My most recent design project was much different than anything I'd done before. Research has always been a large part of my design process, but for my accessibility project, I was reading about something that I knew almost nothing about. It was a very interesting design challenge, making the Ball State art museum more accessible and enjoyable for people with visual impairments.
In the course of my research I read the Smithsonian museum guidelines for accessibility, I visited the museum multiple times, and toured the museum with a woman with partial vision loss to get an idea of the challenges she experiences. I also talked to people who work with disability services on campus.
I decided to focus on blindness after hearing from multiple people with visual impairments on how they had an interest in the information the museum had to offer even though it was not set up in a way that made it easy for them to independently use the museum resources.
I narrowed my focus to people with visual impairments who use canes because even though at 8%, cane users make up a small amount of the blind population, it is a tool that offers less independence. Thus it provided its own challenges.
The museum had certain things in place already for people who use canes to be able to access it, such as grip strips on the stairs, but those are chipping and unsightly, they don't match with the aesthetic of the museum and aren't consistent.
My solution was to put a raised tile pattern on the stairs to signal to cane users that they were approaching the stairs. This solution fits better with the aesthetic of the museum as well. I also applied to tile pattern to doorways because currently there is nothing to signal that you're moving into a different room.
My second solution was to add braille to the maps. Currently there are museum maps at the front desk but they aren't labeled, and they are small and low contrast. According to Smithsonian guidelines white text on black backgrounds are easier to read for people with low vision. My research also suggested that thick lines, a lot of spacing and large, sans serif type was easier to read.
I designed the brochure to be one-sided so that braille could be printed over the images.
My third solution was a simple one. I found by trying to feel the braille on room signs in the museum that reaching out to a flat surface strains your wrist. A simple UX solution is to make room signs that have braille on a surface that is tilted at an angle to make reading them more easy for braille users.