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Hearing a Circle: An Exploratory Study of Accessible Sonification for Young Children with Blindness and Low Vision
Sonokids Australia

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This paper describes a qualitative study of educational outcomes for 0–8-year-old children with blindness and low vision (BLV) who are learning sonification concepts. Children with BLV experience barriers to accessing education and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), fields which traditionally rely heavily on visual representation of information. There is growing awareness of the potential of sonification, a technology to represent data and information in non-speech audio, to improve education access. While early learning of assistive technology skills is deemed essential for equity of access to education across the curriculum, children are generally not introduced to the concept of sonification at school until at academic level in secondary or tertiary education. Little is known about how young children with BLV engage with this promising technology. Phase 1 of the project consisted of the development of ‘CosmoBally on Sonoplanet’, an accessible, educational game application for iPads and Android tablets. In phase 2, an online qualitative survey collected formal responses from users of this app to Likert scale and open-ended questions. The majority of the 17 respondents were (specialist) educators, and five of the respondents identified as having BLV. The survey investigated respondents’ perceptions of the capabilities of young children with BLV in using basic sonification in ‘CosmoBally on Sonoplanet’ to identify shapes - including a circle-, orientate in a digital grid and create drawings on a touch screen. Results suggest that young children with BLV can learn sonification skills and that they additionally build relevant non-sonification skills during this learning process. This paper aims to provide a first insight into best practice around early learning of sonification as a potential tool for increased access and inclusion of children with BLV to STEM subjects in school.