Breaking down barriers: inclusive technology for people with intellectual disabilities

Technology has become critical in shaping our world today, especially in the digital age. It is integrated into almost every aspect of our lives, from smartphones to smart homes. However, what happens when technology is not accessible to everyone? Leandro Soares Guedes, a PhD candidate at USI Faculty of Informatics, and Monica Landoni, a Professor at USI Faculty of Informatics, are working on bridging this gap by finding solutions at the intersection of conscious digitisation and inclusive design. Their goal is to ensure that technology empowers everyone rather than excludes or marginalises them.

Leandro Soares Guedes and Monica Landoni have worked with local institutions, such as the LAC Museum and Attgabes, and international institutions in Italy and Australia in bringing these inclusive technology solutions to fruition. Their commitment to promoting inclusivity in museums has led to the publication of papers related to these projects in prestigious international conferences such as ACM ASSETS, HCII, ICCHP, INTERACT and ECCE.

Inclusive design of technology does not only refer to its accessibility, but also to its ability to empower individuals, stimulate their senses, and establish meaningful connections. The work done in partnership with museums and support centres for individuals with intellectual disabilities is a testament to the positive impact of inclusive technology design. By embracing inclusive technology design, we move a step closer to a world where no one is left behind and museums and their treasures are accessible to all.

Enhancing museum visits

"Picture yourself walking into a museum, where art and history are brought to life through technology that welcomes everyone. This is the vision we are working towards, in collaboration with museums and support centres for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Our goal is clear: to engage, empower and ensure that no one feels left behind."

Accessible applications

"Our user-friendly app is breaking down barriers by providing access to museums for everyone. The app has been designed with experts and end users to ensure it is intuitive and easy to navigate, even for those with cognitive difficulties. Visitors will no longer feel frustrated but confident as they explore the museum’s content with ease."

Multisensory experiences:

"Creating an understanding of the world for individuals with intellectual disabilities often requires engaging multiple senses. That is why we are creating multisensory experiences in museums. By combining tactile, auditory, and visual elements, we enhance the engagement level of exhibitions. With varied learning styles, our approach caters to everyone, making art and history accessible and engaging."

Augmented Reality (AR)

"AR is not limited to gaming; it is also a powerful tool for fostering inclusivity in museums. By leveraging AR technology, static exhibits can be transformed into interactive wonders. This makes the exhibits more engaging and enables visitors with intellectual disabilities to access simplified explanations and interactive content tailored to their needs. AR technology adds a new dimension to understanding and involvement."

Social robots:

"Imagine a friendly robot guiding your museum visit, answering questions and making you feel at home. We are exploring using social robots to welcome visitors with intellectual disabilities, explain content when necessary and ensure that each guest feels supported and valued."

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

"Our initiative employs artificial intelligence to assist individuals with intellectual disabilities express themselves creatively. By merging participants’ drawings with original artwork, we endeavour to inspire them to create new and improved contributions. AI is enabling our participants to accomplish feats they never thought possible."

Electronic making:

"We encourage active participation and creation both before and after museum visits: a hands-on approach that fosters creativity, engagement and a sense of achievement. This electronic approach contributes to a more inclusive and empowering museum experience."