The issue of inclusion is playing an increasingly significant role in the work of the cultural sector, as it is especially important for people with various special needs to be able to take part in cultural—and hence social—life. However, inclusion need not be restricted to targeting special needs; it can also provide additional benefits to all visitors and help them to gain more enjoyment from their museum visit. This is demonstrated by guided tours for children, for example, which also prove popular among adult visitors, as well as by materials in so-called plain language, which are used by a wide range of people—certainly not only those with language-based learning disabilities. The Eye to Ear project has an equally wide appeal: The iOS app “Eye to Ear—Gallery of Audible Images” combines sound design, verbal image descriptions, and interaction on the iPad, thereby creating a new experience of art, which enables visitors to enjoy exhibits in an entirely new auditory way. The app makes it possible for blind and partially sighted people to participate more fully in cultural activities. What’s more, it also provides a new intuitive and extremely exciting approach to paintings, drawings, and photographs for those without visual impairments. The key lies in its combination of linguistic description and sophisticated interaction and sound design, which makes it possible for users to research individual zones acoustically. It has shown that this fusion of language and sound opens up a much broader spectrum on the intersection of cognition and intuition than descriptions alone are capable of doing. The app is based on Verena Blöchl and Katharina-Anna Götzendorfer’s findings on inclusion in the art world and was developed in close cooperation between NOUS and the Austrian charity for the visually impaired, Hilfsgemeinschaft der Blinden und Sehschwachen Österreichs. In Austria, there are some 318,000 partially sighted people and 3,000 blind people. In this groundbreaking innovation for digital art education projects and accessible cultural programs, the Bank Austria Kunstforum Wien participated as a content partner with curatorial expertise in the context of the current Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition.
Eye to Ear was awarded the innovation prize as part of the Digital Business Trends Awards 2016 as well as the Austrian inclusion prize by the Austrian charity for people with learning disabilities, Lebenshilfe.
If you would like to try the app, you have until March 26th to borrow an iPad from the ticket desk at the Bank Austria Kunstforum in Vienna.