Daniel Hajas is a blind theoretical physicist at the University of Sussex, England; and founder of Grapheel www.grapheel.com, which is an initiative to enhance accessibility of science education for people with special needs, using a set of online services, hardware products and public engagement activities, partnering with other organisations to make scientific content more accessible.
As part of the Grapheel initiative, he and a small team are designing an online, science community based image description service (called IRIS) to enhance the study experience of blind and visually impaired students in their education. Initially we would like to focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education, but later expand to subjects at arts and humanities and support image descriptions of financial graphs, or wave form visualisations in music editing.
As they are at a very early stage of development, they would highly appreciate insights and feedback from the blind community familiar with accessibility considerations and state-of-the-art products and services. In particular, they would be grateful if members of this community could test and advise them on how to improve the service (please read more about it below). They have a feature incomplete test version, which they run in closed beta, but before adding newer features they believe could be useful, they wish to start engaging with experienced, early adapter users, such that they can essentially build IRIS together from ground up.
The service is very similar to initiatives such as, Be my eyes, Bespecular, TapTapSee and other; however, their service aims to focus specifically on educational needs, with a pool of volunteering experts at given academic
How does IRIS work?
- blind or visually impaired (BVI) students upload an image of scientific content, graphs, diagrams
- BVI students select a field of study, e.g. physics, maths, chemistry, etc. and a level of difficulty.
- BVI students can ask a specific question they would like to know about the figure.
- A pool of sighted volunteers with the necessary knowledge are assigned to groups of chosen disciplines based on their user settings of competency.
- When an image request is sent by a BVI student, the figure appears in a queue that all volunteers of a specific discipline can view and describe.
- If a request is accepted, the volunteer should give a description of the image based on provided guidelines.
- The recipient of the description can either accept the response, or ask for further clarification.
What will I need to do as a tester?
All you need to do is to log in whenever you can, upload a figure of scientific content, wait for the description and let us know what are the things you like, don’t like and suggest us new features you believe would be useful or could be done in a better way.
If you feel you would be happy and able to help, please let them know by getting in touch on email@example.com. They will then send you a URL to access the service, your username, password and a “How to get started”