Easy access to information is a basic human right — cultural institutions play a key role in preserving and sharing knowledge. Partnering with a local museum, we developed an inclusive digital guide that helps deaf people have a rich learning experience.
Deafness and Access to Information
According to WHO, 466 million people have some form of hearing loss that impacts their ability to understand speech and access information. By 2050 over 700 million people worldwide will have disabling hearing loss (more than 8% of the population). That’s almost a two fold increase in less than thirty years.
Hearing loss can create many economic and social consequences, leading to unequal opportunities and stigmatization.
And yet many cultural objects aren’t properly equipped to provide deaf people with adequate tools that ensure the same experience. This phenomenon is called a sensory gap and was described in detail by a group of researchers as part of Perspectives in Human-Media Interaction 2022.
By improving how museum content is consumed, we can create inclusive environments for knowledge sharing.
What Is the Heart?
The Heart is an inclusive museum guide designed for tablets. The Heart app lets deaf people download educational videos and learn about the exhibits.
Building the Heart
Designing the User Experience
Right from the design stage, we were already thinking about how to adapt the application to the target audience. Our team consulted with Fundacja Katarynka, a foundation that professionally prepares content for socially excluded people.
To maximize the usability for the target audience, the foundation gave us insight on how to create mobile app views that were intuitive and let visitors navigate the app without issues. The app is designed for tablets because of their superior screen size for viewing videos.
In contrast to similar solutions, the application runs on tablets and devices purchased by museums — users rarely want to download the application just for one visit.
By default, the videos have muted audio tracks on launch. The application is also adapted to work offline. Since there’s limited to no access to the internet in many museums, videos are downloaded during initial configuration.
When we were looking for the technology stack for the Heart, we wanted something that would let us develop the app quickly but without any compromises on functionality and user experience.
Our goal was to get the MVP ready for use in 3 weeks.
To build the admin panel fast, we used Bubble.io — a popular no-code tool.
The admin panel features:
- User adding
- Magic link generation
- Video category
- Video upload
- Caption upload
Simple admin panel
The application features an intuitive panel that let’s admins add video files, subtitles, and more. The panel is designed for easy use.
Adding categories to videos
Thanks to dedicated categories, admins can group many films related to one exhibition or topic.
The mobile application works without the need for internet access. All you need to do is configure your account and download the videos. This improves user experience and ensures uninterrupted access to content in museums located underground or other hard-to-reach places.
Intuitive video player
Heart doesn’t distract from the exhibits — it assists. The interface is useful, containing only the most important features such as turning subtitles on/off.
We picked Flutter for the mobile application because it let us create a beautiful interface quickly. As a cross-platform SDK, Flutter helped us make the app available for Android tablets and iPads.
To improve user experience, we built a custom video player that meets our requirements for the viewing configuration.
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