Inclusive Extensions: In Depth with the Speakers

Friday 20 December, we will start with a discussion event as a part of Inclusive Extensions. The speakers: Amble Skuse, Marije Baalman, Jacqueline Kool and Simon Dogger all have an interesting background concerning disabilities, which we would like to share with you. Here, you can read about interesting works and articles from the speakers.

Tinnitus: A work by Marije Baalman and Mariagiovanna Nuzzi

When it comes to hearing disabilities, Tinnitus might be one of the most common. In the Netherlands alone, an estimated 2 million people suffer from Tinnitus. It is a form of hearing damage, in which you continuously experience sound, even when there is no external sound. Tinnitus has many different causes, but the most common cause is (over)exposure to loud noise.

The tone people hear can vary from beeping sounds and flute tones to whizzing and crackling. Every form of Tinnitus is unique. People who have Tinnitus experience the sound they hear non-stop. In most cases, the sound is not only non-stop, but also predominant, even in the presence of external sound. As a side effect, people with Tinnitus often suffer from psychological issues as well.

In 2011, Marije Baalman and Mariagiovanna Nuzzi created a project called Tinnitus, or My little acufene. Baalman describes the work as a half an hour composition exploring the sound world of people with hearing disorders. The sound design in the piece is based on an interview with someone who suffers from tinnitus, describing the sound to Baalman and comparing it to the synthesized sound that Baalman has created. The person also discusses the social and psychological consequences of suffering from hearing loss and hearing a ringing sound all the time.

The public can hear the sound, but the interviewed person can only partly hear the sound. This is due to the fact that Tinnitus is a hearing perception produced by the brain itself in order to compensate for the damaged part, which is the sound frequency the sufferer misses.

Tinnitus is often a lonely disease, because one cannot see that someone suffers from it on the outside. What makes it even more difficult for sufferers, is that Tinnitus is uncurable. People with Tinnitus have to deal with hearing sound all the time. This is why Baalman’s work is an interesting piece: it gives the listener a look into the world of someone who suffers from Tinnitus, a glimpse into what it is like to have this kind of hearing damage.

You can listen to the piece here


Jacqueline Kool: The concept of ‘being human’ and disability

Oftentimes, people with disabilities are not only left out when it comes to the way in which we design the physical world, but also when it comes to more abstract things. For instance, when thinking about what it means to be human, people with disabilities are often left out. However, as an ambassador at Disability Studies in the Netherlands, Jacqueline Kool has written about why it is important to include people with disabilities when thinking about the concept of humanity. An example is Humanity as a Contested Concept: Relations between Disability and ‘Being Human’. The article is written by Jacqueline Kool together with Paul van Trigt and Alice Schippers and is part of the themed issue journal Social Inclusion, which takes a philosophical approach to what it means to be human, especially when it comes to people with disabilities.

The article participates in the debate about how the concept of humanity is or must be related to disability. In the article, this topic is investigated from different disciplinary perspectives in the themed issue of the journal, which is, moreover, situated in the field of disability studies. The themed issue is also related to discussions about posthumanism. In the article, it is argued that humanity is a concept that needs to be constantly reflected upon from the perspective of disability studies. The article offers an interesting way to think about what being human means.

You can download the article here

Simon Dogger: Tik-Tik and the Emotion Whisperer

Simon Dogger can be considered a pioneer in sound and sense design for the visually impaired. He designs creative products which offer solutions to problems visually impaired people have to deal with on a daily basis, to make the world more accessible to them. For example, on his website, Dogger explains that finding your way in public buildings is mostly visual. This is not something people without a visual impairment often think about. However, when it comes to the visually impaired, finding your way in these visually orientated public spaces can be a difficult task.

In order to find a solution to this, Dogger created the so-called ‘Tik-Tik’, which is a navigation app to be used indoors. The app is a self-empowering solution, which offers people with a visual impairment an easier way to move around in public buildings, without needing to ask others for help. Based on pre-scanned maps of buildings and customized software, the app is able to plot any indoor route. It can guide the user to different places within a building, like desks or toilets, because of its build-in intuitive haptic and audio feedback. It can also detect sudden obstacles or moving objects. This makes the app a great step towards making visually oriented public spaces more inclusive and accessible to people with a visual disability.

Another example is the Emotion Whisperer. It is a device that translates body language and emotion into sensory signals. It is created to make social interaction with others easier for people with a visual disability. The device makes it possible for people with a visual impairment to read body language, something that they are otherwise not able to do. It comes with a pair of camera glasses that sends images of the person you are having a conversation with to an app that recognizes emotion. Then, the images are analysed and turned into a sensory signal, which is sent to a handheld, round metal product. This way, the person using the device can actually feel the emotions of the person he or she is talking to. Each emotion has a specific vibration, so you can feel by the specific vibration what someone is feeling.

The project got the Design Talent Award 2017. According to the jury, it will soon be possible to identify someone’s emotional state by using this kind of technology, and even though this concept is intended for the blind, it can be used by anyone.

The discussion event will lay the foundation for a series of three design workshops and a final presentation event by IMPAKT in 2020. The workshops aim for a substantial representation of people with disabilities, in the roles of workshop leader, participant and user. The three day workshop takes place from 8, 15 & 22 January at Het Hof van Cartesius: De Tinkerplek.

More information about the workshop.

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