Search
Close this search box.

We are creating some awesome events for you. Kindly bear with us.

Breaking Barriers: Inclusive Data Representation

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

Digital technology has revolutionised how the world interacts with data in recent years. From complex visualisations to interactive charts, these tools have empowered users to explore and analyse data in previously unimaginable ways. However, for people who are blind or have low vision, accessing and understanding these visual representations can be a significant challenge.

Most tools for creating data representations rely on converting visual charts into accessible formats. While this approach has enabled some level of accessibility, it also creates barriers for blind and low-vision users. These users are often limited to exploring existing visualisations and cannot make custom representations. This limitation restricts their ability to analyse and analyse data and hinders their participation in data-driven discussions and decision-making processes.

Recognising these challenges, a team of MIT and University College London (UCL) researchers set out to develop a new approach to accessible data representations. Their goal was to create a software system enabling blind and low-vision users to build custom, multimodal data representations without needing an initial visual chart. The result of their efforts is Umwelt, an innovative software system designed to revolutionise the way blind and low-vision users interact with data.

Umwelt, which means “environment” in German, is an authoring environment designed explicitly for screen-reader users. It features an intuitive editor that allows users to upload a dataset and create customised representations, such as scatterplots, using three modalities: visualisation, textual description, and sonification. Sonification, a process that converts data into nonspeech audio, enables users to perceive data patterns through sound.

One of the critical features of Umwelt is its ability to represent various data types, ranging from simple numerical data to complex multivariate datasets. This flexibility allows users to explore and analyse data in ways that are tailored to their individual needs and preferences. For example, a user could create a scatterplot that represents stock prices using different tones to represent the price for each date, arranged by ticker symbol.

To test the effectiveness of Umwelt, the researchers conducted a study with five expert screen-reader users. The participants found Umwelt valuable and easy to learn, praising its intuitive interface and powerful features. They noted that Umwelt could facilitate communication between people who rely on different senses, enabling more inclusive and collaborative data analysis.

Jonathan Zong, the Author of the paper introducing Umwelt, emphasised the importance of enabling blind and low-vision individuals to participate fully in data analysis. He highlighted Umwelt’s potential to shift researchers’ perspectives on accessible data analysis, emphasising the importance of multisensory approaches.

“This technology has the potential to not only improve the accessibility of data analysis tools but also to enhance the overall quality of data analysis by incorporating diverse perspectives and modes of understanding,” Zong said.

In addition to its practical applications, Umwelt has the potential to drive scientific inquiry into how people use and perceive multimodal representations. The researchers plan to release an open-source version of Umwelt to enable further development and integration of new modalities, such as tactile sensing, into the software system.

“This new tool not only opens up possibilities for individuals with visual impairments to engage more fully in data analysis but also challenges us to rethink the fundamental assumptions underlying data representation and accessibility,” said Arvind Satyanarayan, Senior Author of the paper and Associate Professor of Computer Science at MIT.

Umwelt represents a significant advancement in making data analysis more inclusive and accessible to individuals with visual impairments. He believed that by empowering blind and low-vision users to create their custom data representations, Umwelt could revolutionise how people think about accessible data analysis and open up new opportunities for collaboration and innovation in data science.

PARTNER

Qlik’s vision is a data-literate world, where everyone can use data and analytics to improve decision-making and solve their most challenging problems. A private company, Qlik offers real-time data integration and analytics solutions, powered by Qlik Cloud, to close the gaps between data, insights and action. By transforming data into Active Intelligence, businesses can drive better decisions, improve revenue and profitability, and optimize customer relationships. Qlik serves more than 38,000 active customers in over 100 countries.

PARTNER

As a Titanium Black Partner of Dell Technologies, CTC Global Singapore boasts unparalleled access to resources.

Established in 1972, we bring 52 years of experience to the table, solidifying our position as a leading IT solutions provider in Singapore. With over 300 qualified IT professionals, we are dedicated to delivering integrated solutions that empower your organization in key areas such as Automation & AI, Cyber Security, App Modernization & Data Analytics, Enterprise Cloud Infrastructure, Workplace Modernization and Professional Services.

Renowned for our consulting expertise and delivering expert IT solutions, CTC Global Singapore has become the preferred IT outsourcing partner for businesses across Singapore.

PARTNER

Planview has one mission: to build the future of connected work. Our solutions enable organizations to connect the business from ideas to impact, empowering companies to accelerate the achievement of what matters most. Planview’s full spectrum of Portfolio Management and Work Management solutions creates an organizational focus on the strategic outcomes that matter and empowers teams to deliver their best work, no matter how they work. The comprehensive Planview platform and enterprise success model enables customers to deliver innovative, competitive products, services, and customer experiences. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, with locations around the world, Planview has more than 1,300 employees supporting 4,500 customers and 2.6 million users worldwide. For more information, visit www.planview.com.

SUPPORTING ORGANISATION

SIRIM is a premier industrial research and technology organisation in Malaysia, wholly-owned by the Minister​ of Finance Incorporated. With over forty years of experience and expertise, SIRIM is mandated as the machinery for research and technology development, and the national champion of quality. SIRIM has always played a major role in the development of the country’s private sector. By tapping into our expertise and knowledge base, we focus on developing new technologies and improvements in the manufacturing, technology and services sectors. We nurture Small Medium Enterprises (SME) growth with solutions for technology penetration and upgrading, making it an ideal technology partner for SMEs.

PARTNER

HashiCorp provides infrastructure automation software for multi-cloud environments, enabling enterprises to unlock a common cloud operating model to provision, secure, connect, and run any application on any infrastructure. HashiCorp tools allow organizations to deliver applications faster by helping enterprises transition from manual processes and ITIL practices to self-service automation and DevOps practices. 

PARTNER

IBM is a leading global hybrid cloud and AI, and business services provider. We help clients in more than 175 countries capitalize on insights from their data, streamline business processes, reduce costs and gain the competitive edge in their industries. Nearly 3,000 government and corporate entities in critical infrastructure areas such as financial services, telecommunications and healthcare rely on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift to affect their digital transformations quickly, efficiently and securely. IBM’s breakthrough innovations in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions and business services deliver open and flexible options to our clients. All of this is backed by IBM’s legendary commitment to trust, transparency, responsibility, inclusivity and service.