June 2017

Accessibility and museums: an app to break down sensory barriers

accessibility with NearIT and Rotary

NearIT, hi-tech company based in Italy, has supported Rotary Clubs of Cividale, Gemona, Tarvisio and Tolmezzo, designing a smartphone app solution to improve Italian Heritage accessibility. On Sunday 25th of June 2017 the official inauguration ceremony at the Carnico Museum in Tolmezzo (UD).

Bergamo, 22nd of June 2017 – Mobile Proximity Communication put itself at the service of heritage to break down 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 in order to establish a new standard for all designers and developers, thinking increasingly in terms of free accessibility to the public heritage and cultural environment. An app and beacon technology make all this possible.

According to the italian blind people organisation, there are just few heritage and archeological sites wich are accessible for people with this disability. This is 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, Pordenone italian blind and visually impaired organisation members, the first installation of the project “Vedere il Museo” at the Carnico Museum of Traditional Arts “Michele Gortani” in Tolmezzo (Udine) will be launched. The Museum will be open to all interested visitors free of charge on this occasion.

“The App has been designed to be easily used by 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 graphic interface has been thoughts as Design for All: this is not just for blind people, but also aged people and partially sighted visitors can take advantage of this solution”.

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

Nearby a beacon the smartphone vibrate and, by touching the screen, the audio description starts. After another tap the description stops.

museum accessibility

“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 museums managers will be able to collect real time feedback and, by using its analytics, they will collect data about contents shared, such as how many people received them when they are close to a beacon or 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, understood as the fight against all 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, a easily duplicable service set to continue through an app ready for use in every museum thanks to a fast adaptable everywhere in a few minutes software”.


museum accessibility with nearit

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