and her duke clings to the woman’s skirt. It is cryptic whether she is abrupt or shy. The babe on the right, who is hardly taller, primly clasps her easily in advanced of her.
On the right, the ancestor stands in a assured accessible affectation with his weight on his larboard leg and his appropriate duke ascent to butt the saddle horn of his horse. He wears a anemic acquainted hat with a advanced border and adorning hatband that shades his eyes. He has a apart white, long-sleeved shirt and continued pants.
Todd guides NPCA’s agreeable action and leads the aggregation that produces our website, annual and podcast. He is additionally the columnist of The Green Hour: A Daily Dose of Attributes for Happier, Healthier, Smarter Kids.
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