Berlin für Blinde
2010 International Award Winner
Berlin für Blinde is the first website to bring together vital city tourism information for blind and partially sighted people. Visually impaired Berliners and visitors can find information about ‘high culture’, entertainment and a wealth of essential practical information on the site.
The information is thoroughly user centered. It maps e.g. the accessible cultural offer, such as touch tours in museums and stage touch tours of opera stage. It also maps places with multi-sensory qualities which appeal to more than just the sense of sight. Responding to visually impaired members of staff and user feedback, the site provides detailed way-finding information for blind people to get, among other things, from an underground station to a museum. This helps maximise the independent mobility of blind people. It is the only website to our knowledge to provide such information. Independent mobility in an unfamiliar environment is a major challenge for blind people – and perhaps it is therefore assumed that this type of information wonít work. However, the blind German speaking test users were all enthusiastic about this information, as were a number of visually impaired people who gave feedback to the guide in the last couple of years.
The website Berlin für Blinde demonstrates strong overall performance. It meets high web accessibility standards (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) It is very well structured and easy to use by blind and partially sighted people. All audio files have text versions.
Berlin für Blinde helps us conjure up a picture of a world in which disabled people freely travel to the worldís many cultural cities, because they have easy access to all the information about accessible travel, entertainment and culture at their fingertips. It does not pretend to say the final word about future guides of accessible cities and their accessible cultural offer, but it unquestionably represents a great leap forward.
Berlin für Blinde
Berlin für Blinde brings together city tourism information for blind and partially sighted people. Visually impaired Berliners and visitors can find information about ‘high culture’, entertainment and a wealth of essential practical information on the site.
This includes information on and reviews about the accessible cultural offer, for example museums with touch, stage touch tours of opera performances and the exploration of world famous concert halls and rehearsals by orchestras. Visually impaired people contribute reviews about their touch experiences of heritage, which provide voice to ‘another way of seeing and sensing’.
Berlin für Blinde also informs on a number of places worth visiting for their multi-sensory appeal, ranging from a small chocolate making factory to urban parks – which fit the Jodi Mattes Trust’s definition of heritage. The description of the immersive experience of walking within the vast concrete landscape of the Holocaust Memorial Monument, near the Reichstag, is of compelling quality for visually impaired and sighted people alike.
The German speaking visually impaired test users liked the menu and sub-menu bars, which structure visitor information according to senses involved in a particular visit/activity. Shops, restaurants, pubs and supermarkets which are responsive to the needs of visually impaired people feature on the website. Information about assistance for travelling or shopping and mobile services for dogs is provided.
Berlin für Blinde has been started in 2006 by FÖRDERBAND e.V. The aim was to select and present sightseeing places in the German capital which could provide visually impaired people with memorable experiences, especially sensuous ones (hearing, smelling, touching). Places which provide e.g. guided tours, touch tours and reduced price tickets feature on the website.
The guide was first released in 2008 as an audio-guide (CD) with additional tactile maps and other information in Braille). In 2009, these contents were transported into the website www Information is available as readable texts for screen readers and as mp3-downloads spoken by professional speakers or produced with studio software tools. In this way each user can hear immediately, or else compose their personal tourist guide of Berlin.
FÖRDERBAND e.V. also organises leisure and cultural activities for visually impaired Berliners, including touch tours in museums and cooking courses. It has recently began to offer a guide tourist to blind and partially sighted tourists visiting Berlin as individuals or as a group.
As members of staff, visually impaired people developed the terminology for the descriptions based on their experiences and provided awareness training to the ‘visually un-impaired’ They tested the quality of descriptions, chose places of interest, advised colleagues in choosing places, tested sightseeing objects and advised the managers how to improve facilities. They wrote articles about places of interest and wrote about their experiences in Berlin. They also tested the websiteís accessibility and how well it fared with different screen readers.
“I am enthusiastic! Your Guide ‘Experiencing Berlin’ was a great companion to me and my friend, who is also blind. We visited Berlin without a (sighted) facilitator; with your guide in our backpack. The way-finding information was very detailed and the hole experience a delight, no only a culinary delight. We are already planning a new trip to Berlin! Keep having those great ideas!” Gregor Cordes
“I very much enjoyed the Berlin guide. I can’t say how it could be improved. I wonít be able to come to Berlin, I am on dialysis, so I travelled ‘in my mind’. Would be great, if there were such tourist guides for other cities. How could one get this started?” Dorothee Feuerstein
“I received the Berlin Guide after having visited Berlin. It enabled to revisit my impressions of Berlin. I particularly enjoyed the reviews of museum visits. The descriptions gave me the feeling that I had been there myself.” Frank Heuing
New information will be added, e.g. about the new audio-guided tours of the Prussian Castles in Berlin. Many people have asked for an English translation of the site. This would certainly be very attractive for foreign tourists and give the project wider resonance. Funding allowing, this will happen.