Canadian Museum for Human Rights’ Mobile App Uses iBeacons to Deliver Accessibility
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights has created an innovative mobile app aimed at enhancing accessibility for all visitors. It includes a self-guided audio tour that uses Bluetooth iBeacons to connect with over a hundred Universal Access Points located throughout the museum. This technology is used to generate an interactive map that displays floorplans, along with the user’s current location. The application can even guide visitors to their next destination using text-based directions.
The app features an audio guide, voiced by museum staff, which describes the museum’s galleries and highlights the exhibits and architecture. A “mood meter” allows visitors to share their feelings and experiences as they explore the museum, providing feedback as well as seeing how others felt. The app also provides a panorama feature from the Israel Asper Tower of Hope and the Indigenous Perspectives Terrace, which includes augmented reality views and information about nearby landmarks through “hot spots” superimposed on the panoramic image. Users have the option of purchasing tickets and membership online through the app in order to bypass the lines.
The “Near Me” mode uses low-frequency Bluetooth signals to communicate with the over 120 iBeacons embedded throughout the museum, letting the user access location-specific content. This “Near Me” mode allows the blind or vision-impaired to experience the exhibit. If visitors are not able to (or do not wish to) use Bluetooth on their mobile device, they can also type in the unique number associated with each Universal Access Point (displayed in embossed print and in braille at each location).
Accessibility Was the Main Motivation
Considering the unique layout and architecture of the museum space, as well as the types of artefacts and exhibits featured, it was important to ensure that context and content would be understood by all. The solution was to provide descriptive services, available in English and French audio, American Sign Language (ASL) and Langue des signes québécoise (LSQ) within the app. Braille numbers and “cane-stop” floor strips at each Universal Access Point informs visitors that interpretive services and additional information is available about exhibit highlights.
The most common use of iBeacons within the museum setting at present is to provide location-specific content (e.g. communicating supplemental information to the visitor). It can also make the museum experience interactive and promote engagement, as in the Canadian Museum of Nature’s recent use, in a pilot project that created a game using iBeacons. For the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, iBeacons provided a useful way of promoting accessibility and inclusivity for visitors of all abilities. The iBeacons are used to provide descriptions of static exhibitions in accessible ways, such as having print information read by a screen reader or presented in sign language.
To create the app, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights partnered with Acoustiguide, a company that has collaborated with many other museums such as the Louvre, Guggenheim and the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre to create mobile applications featuring interactive multimedia visitor guides.
The application is available to download for free on iOS and Android devices, and can be accessed at the museum by connecting to their free Wi-Fi. Moving forward, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is looking to expand its current efforts, as well as use what they have learned from visitor responses so far. The information gathered from this application will provide further opportunities for personalization in the future. Additional accessibility features and supplemental content can be added quickly to the application.