June 2017

Accessibility and museums: an App to break the sensorial barriers


NearIT, hi-tech company based in Italy, has supported Rotary Clubs of Cividale, Gemona, Tarvisio and Tolmezzo, making a smartphone solution to increase the accessibility to the Italian heritage. On Sunday 25th of June there is the official launch ceremony at the Carnico Museum in Tolmezzo (UD).

Bergamo, 22nd of June 2017 – Proximity communication through smartphone is now working  to support the heritage and to break all the barriers which are restricting the use of cultural spaces to visually impaired people. It is a project born from a partnership among some Rotary clubs that want to establish a new standard for all designers and developers, which is to think more in terms of free accessibility to the public heritage and cultural environment. All this thanks to an App and the Beacon technology.

According to the Italian blind people association, there are just few heritage and archeological sites accessible for people with this disability. This is the reason why the project of the four Rotary Clubs of Friuli has started.

The initiative aims to supply the local museums (Museo Carnico delle Arti Popolari “Michele Gortani” of Tolmezzo, Museo Cristiano and Tesoro del Duomo in Cividale del Friuli, Museo etnografico of Palazzo Veneziano in Malborghetto, Museo civico of Palazzo Elti in Gemona del Friuli) with an innovative service in order to help visitors with special needs.

On Sunday 25th of June at 11 am, in front of the local authorities, the Rotary District 2060 Governator, the clubs’ presidents and members, the launch of the first installation of the project “See the Museum” at the Museum Carnico of the traditional arts “Michele Gortani” will take place in Tolmezzo (Udine), made possible by the Italian blind people association.

“The App has been designed to be easily used by the people with visual deficit” says Susanna Avossa, Designer UX/UI of NearIT. “Each content is associated to a different bright colour. We haven’t used writing on the display but just visual references. The menu graphic has been thoughts as Design for All: this is not just for blind people, but also aged people and visitor with reading problems can take advantage of this solution”.

Every museum involved will be able to create and change its own contents by itself through the platform NearIT. Every “recipe” starts from an audio render of a textual content of the museum. Each content is linked to a room and to a Bluetooth beacon.



When the smartphone is nearby a beacon it buzzes and by touching the screen the audio description starts. After another tap the description stops.

“The solution we have developed is different compared to the one we have already used for conventions and events” says Stefano Cattaneo Mobile & Front-end developer at NearIT. “All the provided smartphones will be used off line, they don’t need wifi or data to access to the contents shared through the beacons, and the messages will not be targeted on the users. Moreover, we choose beacons able to be automatically turned down during the night, to save battery”.

Thanks to NearIT’s features the museums managers will be able to collect feedback in real time and, by using its analytics, they will collect data about the contents shared, such as how many people have got them because they are close to a beacon, how many have listened to all the audio description. In this way lots of data will be collected in order to make the service better and better.

“Rotary financed this project, because of its sensitivity in the accessibility issue, such as the fight against all the barriers: architectural, cultural and sensorial” states Andrea Michelutti, President of Rotary in Tolmezzo. “A lot of people affected by visual deficit ( because of their age or because of a disease) are asking to get closer to arts and heritage. That’s why we have thought about this project as global, to be repeated and used in any museum. We realized an App that thanks to a software can be fast adaptable everywhere”.



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