New design assists visually impaired library visitors

>In Swedish: Click here

With a small electronic reader on the finger, visually impaired people can listen to a description of a book simply by pointing at its spine. This is the result of a design research project at the Umeå Institute of Design, Umeå University.
On Friday, March 3rd, the pioneering accessibility tool AudioIndex will be launched in the audio book section of Umeå City Library.

With headphones, a finger-fitting reader and a palm-sized device, visually impaired can browse for books at the library without assistance.

The AudioIndex system is a unique product that uses technology similar to the one in the transponders of the Stockholm Trials, in a new way.

The researchers at the Umeå Institute of Design have placed an electronic chip in every audio book. The chip works much like a barcode. When pointing the reader at the book spine a computerised voice reads the title, author and book description.

Usability and accessibility are keywords.

- Many people with functional impairments wish to be less dependent on others in their daily lives. AudioIndex increases the independence for visually impaired people when visiting the library, says Oskar Fjellström, the project responsible at Umeå Institute of Design.

- To be able to walk around and scan the books on your own boosts your integrity, says Umeå City Library manager Inger Edebro Sikström.

AudioIndex makes library services more accessible for everyone – on equal terms, she says.

There are also other situations in which an AudioIndex system could be valuable.

- In the grocery store you could use AudioIndex to retrieve information regarding ingredients and nutritional values, at the pharmacy you could get information about prescriptions and side effects and in a clothing store it could find out price and instructions on how to care for the clothes, says Oskar Fjellström.

The information could also be presented in the form of images and vibrations.

- Environment and situation determine which type of information is suitable, says Oskar Fjellström.

>World premiere for AudioIndex:
Friday, March 3rd, 13.00 at Umeå City Library.
The project will be presented by Inger Edebro Sikström, Umeå City Library manager, and Tapio Alakörkkö, head of the Umeå Institute of Design department. Presentations and demonstrations will be in the audio book section Talboken.
>For more information:
Oskar Fjellström, Research Engineer, Design Research Group, Umeå Institute of Design, telephone: +46 (0)90- 786 76 18 or +46 (0)73-954 90 44, oskar.fjellstrom@dh.umu.se
Gunni Öberg, Umeå City Library, telephone +46 (0)90-16 33 52 or +46 (0)70-312 33 52, gunni.oberg@umea.se

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Background:
The name AudioIndex is formed by the latin words for listening (audio) and index finger (index).
Audio books can be borrowed by those who are dyslectic or have some functional impairment, for example visual, physical or developmental disability. This service is financed by the Swedish government.
Eight people; industrial designers and engineers, have participated in the development of AudioIndex, making it one of the biggest projects ever at Umeå Institute of Design, Umeå University.
AudioIndex is the result of ideas developed by Kent Lindbergh during the projects Access for visually impaired and Library accessibility prototype which were conducted in 2002-2003 within the framework of the Bibliotek 2007 project.
Bibliotek 2007 is a collaboration project in the Umeå Region with the aim of increased accessibility to library services. Umeå Institute of Design has carried out a number of projects within the framework of Bibliotek 2007.

How it works:
Radio frequency identification (Rfid) can be seen as an alternative to barcodes. Objects that need to be identified are fitted with an Rfid-chip and can then be scanned by an Rfid-reader. An advantage compared to barcodes is that the Rfid-reader does not require a free line-of-sight to the chip.
Rfid-chips are sometimes called transponders and are used in many different ways, for example in the Stockholm Trials to identify vehicles.