Resource: artificial intelligence technologies is seeking Testers using Android Devices

Hey friends,

 

We are an MIT-based startup that’s developing artificial intelligence technology for the visually impaired and the blind. We have recently released a test version of our first app on Android. It is very different from any of the existing apps such as Envision or SeeingAI. It helps you locate empty chairs, doors, stairs, and other objects around you, by using cutting-edge artificial intelligence.

 

We are accepting a limited number of tech-savvy people to try the app out before it is released and become a tester for artificial intelligence technologies. If you are interested, you can follow this link:

 

Google Play Store link

 

I am looking forward to hearing your feedback.

 

Best,

 

Emre Sarbak

Mediate

 

GTT Edmonton Summary Notes, AIRA and Library Services, January 14, 2019

            Summary Notes

GTT Edmonton Meeting January 14, 2019

 

The most recent meeting of the Get Together with Technology (GTT) Edmonton Chapter was held January 14, at 7pm at Ascension Lutheran Church 8405 83 Street in Edmonton.

28 people attended.

Reading Tip: These summary notes apply HTML headings to help navigate the document. With screen readers, you may press the H key to jump forward or Shift H to jump backward from heading to heading.

 

January Topics – AIRA and Library Services

 

AIRA

Carrie introduced Ashley, a  CNIB staff member and independent blind person, who lives in Saskatchewan. Ashley joined us remotely and presented her experience

With AIRA, a paid subscription service where blind or vision impaired people make an audio and video connection through a smartphone to trained sighted agents who can help them with virtually any task.

  • The AIRA user, referred to as an Explorer, uses their smartphone with an AIRA app or an optional set of smart eyeglasses called Horizon. The Horizon kit provides eyeglasses with built-in camera and audio connected to a dedicated Samsung smartphone that enables contact with the AIRA agents. The Samsung phone cannot be used for any other purpose other than to connect to the AIRA agent. The agent can see whatever the explorer points their phone camera at or, in the case of wearing the optional Horizon eyeglasses there is a camera that transmits video of whatever the explorer is looking at.
  • The agent becomes a sighted assistant talking to the explorer in real time and helping them navigate or perform other tasks at home or away.
  • Ashley emphasized that AIRA does not replace your mobility device. The agents will not assist you outside your home if you are not using a white cane or guide dog.
  • The agents will also not talk to you while you cross the street.
  • The AIRA subscription fee ranges from $29 USD per month for 30 minutes assistance up to $199 per month for 300 minutes of assistance.
  • The optional Horizon kit is $600 USD or can be purchased over time at $25 per month.
  • With Horizon your network data is covered in the AIRA fee. If you use your own smartphone then you must pay the cost of data through your own phone plan. It’s estimated that 1 hour of AIRA costs about 1GB of data.
  • There are now many sponsors of AIRA such as airports, retail stores, college campuses where your time on AIRA is free. However, Ashley was not aware of any sponsors in Canada yet.
  • Complete information about AIRA is available at http://www.aira.io/ or you can call them at 1-800-835-1934.

If you want to know more about Ashley, visit her blog at http://www.blindmovingon.com/

 

Edmonton Public Library and CELA and NNELS

  • We were treated to a presentation on Edmonton Public Library services by Cassidy Munro, the community librarian at the Strathcona library branch.
  • Cassidy can be reached at 780.975.8102- or by email at: Cassidy.Munro@epl.ca
  • Cassidy described the CELA accessible library service for print disabled Canadians which provides many services including: downloadable recorded DAISY books, downloadable DAISY eBooks, downloadable Bookshare DAISY eBooks, DAISY books on CD mailed to your home, braille books mailed to your home, print-brailled books for kids, over 150 downloadable DAISY e-text magazines, recorded DAISY magazines by download or mail, and over 40 daily newspapers that can be read online.
  • Many will recognize these CELA services to be the same as those previously provided by the CNIB Library. CELA took over the CNIB Library
    • In 2014 and now serves all print-disabled Canadians not just those who are blind or vision impaired.
    • Edmonton Public Library (EPL) also has 100 or so DAISY CD books that can be borrowed for those who want to experience a DAISY book prior to registering for CELA service.
    • EPL also has a few Victor Reader Stratus DAISY CD players that can be borrowed to test the service. Customers must purchase their own book player or CNIB clients can approach
  • CNIB who may be able to subsidize 75% of the cost of a player.
  • In addition to playing CD books the Victor Reader Stratus can also receive direct to player DAISY books over the Internet. The user chooses their book by logging into CELA online and once a book is chosen it is sent directly to the player. For non-computer users, CELA customer service
  • or Cassidy can set up a reader profile for you and then the CELA computer will choose your books and send them directly to the player or on CD mailed to your home.
  • Cassidy also suggested some may prefer the pocket sized Victor Reader Stream which can accept the direct to player books and perform other online functions Such as getting Bookshare books and listening to podcasts and radio stations.
    • CELA books can also be played on your iPhone or Android phone using the free Dolphin EasyReader app.
  • Visit the CELA web site for information on all their services or call their customer service at 1-855-655-2273.
  • Cassidy can register you for CELA service.
  • Cassidy can also register you for NNELS another library service for print-disabled Canadians that offers downloadable DAISY or e-text books. Cassidy highlighted that NNELS is a good source for local content and First Nations content.
  • EPL also has non CELA materials you may be interested in such as CD books, Overdrive downloadable recorded books, Music recordings, large print books and more.
  • Cassidy was asked about fees. There is no fee for an EPL card, CELA service, Bookshare service or NNELS service.

Next Meeting (Monday February 11, 2019 at 7pm)

  • Cassidy from Edmonton Public Library plans to come to the February meeting. She can answer your library questions and register clients for CELA and NNELS that were unable to come in January.
  • As always, for help with technology bring your devices and/or questions to the meeting.

 

Meeting Location and Logistics

  • Ascension Lutheran Church 8405 – 83 Street NW, Edmonton.
  • We meet in the basement hall. There is elevator access.
  • Enter the church from the back door. There is parking at the back.
  • Meetings are every second Monday of the month at 7pm.
  • If you have someone helping you your assistant is welcome to remain for the meeting.

 

GTT Edmonton Overview

  • GTT Edmonton is a chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB).
  • GTT Edmonton promotes a self-help learning experience by holding monthly meetings to assist participants with assistive technology.
  • Each meeting consists of a feature technology topic, questions and answers about technology, and one-on-one training where possible.
  • Participants are encouraged to come to each meeting even if they are not interested in the feature topic because questions on any technology are welcome. The more participants the more talent and experience we will have to help each other.
  • There are GTT groups across Canada as well as a national GTT monthly toll free teleconference. You may subscribe to the National GTT blog to get email notices of teleconferences and notes from other GTT chapters. Visit:

http://www.gttprogram.wordpress.com/

To subscribe, activate the “Follow “link at the bottom of that web page to enter your email.

 

National GTT Email Support List

CCB sponsors a GTT email support list to provide help and support with technology for blind and low vision Canadians.  To subscribe to the email list, send an empty email to:

GTTsupport+subscribe@groups.io

[End of Document]

 

 

GTT Northern Ontario Conference Call Meeting Agenda, Transit and Other Travel Apps, January 17, 2019

GTT Northern Ontario and Rural Conference Call

 

An Initiative of the

Canadian Council of the Blind

 

You’re invited to the January 17, 2019 monthly Northern Ontario and Rural Get Together with Technology (GTT) teleconference call.

 

Theme: Transit and Other Travel Apps/Devices

Date: Thursday, January 17, 2019 at 7 pM Eastern Time.

 

Hello everyone,

 

I hope you had a lovely holiday.

 

Our regular Northern Ontario and Rural Get Together with Technology teleconference call will be this Thursday, January 17 at 7 p.m.  The topic is Travel in the broadest sense.  Brian Bibeault will be going over some transit and other travel related apps and Albert Ruel will also be taking part as a guest speaker.  Bring any travel tips you may have to share with others.

 

The call in information is:

1-866-740-1260

Access Code is 5670311#

 

For more information please contact:

 

Brian Bibeault;

brianb.northbay@gmail.com

 

 

GTT Toronto Meeting Agenda, Be My Eyes, Seeing AI and Aira, January 17, 2019

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group

Janyary17, 2019

 

An Initiative of the Canadian Council of the Blind

In Partnership with the CNIB Foundation

 

*Note: Reading Tip: These summary notes apply HTML headings to help navigate the document. With screen readers, you may press the H key to jump forward or Shift H to jump backward from heading to heading.

 

You’re Invited!

 

Theme: Be My Eyes, Seeing AI and AIRA

 

The Date & Time:

Thursday, January 17, 2019 from 6:00 PM til 8:00 PM

The Place:

CNIB Hub, 1525 Yonge Street, Toronto

 

Hey Everyone!

Just a reminder that the next GTT Toronto Meeting will be held on Thursday January 17 from 6pm to 8pm at the CNIB Hub, 1525 Yonge Street.

 

This month’s presenter will be Chelsea Mohler, Adaptive Technology Trainer and Community Outreach Specialist at BALANCE for Blind Adults.  Chelsea will be reviewing a variety of bridging technologies, from ‘Be My Eyes’ and ‘Seeing AI’ to AIRA; a variety of ways to connect to the visual world.

 

When booking your Wheel-Trans rides, please arrange pick up from the CNIB Hub no later than 8pm.  If your ride cannot be arranged for 8pm please book your pick up location as the Midtown Gastro Hub, 1535 Yonge Street, which is the pub right next door.

See you at the meeting!

As usual, light refreshments will be available.

So bring your adaptive tech, bring your questions, and Get Together with Technology!

 

To visit GTT Toronto’s web page for meeting announcements and summary notes visit this link.

 

GTT Toronto Adaptive Technology User Group Overview:

  • GTT Toronto is a chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB).
  • GTT Toronto promotes a self-help learning experience by holding monthly meetings to assist participants with assistive technology.
  • Each meeting consists of a feature technology topic, questions and answers about technology, and one-on-one training where possible.
  • Participants are encouraged to come to each meeting even if they are not interested in the feature topic because questions on any technology are welcome. The more participants the better able we will be equipped with the talent and experience to help each other.
  • There are GTT groups across Canada as well as a national GTT monthly toll free teleconference. You may subscribe to the National GTT blog to get email notices of teleconferences and notes from other GTT chapters. Visit:

http://www.GTTProgram.Blog/

There is a form at the bottom of that web page to enter your email.

 

 

 

CCB Tech Articles, Donna’s Low Tech Tips, Privacy Protection, January 14, 2019

January 14 2019

Privacy protection

 

Happy New Year everyone!

Hi there!  It’s Donna and thank you for allowing me to come into your inbox.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to my tip on privacy protection.

 

Privacy protection

We are constantly striving to protect ourselves from scams and scammers, but most of all we need to ensure that our privacy, confidentiality, and independence are kept safe from prying eyes and those who thrive on destroying our right to these precious commodities.

 

Paying at the supermarket or at any type of store

 

Usually there are three methods of payment and you should probably choose the one that best suits you.

  1. Via cash: Make sure that when you open your wallet that you do not open it up too wide so that prying eyes could see or read what you have in it.

 

  1. Via credit card: Here is where you need to ensure that when you enter your pin number that you do it yourself.

Chances are that the helpful cashier or sales person would be willing to help but better be safe than sorry.  Make sure to ensure that you cover the screen or the keypad so that no one can see what you are entering.

 

  1. Using your debit card. This is probably the most risky of the three methods in that you would need to enter more info than in option 2. Not just your pin number, but the type of account that you are withdrawing from.

Chances are that the cashier or sales rep could be counted on to keep your info private but if you are concerned then it is probably best to take a trusted person along with you when you go shopping.

Be sure to destroy all of your receipts when you arrive home so that they do not get into the wrong hands.

 

That’s it from me for this week!

If you would like to become a member of  my CCB Mysteries chapter you can do so for the price of $10 annually and in return you will receive unlimited access to any of the following libraries.

Recipes – A collection of hard to find recipes

Audio mysteries for all ages – Comfort listening any time of the day

Home and garden – A collection of great articles for around the home and garden

Or you can subscribe to all 3 for the price of $30 annually.

Visit http://www.donnajodhan.com/subscription-libraries.html

 

To contact me, send me an email at info@sterlingcreations.ca and I’d be happy to respond.

Have yourselves a great day and see you next week.

Donna

CCB Tech Articles, Donna’s Low Tech Tips, Apps Round-up, January 7, 2019

January 07 2019

Apps round up

 

Happy New Year everyone!

Hi there!  It’s Donna and thank you for allowing me to come into your inbox.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to my apps round up.

 

  1. Blindfold Doggy (iOS, Free With In-App Purchases)

 

Blindfold Doggy is a fully accessible dog ownership simulation game, for both sighted and visually impaired people, designed for rapid audio play. The object of the game is care for your dog: the better you care for your dog, the more points you’ll score.

 

After learning the sounds your dog makes when he needs something, you must take care of your dog: feed him, walk him, give him water, brush him and play with him.

 

For example, to walk your dog, put on his collar and leash, open the door and start walking: swipe down with one finger. Each down swipe takes you one step further from home. Each up swipe takes you one step closer to home. When you leave the house for a walk, the front door automatically closes behind you. To go back inside, walk back to the door and open it. Make sure you close the door, or your dog may run away.

 

Once you’ve mastered taking care of one dog, try taking care of two. It’s much harder!

 

Then try the adventure game – go shopping for new toys and food, and take your dog to the veterinarian for routine checkups.

 

The game comes with limited play before you run out of food. To get unlimited play, or other options, use the in-app upgrades.

 

Current Version: 1.5.5 (October 26, 2018)

Read Blindfold Doggy’s AppleVis App Directory entry for more information

https://www.applevis.com/apps/ios/games/blindfold-doggy

Visit Blindfold Doggy’s App Store page

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/blindfold-doggy/id1435160109?mt=8&at=11l4LS

 

  1. Out Of Tune – Live Music Game (iOS, Free)

 

Out Of Tune is a live music game where you compete to win a cash prize. All you need to do is correctly guess 10 songs. The game is played every weekday at 8PM Eastern Time / 5PM Pacific Time and 11PM Eastern Time / 8PM Pacific Time.

 

Current Version: 1.0.14 (October 28, 2018)

Read Out Of Tune – Live Music Game’s AppleVis App Directory entry for more information

https://www.applevis.com/apps/ios/games/out-tune-live-music-game

Visit Out Of Tune – Live Music Game’s App Store page

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/out-of-tune-live-music-game/id1361857195?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D8&at=11l4LS

 

That’s it from me for this week.

If you would like to become a member of  my CCB Mysteries chapter you can do so for the price of $10 annually and in return you will receive unlimited access to either of the following libraries.

Recipes –

http://www.donnajodhan.com/library-recipes.html

Audio mysteries for all ages –

http://www.donnajodhan.com/library-audio-mysteries.html

Or you can subscribe to both for the price of $20 annually.

Now you  can subscribe to “‘Let’s Talk Tips”‘ which is my monthly resource for the most current and reliable informational tips available in the areas of Technology, Nutrition, Media, Business, and Advocacy.

http://bit.ly/ADJSubscribe

 

To contact me, send me an email at info@sterlingcreations.ca and I’d be happy to respond.

Have yourselves a great day and see you next week.

Donna

 

GTT New Westminster Meeting Invitation, JAWS Help System, January 23, 2019

Get Together with Technology (GTT) New Westminster!

Sponsored by the Canadian Council of the Blind

in partnership with

Blind Beginnings

And

Vancouver Community College

 

January 2019 Theme: JAWS Help System

During the January 23, 2019 meeting we will demonstrate how to access the JAWS built-in help audio files as a means of learning more about how this powerful screen reader can give blind computer users access to more information, independence and productivity.

GTT New Westminster:

Date & Time: Wednesday, January 23, 2019 from 10 AM until 12 Noon

Where: Blind Beginnings Office, 227 6th Street, New Westminster

*Note: Meetings have traditionally been on the third Tuesday, however due to scheduling issues it was decided during the October meeting that New Westminster GTT will now meet on the 4th Wednesday of each month. 

 

Hour one:

John Ogilvie will demonstrate how to use the JAWS built-in Daisy Audio Book Help System and the FS Reader that ships with every copy of JAWS.

 

Hour two:

The second half of the meeting will include an opportunity to seek tech advice from those with more knowledge.  Please bring the device you want assistance with.

 

For more information contact either Shawn Marsolais or Albert Ruel:

shawn@blindbeginnings.ca or 604-434-7243.

Albert.GTT@CCBNational.net or 250-240-2343

 

What is GTT?

 

An opportunity for individuals who are blind or partially sighted to get together and

  • Share how they are using assistive technology for work, school, and in their daily lives
  • Learn from others who are using different assistive technology
  • Request information on new technology
  • Mentor and support each other

 

You’re invited, and encouraged to circulate this invitation widely to your circle of friends, colleagues and family who have an interest in peer support in the area of assistive technology.

 

For more information about GTT contact:

Shawn Marsolais         Albert Ruel

Shawn@BlindBeginnings.ca         Albert.GTT@CCBNational.net

604-434-7243                       1-877-304-0968 Ext. 550

 

GTT Chilliwack Meeting Invitation, The Ins and Outs of Using Cell Phones and Tablets, January 28, 2019

Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB)

 

Get Together with Technology (GTT) Chilliwack

 

You are invited to the next session of the Chilliwack GTT group, a group dedicated to the learning and sharing of information about assistive technology useful for those living with low vision, blindness or deaf-blindness.

 

Theme: The ins and outs of using our cell phones and tablets

When: Monday January 28, 2019

Time: 1:30-3:30

Where: Chilliwack Public Library Main Branch

45860 First Avenue, Chilliwack

 

First Hour:

By popular request Brian Mackie from the CNIB will be back to help us learn the ins and outs of using our cell phones and tablets. He will discuss both iPhone and Android technologies.

 

Second Hour:

Following a break, we will open a Get Together with Technology (GTT) discussion about what devices we might be having trouble with, or those great new gadgets we’ve recently discovered that we might want to show-off.  Bring along those gadgets you want help with, and those you want to show others.

 

For more information contact:

Ginny @ (604) 378-9676

 

CCB Backgrounder:

 

The CCB was founded in 1944 by a coalition of blind war veterans, schools of the blind and local chapters to create a national self-governing organization. The CCB was incorporated by Letters Patent on May 10, 1950 and is a registered charity under the provisions of the Income Tax Act (Canada).

The purpose of the CCB is to give people with vision loss a distinctive and unique perspective before governments.  CCB deals with the ongoing effects of vision loss by encouraging active living and rehabilitation through peer support and social and recreational activities.

CCB promotes measures to conserve sight, create a close relationship with the sighted community and provide employment opportunities.

 

The CCB recognizes that vision loss has no boundaries with respect to gender, income, ethnicity, culture, other disabilities or age.

The CCB understands in many instances vision loss is preventable and sometimes is symptomatic of other health issues.  For the 21st century, the CCB is committed to an integrated proactive health approach for early detection to improve the quality of life for all Canadians.

As the largest membership organization of the blind and partially sighted in Canada the CCB is the “Voice of the Blind™”.

 

 

CCB National Office

100-20 James Street Ottawa ON  K2P 0T6

Toll Free: 1-877-304-0968 Email: info@ccbnational.net URL: www.ccbnational.net

 

 

 

Guest Post: Press Release; World Braille Day, January 4, 2019, Braille Literacy Canada

Braille Literacy Canada Commends the United Nations adoption of World Braille Day and Canada’s Accession to the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

January 4, 2019 – Toronto – Braille Literacy Canada/Littératie braille Canada (BLC), as the Canadian braille authority, celebrates the United Nations’ recent adoption of World Braille Day, recognizing it as an official day to be celebrated annually on January 4th around the world, to coincide with the birth date of Louis Braille. Official recognition of World Braille Day on the international stage brings with it a strong message to both raise awareness and celebrate the importance of braille literacy for the generations of blind people who continue to benefit from it around the globe.

“Braille represents literacy, freedom and equality for the millions of blind people who use it around the world. It is as important as print is to the sighted,” explains Natalie Martiniello, president of Braille Literacy Canada. “It enables blind children to acquire literacy, raises employment and income levels, enables people who are blind to independently vote and exercise their citizenship, and to read personal and professional communications independently. We commend the United Nations for recognizing the importance of braille by designating January 4th as World Braille Day, and we celebrate alongside braille readers everywhere.”

BLC also commends the Government of Canada which has recently announced that Canada will accede to the optional protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). The UNCRPD sets guidelines to bolster the rights of persons with disabilities and calls for the abolishment of laws and practices that perpetuate discrimination. Importantly to BLC, the treaty also affirms and reinforces the importance of equal access to information for those unable to read print, including those Canadians who are blind or who have sight loss and who use braille.

Though Canada ratified the treaty in 2010, it only recently agreed to also be bound by the Optional Protocol, allowing the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to consider complaints against Canada and providing a further level of recourse at the international level for Canadians with disabilities facing discrimination.

“Access to information is not a privilege, but a right,” explains Martiniello. “We applaud the Government of Canada for acceding to the optional protocol. We hope that the Optional Protocol will provide an additional protective layer where gaps in accessibility remain and that the introduction of the Accessible Canada Act will usher in an era of increased accessibility.”

* * *

Braille Literacy Canada / Littératie braille Canada is a national charitable organization that is dedicated to the promotion of braille as the primary medium of literacy for those who are blind or visually impaired and is recognized by the International Council on English Braille as the authority for the development and adoption of standards relating to braille in Canada.

For more information, please contact Natalie Martiniello, President, at 1-877-861-4576 or email president@blc-lbc.ca.

 

Guest Post: Works of art reimagined by Francine Kopun The Toronto Star

Works of art reimagined

OCAD University students rework a selection of AGO paintings into hands-on art the visually impaired can appreciate

 

Francine Kopun

The Toronto Star, Jan. 4, 2019

 

Peter Coppin remembers the discussion with a visually impaired student that helped him understand how much can be misunderstood when a person has to depend on words to understand what someone else can see.

 

They were talking about Italy and the student knew that Italy is shaped like a boot. But when Coppin described it as a boot with a high heel like the Three Muskateers would wear, the student laughed out loud. He had been envisioning Italy as an entirely different kind of boot shape and the idea of Italy as a Muskateer boot was comical to him.

 

It’s these chasms in understanding that Coppin and the Art Gallery of Ontario are trying to bridge with a program that brings multisensory projects, based on works of visual art, to AGO museum tours for people in the blind and low vision community.

 

While in the past museums have relied heavily on audio recordings and guides to bridge that gap, new practices are being brought on board, including multisensory aids designed by graduate students at OCAD University.

 

“Visuals are dominant in our culture. If you are a part of society and you don’t have access to visual items, then you don’t have access to a lot of  stuff about the culture that people who have vision have access to,” says Coppin, associate professor of the inclusive design graduate program and director of the perceptual artifacts lab at OCAD University.

 

In Coppin’s graduate class, students select a work of art at the AGO to interpret for people living with vision loss.

 

This year – the second year of the program – the works included four paintings: Tom Thomson’s The West Wind, Otto Dix’s Portrait of Dr. Heinrich Stadelmann; La Demoiselle de magasin by James Tissot and Jar of Apricots by Jean-Siméon Chardin.

 

In a way, it’s about getting back to the roots of what museums used to be, said Melissa Smith, co-ordinator of the gallery guide, adult education officer and access to art programs for the AGO.

 

Early museums began as private collections, typically belonging to the wealthy, who would share art and artifacts they had purchased or collected on their travels. They were displayed in “wonder rooms.” People were allowed to touch the items as part of the experience.

 

The AGO already offers multisensory tours for people living with vision loss, which include some works that can be touched – including the museum’s large Rodin sculptures – under supervision, but providing 3-D support for works of visual arts offers the possibility of evoking more than just the sense of touch.

 

For months, Coppin’s students grappled with the idea of how to render the terrifying look on Dr. Stadelmann’s face into a tactile experience and how to communicate the cold of the water in The West Wind.

 

“We were totally drawn to this portrait; the eerie atmosphere,” said student Shannon Kupfer, speaking of the Dix portrait. “I was dying to interpret it.”

 

Dix layered paint on the doctor’s eyes – they appear to bulge. He seems haunted. His hands are in fists by his sides. Kupfer and her partner, Tyson Moll, wanted viewers to feel that tension, and also feel the deep wrinkles in his face.

 

They made a 3-D replica of the doctor’s head in polymer clay that felt cold and a bit yielding, but still firm to the touch. The eyes bulge like they do in the painting.

 

They sewed hair onto his head in little batches, to mimic the strokes of the paintbrush in the painting. They made the body boxy and rigid, to communicate the physical tension in the painting. They gave him a rigid collar, backed by cardboard. His fists were made of polymer clay coated in silicone.

 

They also made it out of products that were easy to care for – the clothes are fastened with Velcro to make it easier for curators to remove them and wash them if necessary.

 

They recorded an audio component – a fluent German speaker reading a passage from one of Dr. Stadelmann’s writings, concerning avant-garde art in relation to what was then considered psychiatric wisdom. They included the hissing noise that used to accompany recordings played on records.

 

“It’s not just engaging for the low-sight community, it’s engaging for everyone. It’s such a cool way to get kids – or anyone – more engaged with art,” Kupfer said.

 

The problem of communicating the coldness of the water in Tom Thomson’s piece was solved more simply, with a bag of blue slime. To convey the feeling of wind, the students invested in a $20 miniature fan from Amazon.com.

 

“When you stand in front of this painting you can feel the strong wind because of the shape of the tree and the waves on the lake,” said student Norbert Zhao.

 

John Rae, who lost his eyesight in his 20s and is now blind, has been on the AGO multisensory tours and experienced the works made by this year’s OCAD students. While he liked the Otto Dix sculpture, some things didn’t communicate as planned. For example, without knowing anything about the painting, when Rae touched the sculpture, he thought the doctor was a boxer wearing gloves, because of the way the hands felt. “That comes from me as a sports fan,” said Rae, a retired public servant and a board member of the Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians.

 

Rae liked the multisensory adaptation of Jar of Apricots, by students Nikkie To and Grace Mendez. The painting is a still life that includes a jar of apricots, a glass of wine, bread and a cup of tea.

 

Their model included dried apricots for tasting, jarred scents including a cork soaked in wine and apricot jam with added artificial apricot scent; 3-D printed objects including a tea cup and wine glass to handle, background music from the period and others sounds – touching the wine glass triggered the sound of a liquid being poured.

 

While Rae believes the multisensory aids provide another tool, he thinks museums in general need to consider making more objects available for handling by the blind and vision impaired. He cited as an example ancient pottery – while a museum may have perfect examples on display, it may also have imperfect examples in storage. What would be the harm, asks Rae, in making those available to people with limited eyesight, especially since the tours happen infrequently, involve about six to 12 items, and small numbers of people?

 

“One can learn a fair amount from the expertise that the people who run these tours bring to the table, but there is no substitute for being able to touch,” Rae said.

 

The challenge at the AGO, Smith said, is that in an art gallery the works tend to be flat and one-of-a-kind.

 

“Our conservators and curators do their utmost to ensure the objects, like sculptures, which make the most interesting objects to touch, are cared for and exhibited to support this program,” Smith said.

 

Ian White, president of a local Toronto chapter of the Canadian Council of the Blind called the CCB Toronto Visionaries, said that while AGO tour leaders excel at describing art in a way that triggers the imagination, the multisensory tours are evocative.

 

“It starts a conversation about the piece, about the artist, about the history,” White said.

 

“It really allows people to engage with works that are part of our collective culture.”