Tactile Oceans – Enabling Inclusive Access To Ocean Pools For Blind And Low Vision Communities

Dagmar Reinhardt The University of Sydney, School of Architecture, Design and Planning
Leona Holloway Monash
Nicole Larkin
Sue Silveira Nextsense

Marine coastlines hold strong significance and value in many cultures, and a celebration of iconic beaches and landscapes lies at the heart of Australia’s national beach culture. The coastal beaches, bays, rockpools and man-made ocean pools are natural resources and community assets that provide for individual recreation, and collective inhabitation and interaction, and thus play a significant role in the support of health and well-being. However, environmental conditions such as temperatures, wind and tides, topographical changes, uneven walkways and other site specific characteristics can be difficult to navigate for people whose abilities differ; including children, elderly, or specifically as this research is focused on, blind and low vision audiences (BLV). BLV communities derive an understanding and awareness of a surrounding space through means other than mainly vision, through touch access [1, 2, 3]. Hence, a universal design approach and 3D printed tactile maps and text and braille based descriptions can support orientation, wayfinding and participating in activities [4, 5]. In this context, ocean pools provide an ideal platform for a protected and equitable access to the open ocean while maintaining the character of the coast and a sense of intimate connection with the water’s edge. This research explores implementing computation to enhance touch access to inter-tidal spaces for physical and mental health, awareness and inclusion of people who are blind or have low vision. Constructing reliable representations, explanations and descriptions can support interactions with objects and participating in activities [6], particularly in these ocean environments. This research asks: How can computation across different media be used to enable touch access, in a context of ocean pools, at a micro and macro level? Consequently, this research investigates the adoption of a series of computational design strategies to leverage the impact of these technologies in information transfer [7]. It explores workflows and processes across computational methods, including a) photogrammetry through drone-flight on a macro-scale and 3D-scanning to establish data-sets; b) parametric and digital design; and c) 3D printing and robotic milling. We investigated a series of pilot studies that include re-design of transport connections, pathways infrastructure; 3D printed raised spatial maps that enable localisation and mobility across the area, for example overview of circular walkway, path from public transport, locations for touch table for information, and sites for tactile engagement (macro/environment) objects and modules that integrate Universal Design (3D objects, reliefs and mixed media tableaus) These multi-scale prototypes provide information and narratives for BLV audiences for integration and inclusion [8], as much as increasing knowledge for the dynamic coastal environment, and providing sensory stimulation [9] for all other occupants. The main contribution of this research is the adoption of inclusive design into the natural environment; by leveraging methods of computational data collection, design and fabrication to provide understanding for and, overview and tactile access to ocean pools for the BLV community. Scale-less data and new fabrication techniques are harnessed to enable people who are blind or have low vision to better inhabit and understand the inter-tidal landscape, and thus promote inclusion and sustainability for all communities – and an understanding for these challenged eco-systems, thus raising awareness for the impacts of climate change. [1] Herssens, J, Heylighen, A (2012), ‘Haptic Design Research: A Blind Sense of Place’. Conference paper for ‘The Place of Research, the Research of Place’, ARCC/EAAE 2010 International Conference on Architectural Research, Washington, DC. [2] Baumgartner, E, Wiebel, C, Gegenfurtner, K ( 2015), ‘A Comparison of Haptic Material Perception in Blind and Sighted Individuals’. Vision Research 115: 238–245. [3] Fuller, R, Watkins, W (2010), Research on Effective Use of Tactile Exhibits with Touch Activated Audio Description for the Blind and Low Vision Audience. Bloomington: Indiana University. [4] Gual, J, Puyuelo, M, Lloveras, J (2011), Universal Design and Visual Impairment: Tactile Products For Heritage Access, International Conference On Engineering Design, Iced11, Copenhagen, Denmark [5] Preiser, W, Smith, K (2011), Universal Design Handbook, McGraw Hill, New York Ravisankar, A, Brundha, M (2016), ‘Comparative Study of Touch Perception in Normal and Blind People’. Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research 8(11): 1285–1287. [6] Holloway, L., Butler, M., & Marriott, K. (2018). Accessible Maps for the Blind: Comparing 3D Printed Models with Tactile Graphics. Paper presented at the CHI ’18: CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Montréal, QC, Canada. [7] Reinhardt, D, Sonne Frederiksen, P, Christensen, B (2019), Robotic Braille and Spatial Maps: Combining Tactile And Visual Narratives, in: ‘Space and Digital Reality’, EKA TAB19 Tallinn Biennale Estonian Academy of Arts, Tallinn, Estonia:69-79. [8] Jenkins, G, Yuen, H, Vogtle, L (2015), ‘Experience of Multisensory Environments in Public Space among People with Visual Impairment’. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 12(8): 8644–8657. [9] Pallasma, J (2005), The Eyes of the Skin – Architecture of the Senses, Wiley Academy, Chichester

Keywords: Universal Design, Inclusive Access, Touch Access, Marine, Photogrammetry, Drone Flight, 3D Printing, Robotic Fabrication, Sdg 3, Sdg 10

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