Monday, October 27, 2014

Visually Impaired Touching Sculptures

The Healing Arts - photo by Artotem
I have a deep personal interest in making the sculptures I'm making for the Electra C. Doren library accessible to people with visual impairments. 

The sculptures are going to be built as part of the fencing on a proposed reading terrace that is being built for the library. Most of the fence will be directly accessible to touch. Even the parts that aren't directly accessible are only behind a small area of landscaping or alternately accessible from the street level by reaching up. 

Since the sculptures are cutouts, visually impaired patrons can touch the cut out areas and build a mental image of the artwork from the feel. 

The sculptures are made out of cut sheet aluminum. The waterjet cutting process leaves burrs on the far side of the cut and sharp edges on the leading edge. These will be sanded smooth to prevent injury when being touched. If the sculpture were mounted out of reach these would usually not need to be sanded.

This sanding preparation benefits more than the visually impaired patrons of the library. Anyone can touch the sculptures; kids, the curious, and those making accidental contact. Making it safe for the visually impaired makes it safe for everyone. 

I came from a family with a disabled family member.  Growing up in the disabled community I learned that most of what blocks access for people with disabilities are small things. Small things are easily fixed. If designers are made aware that they are blocking people with disabilities from accessing what they create, they can change that. Meeting constraints and challenges - it's what designers do. have spent a large part of my career designing technology for people with disabilities. I want to make sure that the sculptures I'm designing can be accessed by people with visual impairments.  

All patrons of the library will be invited to experience the sculptures, and the sculptures will be designed so that all patrons can. 

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