Problems of Pratice that Impact Inclusive Tactile Media Production and Consumption
ABIGALE: Hi, my name is Abigale Stangl, I'm a computing innovation post doctoral research fellow at the University of Washington, and I'm here presenting research titled, Defining Problems of Practise to Advance Inclusive Tactile Media Consumption and Production for the Tactile Reading Conference happening in Norway in 2021. I'm also presenting this work on behalf of my collaborators Ann Cunningham from the Colorado Centre for the Blind and Sensational Books. Lou Ann Blake from the National Federation of the Blind and Tom Yeh from the University of Colorado. So the research question guiding this work is what are the factors that impact the tactile media consumption and production practises of people who are blind and have low vision? And I want to highlight here that I'm talking both about consumption or tactile reading and production, meaning the practise of engaging in creating and designing one's own tactile graphics or tactile art. And our focus here is that both consumption and production are critical practises for the development of one's literacy and agency in self determination. Media theorist Deleuze talks about media consumption being only half of a person's media life. Where the design and production are critical for development of print, multimodal and media and information literacy. Although while research on tactile graphics and tactile art largely focuses on how people who are blind engage in reading these materials and how do we create instructional resources to support those reading practises. There's not a lot of work on how do we support people who are blind becoming artists and tactile graphics designers themselves. So this question first emerged for me as I was working and volunteering around different schools supporting people who were blind or visually impaired and learning about the students and their parents and their teacher's needs for technologies, and also exploring how to design 3D printed tactile media to support those families needs. It also emerged while working with sighted stakeholders and exploring how to create design resources to support their tactile media design practises, but also working with people who are blind and visually impaired to also engage in tactile media design as opposed to being passive consumers. So to investigate this research question, we formed a research practise partnership, and these partnerships are collaborations between practitioners and researchers to assure a sense of mutualism in the interaction between the partners. And so it really honours individual perspectives and how they contribute to defining the focus of the targeted work. And in this case, it's focused on improving the state of tactile media instruction and education for people who are blind and increasing the supply of tactile graphics and art. So the three members of this research practise partnership were Lou Ann Blake from the National Federation of the Blind, Ann Cunningham who's a tactile artist and educator and myself who's an accessibility researcher. And together, we came together with this sense of mutualism and this understanding that there are barriers that limit the consumption and production of art and graphics for people who are blind and visually impaired. And we wanted to create a forum for practitioners to come together and talk about the factors and issues that were impacting their practises. And ultimately, we sought to guide the development of socio-technical systems that ensure inclusive tactile media consumption and production and the people who are blind are not just on the sidelines waiting to read or create their own materials. So to do this, we created three tactile arts and graphics symposium which we took place over the course of two years. These tactile arts and graphics symposium were social learning experiences that ultimately brought together 88 attendees or 64 research participants who agreed to be recorded during the symposium. So I wanna point out here that we had about 50% of our participants being blind or having low vision, and the other 50% of the participants were sighted stakeholders, and together we were a community of artists, art educators, museum curators, designers, access technologists, rehabilitation educators, teachers of the visually impaired, advocates and other researchers. So during each of the symposium, we developed a series of activities to engage people hands on in exploring different forms of tactile media. In this picture, we see an artist who is blind and created this stone sculpture of a woman, guiding another participant's hands around this piece, and in this process they're exploring what vocabulary to use and what affordances the materials had on their experience and also to learn about the form of what was being represented. We also created a series of tactile art production activities where our participants were brought together to learn how to use a variety of tools and engage in tactile art production so that we could have enriched conversations about what they liked about the learning experience and the materials and what wasn't working for them and how we could create opportunities for improvement. We also created tactile graphics consumption activities, here we see a group of people exploring a tactile graphic produced in different materials and discussing the affordances of rays line versus thermoform versus a foam representation of this graphic. We also engaged participants in tactile graphics production activities. So for example, here we brought together a group and we were exploring how different motors and vibration devices could enhance tactile graphics to support learning. So in asking this question about what are the issues or factors that impact inclusive tactile media production. We also asked a second question, what do the factors that emerge through these tactile art and graphics symposium reveal about the broader problems of practise that tactile media practitioners and scholars encounter? And a problem of practise is defined as a persistent contextualised and specific issue embedded in the work of a practitioner in this case embedded in the work of people who are engaged in designing tactile media. And these problems or practise are identified through reflection on practise, dialogue with colleagues and literature review. And so the tactile arts and graphics symposium were really our aim to bring together these practitioners and support this reflection and dialogue. So during the symposium, each symposium we were able to collect audio and video data and take field notes. And then we subsequently analysed that data and in total there around 24 hours of audio data that we reviewed, and we created a chain of events and wrote analytic memos, we conducted a retrospective grounded theory analysis. So for example, I'll just read here. We heard one participant say, "My initial reaction was just to sit very passively, and even when I reached out to explore, I was only experiencing what I could feel. So yeah, it would've been really nice to have the orientation to just know it's available. I'm sure I'm not the only one. I'm sure I've only used one of about 10 available tools because I didn't know it was there." And so here this participant is talking about reflecting on their experience with creating some tactile graphics. And in this excerpt, you know, we identify that this person was talking about their orientation to the material, their experience of sitting passively and thinking about their awareness of what tools were available. So of the 24 hours dataset, we coded each of these really pointed excerpts out and identified themes that emerged within and across all three symposium. In total, we identified 34 factors impacting the tactile media consumption and production practises of people who are blind and visually impaired, as well as the stakeholders who support people who are blind in their tactile learning practises. So we identified 12 factors that impact tactile art consumption, 10 factors that impact tactile art production, eight factors that impact tactile graphics consumption and eight factors that impact tactile graphics production. So for example, let's talk about some of the factors pertaining to tactile art consumption. One of the key factors that we identified that people lack consistency and diversity of accessible art. Meaning, that while at one museum, it's not uncommon for somebody to only be able to have one tactile experience. And oftentimes the tactile experiences that are available between museums are quite similar and so it doesn't support them in developing of wide tactile vocabulary of what they're seeing, nor how to explore those materials. Here's a quote from one of the participants. "I'm somebody who at any opportunity I have to get my hands on the art I leap at the chance. And so I've taken advantage of all sorts of official museum touch tours at museums around the world and for anybody who's ever done that you'll know that the quality of these opportunities varies widely. Sometimes it's really rewarding and most times it is essentially a waste of time." And so here, just to reiterate this this participant really was reflecting on the fact that they didn't know what to expect between the different museums that they were going to, and that that lack of consistency really was an impacting factor of their tactile, art consumption practises. Another example of one of these factors that are issues that we identified especially around tactile art production was this principle of becoming the spectacle and having a sense of not belonging. So as one participant said, "When you go into an art school as a blind person, a visually impaired person or disabled person, you have this feeling, like there's the psychological barriers that you feel like I'm not supposed to be here because this tradition is so hyper visual." And this comment came out during one of the activities during the symposium where a blind artist and her sighted teacher discussed how they supported her tactile art creation practise while she was in a sculpture class and learning how to observe the nude model so that she would get the same information that her sighted peers would get, and so they worked together to develop a protocol that was comfortable for the students in the class, for the model and for the administration that supported her and allowed her to make tactile observations of the model during that learning experience. So some of the issues pertained to tactile graphics consumption centred on missing a foundational tactical graphics curriculum. So as one participants said, "Blind kids can't process complex tactile information, you have to create a graphic and it better be simple. That is not the truth, it's about building for that learning curve. Building the scaffolding and education to build up what is a tactile graphic and how you layer it. Just like a sighted child doesn't start with the final product, they spend years developing their visual literacy." So essentially here she's talking about wanting to have a tactile graphics curriculum, where it supports a student to be developing and scaffold their learning to developing an understanding of more and more complex tactile graphics. In the picture on this page we see a scene of some insects playing on a mushroom and some plants and some leaves. And this tactile graphic has been produced again using a variety of different production techniques and you know, thinking about, well how do we scaffold students learning from going from a raised line drawing into more three dimensional formats of that representation? One of the issues that impacted tactile graphics production was the fact that design and production technologies are not accessible for people who are blind and visually impaired. So as one participant said, "Any technical platform being used to create and distribute tactical materials should be accessible especially new technology programmes to improve the workflow of making tactile graphics." In this image we see a participant using a sensational Blackboard which is in fact one of the more accessible, tactile media design tools. However, it's not digital and as we're starting to see more and more of design work moving into the digital realm, a lot of those technologies are not accessible at all. So ultimately from these 34 factors or issues that we identified, we were able to look at some meta themes between those factors and issues and identify four problems of practise. Conspicuousness belonging impact, the stigma of touch, the inadequate educational research programming and supplies available as well as the instability of tactile media design resources and I'll be talking about each of those in just a second. But ultimately together these problems of practise encapsulate key factors that we identified as being needing to be addressed when designing tactile media systems and experiences for people who are blind. And our goal again was to support the design development of socio-technical systems that ensure that access to tactile information inclusion in consumption and production practises for people who are blind and visually impaired. So this first problem of practise conspicuousness impacting belonging. Here's another quote from a participant who said, "When I go to the art exhibits and want to touch the art, the one thing that stands out as a barrier for me is when I feel like I am part of the exhibit, when my experience as a blind patron becomes the focus of the other people's attention. It really distracts me from what I'm there to experience." So when we're talking about conspicuousness impacting belonging, we're talking about thinking about how do we design tools and materials to support people who are blind to have the choice of where and how they read those materials and also how they consume those materials. As well as how do they produce those materials. So conspicuousness impacts both people when they're consuming and producing materials. So some of the strategies that our research participants identified to address this problem of practise was to empower people who are blind with a choice about the environment in which they consume and produce tactile media. We also talked a lot about promoting people who are blind as leaders in the design of systems focused on tactile media consumption and production. So that for example, they might have the choice to walk into a space of their choosing to read or produce their material as opposed to having to do it in the foyer of a museum for example. Second problem of practise is the stigma of touch. So here's what somebody said, "I feel strongly that touch is a malign sense, it's the only sense that we have that people constantly tell people not to use. No one ever says, "Don't look, don't listen. My God don't taste that," but we commonly, commonly excessively hear "don't touch." So, this notion of touch being a deviant sense is fairly pervasive throughout tactile media consumption and production practises, particularly outside of classrooms where, you know, if somebody is at a museum, you're told not to touch, if you're in a public space you're told not to touch it because it's dirty, but what happens when touch is one of the main avenues? Hearing that you're not supposed to touch something creates a deep sense of social stigma. So some strategies that we identified to alleviate the stigma of touch centre on the design of multimodal systems that situate tactical media as the fundamental mode of representation of information for everybody, not just for people who are blind. We also talked about creating navigational guides for cultural institutions that have a diversity of tactile media consumption and production opportunities. So what happens if we can locate for people who are blind where there are opportunities for inclusive tactile media production and consumption and so that they don't feel like they're just the only ones that are engaging in those practises. The third problem of practise centres on the inadequate educational programming and supplies and how the distribution systems of those supplies. As one participant said, "Any technical platform being used to create and distribute tactile materials should be accessible, especially new technical programmes that strive to improve the workflow of making tactile media." So in this example, we hear that participants are not finding the design tools that they need in their educational settings. Furthermore, you know, while a lot of teachers are developing tactile materials, they often don't have the capacity to share and distribute those materials more broadly. So how do we create networks where the dissemination of tactile media curriculum and tactile graphics is more readily available? So some of the strategies that we developed around this problem with practise focusing on for example, developing and teaching tactile vocabulary that describe haptic or other sensory phenomenon so that becomes part of our mainstream kinda educational programming. And also to really be thinking deeply about scaffolding the delivery of tactile content based on a person's learning goals or one's prior experience with tactile media. And so I just wanna highlight here that once prior visual experience likely impacts one's ability to read and create tactile materials, and so thinking about that scaffolding in terms of what types of visual and non visual references do they need to be prepared to engage in these practises? The fourth problem with practise relates to the instability of tactile media design resources. So as one person said, "The guidelines and standards that are available are the standards for tactile graphics but not necessarily for making maps, though they're often applied in this way." So this person is highlighting that there's a distinction between tactile map making and tactile art making, for example, or tactile graphics for a standardised test might be different than tactical graphics representing content that one would find in a museum. And, you know, for example, the ban on the regulations that were written in 2010, they really focus on graphics, but there's still a lot of conversation and opportunity for us to explore what works. One question that I have is, are there cultural variations in the symbols that people who are blind want to have based off of where they're coming from? You know, in one of the symposium that we were talking about the symbol that represents a WiFi signal, which is essentially three or four arched curves that kind of nests within one another, and how did that come to represent WiFi? And is that a meaningful tactile representation? And is that meaningful around the world or is that just meaningful in countries where internet access is pervasive? So, if we're thinking about strategies to create stability within tactile design resources, we wanna really focus on establishing and investigating how tactile media guidelines apply to different graphical domains as well as how different materials can be used to amplify the representation of different tactile information. And also thinking about developing resources to support learner's ability to engage in design reflection about the representation of concepts and which materials to use so that as a student is developing their tactile consumption and production skills they're able to critically analyse which production materials work best for which types of representations. So, in thinking about the impact of this work we have our four problems of practise, and thinking about how these problems of practise might inform the practises of museum curators, hardware designers and educators are all different. And currently this table is blank, and I encourage you as the viewer of this presentation to think about your role in the zone of being a tactile media consumer and producer, and how you might be addressing this idea that conspicuousness impacts a person's ability to want to engage in tactical media consumption or production, and what that might look like if you're designing a museum exhibit or if you're designing a piece of make or technology that was accessible or whether you're an educator, how would you wanna position your students to not feel that sense of conspicuousness? Similarly, for the stigma of touch, how do we design experiences that are fully immersive for all the senses so that people who rely on touch as a mode of access, aren't the only ones isolated in that way? As a hardware designer, how do we you know, again create buttons and features that highlight and take advantage of tactility and the haptic system? So I encourage you to think through who you are, and what your role is in this work, and how these different problems of practise affect you and also how you might alleviate them. And so really what I want to give as a takeaway, is that this work has meant to guide the development of socio-technical systems that result in the full inclusion of people who are blind and tactile media consumption and production. And to really support our thinking of tactile media as these boundary objects that bring together diverse stakeholders. And we need to be supporting everybody to be gaining these rich literacy skills as both producers and consumers of tactile media. And for your reference, the work that I've presented here is in the paper similarly titled Defining Problems of Practise to Advanced Inclusive Tactile Media Consumption and Production, which can be found on ACM DL, which is a digital library. Or by following the link that is in this slide. So I wanna thank you very much for your time and attention, and I hope you enjoy the rest of the Tactile Reading Conference.