Nathan is working to create a prototype of a tactile accessible soundpad that allows people with visual impairment to choregraph through sound effects. The Soundpad will be programmed with Rationale Method’s Audio Language that was created to enhance accessibility of dance movement by providing sound effects that most accurately help people with visual impairment to visualise a variety of dance movements. The Soundpad will have tactile buttons allowing people with visual impairment to easily differentiate between buttons that correspond to specific sound effects. The Soundpad aims to bridge the gap between sighted and visually impaired artists and audiences in the following ways:
- It will allow people with visual impairment to communicate their choreographic ideas and movements through sound effects through giving them the opportunity to explore a choreographic methodology that has designed to be accessible from its inception.
- It will allow dancers with visual impairment to be choreographed on much more efficiently and will make ensemble choreography for visually impaired dancers much easier to understand.
- People with visual impairment who have no experience with choreography will be able to become choreographers through the use of this sound pad.
- People with visual impairment can choreograph remotely from their home and send the sound file to the dance studio for the dancers to interpret. This will make dance choreography more accessible to people with visual impairment to struggle to with travelling to new places.
- Both sighted and people with visual impairment can use this soundpad to either choreograph or to be choreographed on which in turn will promote the integration of sighted and visually impaired dancers.
The project will consist of the following phases and stages:
Phase 1 – Development and recruitment
1. Developing the sound pad prototype – a sound pad will be purchased and modified so it becomes tactile to help people with visual impairment differentiate between buttons that correspond to certain sound effects.
2. Recruiting visually impaired participants – contact the RNIB, Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind and Doncaster Partially sighted society.
Phase 2 – Familiarisation and testing usability
1. Familiarising visually impaired and sighted participants with accessible sound language (20 participants)
2. Teaching visually impaired participants how to use the sound pad (20 participants)
3. Getting their feedback on usability of the sound pad. Due to the participants being visually impaired it is better for the feedback to take the form of recorded interviews so they are not required to write anything down.
4. Making modifications to improve the usability of sound pad if necessary
Phase 3 – Choreographic exploration
Session 1 – Stages
1. 4 Visually impaired participants in each city from the previous phase who express an interest in choreography will be selected to start to choreograph movement sequences using the sound-pad
2. We evaluate and observe the process to see if movement is effectively communicated to dancers or if confusion in communicating choreography arises. We then refine the communication process to ensure movement instructions are clearly understood.
3. Sighted choreographer choreographs movement for visually impaired dancers.
4. Again, we evaluate and observe the process to see if movement is effectively communicated to dancers or if confusion in communicating choreography arises. We then refine the communication process to ensure movement instructions are clearly understood.
5. Once clear communication processes have been confirmed we begin to choreograph the performance piece.
Session 2 and 3
1. The structure for this will be each person with visual impairment will have a set amount of time to choreograph a section of movement during each half day session (4 sessions in total). At the end of each session we will evaluate what worked well and what could be improved and implement suggested changes during the following session.
2. On the final session all of the sections will be combined to create a performance piece that flows and will be performed the week after.
Throughout the 4 week period
To give those who struggle to leave their home or to make it to the dance sessions the opportunity to take part, we will be giving those people with visual impairment the opportunity to use the sound pad and have their audio sequences recorded from their home so it can be incorporated into the final performance piece.
Phase 4 = Performances
Theatre in the Mill Bradford have given myself funding and a residency there to explore how we can integrate cutting edge technologies with art and make them accessible. They are part of the University of Bradfod and they will be providing technological experts to help me develop the prototype.
Simon Hayhoe from University of Bath is a technology and accessibility specialist and will be independently reviewing and evaluating the project. He will also advise on how to refine the process at various stages to ensure we achieve the highest scientific validity possible. Simon’s current work focuses on the epistemology of disability and ability, with special reference to education, inclusion, technology and the arts. His other research interests include inclusive and assistive technology (specialising in mobile technologies), religion and disability – with a focus on Christianity and Islam – and museums and disability. He is also currently involved in an international project investigating the use of mobile technologies as tools of inclusion for disabled people in museum environments. This project is sponsored by a Horizon 2020 grant from the European Union. The research is partnered with TreeLogic (based in Madrid), the Open University, and numerous museums, associations and companies in London, Madrid and Vienna. For further information on Simon please visit the below link.
James Oscroft is a London based musician who is partnered Novation and will be teaching me how to use the sound pad and will be providing consultancy at various stages of the development phase whilst modifying the sound pad.
Studio Wayne McGregor are providing some of the seed funding for this research project and are on hand to give advice and to connect me with potential technological partners.