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Christmas lights at Plaza de Canalejas in Madrid

Madrid app helps blind people enjoy the city’s Christmas lights

Madrid app helps blind people enjoy the city’s Christmas lights

Navidad Accesible can lead the user on a wholesome guided audio tour

The Christmas lights are on in Madrid and to mark that occasion the municipal website announced that it is bringing back the successful Navidad Accesible (Accessible Christmas) mobile app for the second year in a row. This application allows residents and visitors with visual and intellectual disabilities to experience the Christmas decorations much like everyone else, with the aim of ensuring total inclusivity at such an important time.

Emblematic sites and four possible routes

The ‘Accessible Christmas' app tour has grown to include 31 visiting points this year, among which there are such emblematic places as Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, Gran Vía or Plaza de España, which was recently reopened. As a novelty, this year, the application has incorporated the possibility of taking guided routes, an option of four routes with which one can experience the lights that are grouped by location to make the walk more comfortable and simpler.

The way it works is that the app has audio narrating to people what is being shown in front of them. When the user activates the location system on his phone, the app activates near the lights included in the application. At that moment, the audio description is played, providing information about the scenes that the lighting represents, the colours, the sensations they transmit and additional information about its creation and its designers. The app provides this information without scrolling through a search in the list of available streets.

There are three formats of audio narrative descriptions. Two of them are designed for adults, one is with a synthetic voice and another with a real actor’s voice. The third is an option meant for children, with children’s narrators and clearer and simpler language.

The system was developed by professors and researchers from the Human Language and Accessibility Technologies Group (HULAT), at the Computer Science Department of Carlos III University of Madrid. Their work is focused on carrying out related R & D & I projects with natural language processing technologies, information retrieval and extraction in various domains, answer search engines and usability and accessibility in user interfaces.

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