While there are many places in Italy that cater to the population with low vision or who is blind, for example the "Museo Tattile Statale Omero" in Ancona, the remarks made by the Unione Italiana Ciechi e Ipovedenti (U.I.C.I) of Bologna on the issue state that "the issues produced by perceptual barriers, inherent in visual disabilities, do not find adequate answers in the current accessibility regulations". To integrate the accessibility of museums and other cultural services, considered by UNESCO as a fundamental human right that must be granted to people with disabilities (article 30, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) the authors present a design, in its early stages, of a system that aims to make the fruition of scale models independent for users with low vision or who are blind. Said system aims to integrate some sort of augmented reality to haptic perception by reproducing sound cues to help users with disabilities navigate a single, or a series of models without any outside aid. The system is based on the deployment of technological plinths to support the scale models. This approach is well fit for retrofitting existing scale models while integrating the navigation system in an effective fashion. The activation of the plinths will be triggered using a smartphone app (either using NFC or Bluetooth) and will reproduce a set routine to guide the user in the haptic exploration of the models. On the outer rim of the plinths a series of triggers and devices will be placed for the user to interact, while leaving some space between the elements to house details at a larger scale or braille plaques. The triggers will be distinguished by their shape, a proud start trigger and a recessed end trigger; the interface is completed by an array of 8 speakers (one each 45°) with the possibility of ulterior sound emitting elements embodied in new models. The current design also defines the properties of the material that will be used in the prototyping phase by excluding rough surfaces that could introduce haptic noise and suggesting the use of thermoplastic polymers or stabilized wood over metals (since a metallic surface could be problematic in exterior installations due to its high thermal conductivity). The concurrent deployment of multiple plinths will consent the independent navigation and queuing of users in a contained exhibit by triggering a positional sound to guide them, while in urban context the app will have to be integrated with systems that implemented detailed voice guidance such as google maps. The paper ends by describing the future prototyping stages the system is expected to go through to fine tune the preliminary design.
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