Tactile QR Code: Bourbon Edition

We have been using QR codes in some of our work as a simple way of surfacing access affordances, like visual descriptions of artwork within exhibition and gallery spaces. The final hurdle always remains ensuring the QR code is discernible through multiple modalities – not just visual. Making QR codes tactile is one of the tactics that can help contribute to their findability and usability (lining up the camera with the code). In many cases it has meant printing them with thermoform, 3D printing them, adding stickers to the printed codes, applying the printed code to a container or surface that is tactile, and various other methods. In this case, at The Manhattan Project in Louisville, Kentucky, they were so pleased with using QR codes for their menus during the pandemic, they embedded laser etched versions into their bar top. The bar manager was very happy to discuss the fabrication techniques with us. They were even more pleased to learn that in surfacing their menu in this way (digital on mobile via QR) they have made their menu accessible to many people who would otherwise have faced an access barrier. Digital presented on mobile allows for screen reading, pinching and zooming, color swapping, and more. The high contrast between fore and background helps visual discernibility, and the square itself is tactily distinguishable from the counter.

A light coloured wooden square is inset into a darker coloured wooden barton. The inset contains the letters TMP, followed by the words "The Manhattan Project", followed by a QR code. All 3 pieces of content are etched or laser cut into the surface of the wood and the deep groves are darker in colour providing a high contrast distinction against the un-etched surface. The etching is at a depth that facilitates tactile consumption of the content.
Tactile QR code seen at TMP in Louisville, Kentucky.

Georgia O’Keeffe, Her Chows, and Contrast

If you’ve worked with Sina and I on exhibition design, collections/artefact presentation, or have attended any of our workshops related to the built environment, the inclusive design ecosystem, or inclusive collections practices, you will no doubt recall our emphasis on the importance of edge detection, shape detection, and contrast. These tactics (and several more) greatly contribute to safe and inclusive wayfinding, artefact preservation and protection, and ensuring museum audiences perceive and access content not only in the manner intended by the museum (curatorial, interpretive, and/or design intent), but inclusively and accessibly as well.

It was while in New Mexico last week, touring Georgia O’Keeffe’s house in Abiquiu, that we learned about the upgrades and changes she made to the property over her years there. One such change was the swapping out of dark floors in her bedroom and studio to light coloured carpet. What provoked this change? Georgia O’Keeffe developed Macular Degeneration later in life (affecting her vision). As she was concerned about accidentally tripping over or injuring her beloved chows, she changed the flooring so that their dark haired bodies would present a significantly increased contrast and she would be better able to see and detect them. This is a great (and unique) example of addressing contrast between fore and backgrounds in order to protect, preserve, and facilitate greater inclusive accessibility.

2 dark haired puppies sit on a pale stone floor.
Georgia O’Keeffe’s chows. Image Credit: Georgia O’Keeffe Museum