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Using QR codes to aid accessibility in a museum

Haworth, A. and Williams, P. (2012) Using QR codes to aid accessibility in a museum. Journal of Assistive Technologies, 6 (4). pp. 285-291. ISSN 2042-8723

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1108/17549451211285771


Purpose – This paper describes visitors' reactions to using an Apple iPad or smartphone to follow trails in a museum by scanning QR codes and draws conclusions on the potential for this technology to help improve accessibility at low-cost. Design/methodology/approach – Activities were devised which involved visitors following trails around museum objects, each labelled with a QR code and symbolised text. Visitors scanned the QR codes using a mobile device which then showed more information about an object. Project-team members acted as participant-observers, engaging with visitors and noting how they used the system. Experiences from each activity fed into the design of the next. Findings – Some physical and technical problems with using QR codes can be overcome with the introduction of simple aids, particularly using movable object labels. A layered approach to information access is possible with the first layer comprising a label, the second a mobile-web enabled screen and the third choices of text, pictures, video and audio. Video was especially appealing to young people. The ability to repeatedly watch video or listen to audio seemed to be appreciated by visitors with learning disabilities. This approach can have low equipment-cost. However, maintaining the information behind labels and keeping-up with technological changes are on-going processes. Originality/value – Using QR codes on movable, symbolised object labels as part of a layered information system might help modestly-funded museums enhance their accessibility, particularly as visitors increasingly arrive with their own smartphones or tablets.

Item Type:Article
ID Code:33754
Uncontrolled Keywords:Assistive technologies, Mobile technology, Multi-media, Museum accessibility, Museums, QR codes
Additional Information:Grateful thanks to Reading Borough Council and the Vodafone Foundation which funded additional IT support, the RSA Fellowship Catalyst scheme which funded help from museum-learning and web-accessibility experts, and the charity, Access-ability Communications Technology, which provided loan equipment and acts as the iMuse project board. Special thanks go to the staff and volunteers of the Museum of English Rural Life who provided work-space and access to the Museum for visitor activities and to Lorna Woodman for her IT support.


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