The European In-VisIBLe project is now underway, and the Museo Tattile Statale Omero is one of the partners.
The first official meeting was held in the Sala Tassinari of the Palazzo d'Accursio, Bologna, on 26-27 April 2022. The project will run until July 2024.
Invisible stands for Inclusive and Innovative learning tools for Visually Impaired and Blind people.
Accessibility is at the heart of one of the areas of action defined in the EU "Strategy for the rights of persons with disabilities 2021-2030".
Culture is one of the many contexts in which accessibility is elucidated, but it is perhaps one of the most crucial of all, given its fundamental role in promoting the development of the individual and society.
Nonetheless, the level of higher education achieved by people with disabilities continues to be far below that of the able-bodied. To date, people with disabilities represent, on average, just over 1% of students enrolled in university courses, and the percentage falls even further if we consider students enrolled in I and II level Masters and PhDs.
The Invisible project, co-financed by the European Erasmus + programme and coordinated by the University of Bologna, aims to respond to this urgent and growing need for inclusion, by promoting access of people with special needs to university and higher education courses, through the implementation and the use of innovative tools within the teaching modules.
The project focuses specifically on visual impairment, to support the more than 30 million visually-impaired and blind people currently living in European countries: a huge community that faces constant discrimination and obstacles to accessing education and culture especially in the field that, by its very definition, appears to categorically exclude them, the so-called "visual" arts.
Truly "inclusive" teaching should not focus solely on providing Special Needs teachers or customized courses for students with visual disabilities but on the contrary, education, in particular higher education, should be a "school for all", offering equal learning opportunities.
The Invisible project therefore aims not to create special artistic education courses for blind people, but instead to equip university courses for able-bodied students with toolkits to render them accessible to students with visual impairments.
Various tools that can enable students with visual disabilities to understand and appreciate the visual arts (in particular sculpture and architecture) are already widely available. These include models and tactile panels, artificial intelligence modules that can recognize objects in space and translate images into sound descriptions, text-to-speech modules, etc. However, they are rarely adopted in a systematic and synergistic way.
The Invisible project aims to introduce these art education tools into first and second level university courses for able-bodied students for the first time, creating In-clusive and In-novative modules and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) on the History of Architecture that will be fully accessible to people with visual disabilities.
To achieve these objectives, the project will produce a series of educational tools such as virtual 3D architectural models, tactile panels and models of architectural elements and buildings, an artificial intelligence system capable of recognizing and describing architecture (Invisible Image Captioning Dataset and System), an interactive educational platform where all the project's products and tools will be accessible (Invisible Teaching & Learning Web Platform). The project will also draw up guidelines for rendering architecture and the visual arts accessible to blind people as well as for the creation and printing of 3D architectural models in order to increase and replicate the use of these tools.
In order to achieve these targets, the partners in the Invisible project have been carefully chosen so as to ensure the presence of diverse and complementary areas of expertise: History of Architecture, 3D Design and Modelling, ICT, Educational Sciences, Education for blind people. The consortium consists of three European universities (University of Bologna, Italy; Yedetepe University, Turkey; Akademia Humanistyczno-Ekonomiczna w Łodzi, Poland), an international research institution (Information Technologies Institute of the Centre for Research and Technology Hellas, Greece), a public body for assistance to blind people (Centre for Education and Rehabilitation for the Blind, Greece) and a national tactile museum (Museo Tattile Statale Omero, Ancona, Italy).
Alongside the universities and other higher educational bodies, local resources, such as museums and places dedicated to education and culture, will play a fundamental role in the education of the wider public, acting as a complementary educational factor to that of schools and universities.
The project therefore envisages the collaboration, as Associated Partners, of European institutions and museums that have teaching programmes on architecture for blind people (Italian Union of the Blind and Visually Impaired, Cavazza Institute, Bologna; Museo Tattile Statale Omero, Ancona; Ptolemy Museum and Anteros Tactile Museum, Bologna; MAXXI - National Museum of XXI Century Arts. Rome; Lighthouse for the Blind, Greece; Museum of the City of Łódź, Parıltı Görmeyen Çocuklara Destek Derneği, Istanbul).
The Invisible project aims to give everyone who will be directly or indirectly involved, the opportunity to encourage inclusive education, to promote access to culture and to develop innovation and quality in higher education courses. By doing so, cultural accessibility can fully accomplish its role and become one of the most effective strategic tools for creating a truly inclusive society.
The first official meeting of the Invisible project took place in Bologna on April 26-27, 2022.
The partners met at the Sala Tassinari in Palazzo d'Accursio and the meeting was introduced by Valentina Orioli, Associate Professor of the University of Bologna and Councillor of the Municipality of Bologna with responsibility for New mobility, infrastructures, liveability and care of public spaces, enhancement of cultural heritage and the Unesco Portici site, the green footprint and urban parks project; Cristina Demaria, Associate Professor of the University of Bologna and Rector's delegate for equity, inclusion and diversity; Fabrizio Ivan Apollonio, Director of the Department of Architecture of the University of Bologna.