Sonification is the use of non-speech audio to convey information or perceptualize data. In a nutshell, sounds have meaning. For decades, sonification has been an advanced tool for students who are blind or low vision, particularly for math. Math tools, such as talking graphing calculators, use sonification to provide critical information about charts and graphs. Sonification is being used by professionals in STEM fields to access and interpret data, such as astronomers studying exoplanets. In recent years, numerous new sonification tools have been created or are currently under development. Sonification is being applied to a variety of tasks; sonification is for everyone! Preschoolers to seasoned professionals and people with and without vision are gleaning important information from sonified resources!
Benefits of Sonification for Users Who are Blind or Low Vision
- Independence: Sonification enables users who are blind or low vision to access information
- Speed: Using sonification is a faster process than exploring a tactile graph
- Sonification can be applied to make digital materials accessible (and easily sharable)
- Sonification is used to get a quick overview (such as a trend of a chart) before diving into the content; enables the user to ‘scan’ information quickly
- Sonification allows for free exploration, not bound by visual representations and frameworks
*From the World Sonification Chat group (WSC)
Advancements in technology are driving new applications for sonification, which in turn, is making sonification an important technology skill for students who are blind or visually impaired. How can sonification be applied to tasks for students who are blind or low vision?
- Ability to follow a sonified line on a touch screen device
- Access graph and chart information
- Access map information
- Access science data
- Access space data
Recently, there has been an organized interest in introducing sonification to young BLV students in age-appropriate activities, through simple apps. Just like other tech skills are introduced early, sonification should be introduced early and progressively grow as the student moves from elementary, middle and high school courses.
This Sonification Summary Page contains a list of and links to Paths to Technology posts about sonification. The Sonification Summary Page will be updated as more posts are published.
General Sonification Posts
- Sonification: Sounds with Meaning Activity Examples of sonified line charts and what they mean. (Using SAS Graphics Accelerator software)
- Sonification The Diagram Center, a leading research and development center dedicated to making images accessible, published an article about sonification: what it is, why it is beneficial and how it can be used in the classroom.
- Discovering Sonification Information and video which introduces sonfication, Sonification World Chat group, and Ballyland Sonoplanet. Ballyland Sonoplanet is an app currently under development geared for young BLV students which introduces sonification technology skills/concepts using engaging science content.
Math-Related Sonification Posts
- Sonic Math Fundamentals App (Intro to sonification for preschool and kindergarten students; tracing digital lines and shapes which are sonified)
Space-Related Sonification Posts
- Chandra X-Ray Observatory Posts:
- Space Telescope Science Institute Astronify:
- Reach for the Stars: An Accessible Astronomy Textbook Reach for the Stars iBook has interactive, sonified images; the post includes a video that demonstrates some of the interactive images.
- SAS Graphics Accelerator Posts with Space Activities
Coding-Related Sonification Posts
O&M-Releated Sonification Posts
- Map Explore: New O&M Game! O&Ms can create accessible digital maps in this app using Google Maps. The maps automatically generate streets which are sonified, allowing students to trace the streets on an iPad or Android tablet. The streets are announced along with the customized tags.
Misc. Sonification Posts
Proof-of-Concept Apps (not yet publicly released)
- Sonitunes (Digital Lines App): University AT Project Sonitunes is a proof-of-concept app (currently not available publicly). Sonitunes takes a variety of educational classroom skills and makes these digital activities accessible through sonification for young students. (A video of the Sonitunes app is embedded into this post.)
- Cosmic Numbers: Accessible Number Line App Semester 2 Cosmic Numbers is a proof-of-concept accessible number line app with 8 number line skills games. (Note: This version of Cosmic Numbers does NOT use sonified number lines; however, sonifying the lines would make this app even better!)
Specific Tablets with Sonification
By Diane Brauner