Up for the #VoiceOverPhoto challenge?

Monday, March 21, 2016
To take a picture, tap once to select a button and double-tap to confirm.

Did you know that smart phones have an “accessibility” mode to help people who are blind or have low vision? I didn’t know…until my own phone decided one day to set itself to “accessibility” mode, which left me totally confused and unable to use it.

This mode, which uses VoiceOver (Apple) or TalkBack (Android) technologies, is far from intuitive, especially if you aren’t used to it. These past three months, my phone must have started in accessibility mode around 30 times, making me feel a full range of emotions, from anger to resignation. Then I learnt to use it and I finally “tamed” it.

The Museum is a place of stories and of dialogue which presents digital and interactive content and where accessibility is of paramount importance. For example, all in-gallery videos are captioned and translated into sign language. Also, our mobile app offers three options for self-guided tours: classic, in sign language, or with descriptive audio. We make every effort so that our content is accessible to as many people as possible, but do the technologies we have now make it possible to offer an experience that is 100% accessible?

When we started to prepare for the Sight Unseen: International Photography by Blind Artists exhibition, I immediately remembered the mishap with my phone. This misadventure made me realize that these accessibility features are not as simple as they seem and deepened my appreciation for people who rely on them as part of their daily lives.

Now we’re asking our visitors to try using these accessibility features and see for themselves how challenging they can be! In the Sight Unseen gallery, we have installed a station where visitors will find iPods in accessibility mode, i.e. with VoiceOver* activated. The challenge doesn’t seem that complicated: take a picture and publish it on Instagram. But is it as easy as it seems? You can see all the contributions from our in-gallery visitors on VoiceOverPhoto’s Instagram account.

And now it’s your turn to try! We invite you to take on the challenge of taking a picture with your phone in accessible mode, as do thousands of blind people every day. Share your pictures and your comments on Instagram or Twitter with #VoiceOverPhoto.

How to go about it? Check out the demonstration video below or visit our FAQ about the VoiceOver and TalkBack accessibility features.

Some of the photos we receive will be projected in the Museum on a wall of the Sight Unseen gallery, and added to our Shared Perspectives Tumblr.

*Based on our testing and the feedback we received from the blind community, the current version of VoiceOver is more accessible than that of TalkBack, which is why we chose VoiceOver for our challenge. However, it is also possible to take part in the challenge with an Android phone; see the FAQ.

A demonstration video for TalkBack will be posted soon.