Creating inclusive spaces through music

Deborah Fels, Inclusive Media and Design Centre, Ryerson University, accessibility, VibroFusion Lab, vibrotactile, sensory experiences, music, emoti-chair, inclusion, National Accessibility Awareness WeekRyerson University researcher Deborah Fels is no stranger to breaking down barriers and creating inclusive tools and spaces.

Her Tecla Shield 3—developed in partnership with Komodo OpenLab at OCAD University—made smartphones accessible to everyone, allowing people to communicate on their devices through customized hands-free gestures to activate switches and access apps.

This week, to coincide with National AccessAbility Week and the re-launch of the Council of Universities’ AccessibleCampus.ca, we’re turning our focus to Ontario researchers who are using their work to contribute to an accessible future.

And Fels’ latest venture is no exception. The director of Ryerson’s Inclusive Design and Media Centre teamed up with artist David Bobier to make music a truly universal language. Together, the two founded the VibraFusion Lab, which uses vibrations to create time-based media art. Artists are able to experiment with music as a vibrotactile experience (perceiving vibration through touch).

Fels’ research examines how sensory experiences can enable people of all abilities to enjoy artistic expression and participate in cultural events.

“Not only does this provide new and exciting opportunities for artistic expression, but it is also more inclusive and accessible for artists and audiences with disabilities, particularly those who are deaf or blind,” Fels told Ryerson in a recent interview.

Her work with the VibraFusion Lab, builds upon the success of her Alternative Sensory Information Display (ASID) Emoti-Chair, which is a sensory chair that amplifies theatre experiences, letting users experience music through vibrations.

To learn more about Fels’ work and initiatives from Ryerson’s School of Disability Studies, see a previous Research Matters blog on the Paralympics and accessibility.

Visit www.accessiblecampus.ca to find out what Ontario universities are doing to create inclusive and accessible spaces. The site is a comprehensive online resource for administrators and educators, and includes tools to create accessible syllabuses, classrooms, and digital documents, as well as a section on mental health. See our second post on accessibility research here.

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