On October 8th, 2015, representatives from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the MBTA’s department of Architecture, and the MBTA’s department of System-Wide Accessibility were in conversation with Sam Auinger and Bruce Odland (O+A, http://www.o-a.info/) in addition to students from Northeastern University’s Architecture Program, Northeaster University’s Information Design and Visualization Program, and Harvard University’s GSD. The conversations between these groups will help O+A’s upcoming installation in the Ruggles Station as part of an exhibition sponsored by the Gardner museum and Northeastern Univeristy.
Notes from the Meeting:
The Office of System-Wide Accessibility
- identifies issues of disability services on MBTA transit
- trains front-line handling of situations where patrons need assistance
- oversees maintenance of accessibility technology and tools (speakers, signs, elevators, etc)
- publishes a quarterly report on accessibility functionality
- works with both fixed-route and para-transit services
- recent improvements:
- wayfinding for the blind
- audible countdowns for the trains arriving next
- Information Equivalency
- how can information many people take in visually be translated to sound and tactile sensations?
- with non-consistent train station layouts, how can acoustic localization be upheld?
- how can various sound information remain distinct? how can sound information be withheld in efforts to direct the flow of information release?
- when is sound puddling effective communication in happenstance events, such as maintenance or repair of accessibility technology?
- Accessibility needs call for consistency; they aim to clarify information with a lack of cacophony.
- Sounds perceived as “ambient” or “noise” by most can actually be sonic information for the blind.
- With the many competing sounds of transit, commerce, and socialization, sonic information competes with masking forces.
Department of Architecture
- internal department of the MBTA
- focuses on repairs and additions of current train stations as well as construction of new facilities
- Art in train stations has always be in policy, but never has it been standardized
- Temporary Art in train stations has recently had a policy clarified. Artists must suggest space and idea to be reviewed by architecture and accessibility departments. The cost to produce and install will be on the artist.
- Integral Art is an enhancement to the underlying structure of the train station is partially funded by the US government. Artists/designers will work directly with architecture firms and their work will be incorporated into the construction bids. A fabrication company will then be hired to create the art and install it.
- Policy is now in place to make sure both types of art in train stations is decided on fairly and with open procurement.
- Art needs to consider the fundamental use of the space, how it affects accessibility of the space, and safety of materials.