ML&F, Museum & Library Furniture LLC
Detail of the Gallery Bench, Slat

Ideas and Updates

A Sitting Place as an Active Medium

A Bench with Braille and Embossed Illustrations or Graphs

Imagine warm evening sunlight saturating a beautiful landscape. Imagine pastel farm buildings, a copse of yellow trees, a glistening crystal pond and blue hills in the distance. Imagine a wide, comfortable bench inviting you to sit and take it all in.

Now imagine yourself sightless.

Is there something to do, some way to provide you a description of the view? Or is there a way to evoke feelings about the unseen view? Would it be possible for you to read about the view in Braille? Or might you run your fingers over textures and symbols that describe and explain what others can see?

I met Campbell, a young man working at IHCD in Boston, who has been sightless since birth. A user-expert, he had been assigned to evaluate my bench. Asked if he would read a description in Braille of objects or landscapes if it were provided, he told me that he would. Or read a poem written in Braille? We talked about tactile symbols to evoke or explain. He showed me a comfortable posture and the likely location on the bench for him to touch the embossed message. We talked about the possibility of hearing about such a bench, and whether or not he would seek it out.

So I took away the idea that we must provide a tactile experience so that the sightless sitter can experience and enjoy the view.

Tom Shiner FAIA

Photo of bench