How do you make waysides accessible to visitors who are blind or have low vision? A piece of the puzzle includes audio description. In the fall of 2011 Harpers Ferry Center set out to find the latest outdoor audio equipment that had a small footprint, was sustainable and readily available to visitors, particularly in remote locations where access to the visitor center or a ranger station was limited. HFC's wayside producer Bruce Kaiser identified a small solar panel audio player he thought would do the job. But would it work 24/7 regardless of cold temperatures and the darker days of winter? HFC purchased the player for testing. Over a year later after monitoring outdoors and in a freezer with all light sources blocked, the audio program played on every push of the button—even after sustaining a hit from a snow plough.
When a wayside honoring the United States Park Police was produced, this equipment was selected with confidence as the means to provide access. Is it the only solution? No. Depending on the logistics of your project, such as location, scope and tree cover, other options may be more appropriate. Price will also vary depending on the scope.
This player came with two buttons and is not the only solar-powered audio unit available on the market. In addition to audio description, additional buttons may be considered and used for language translation and interpretive narration.
For more information on making waysides accessible, please contact Michele Hartley, Media Accessibility Coordinator, Harpers Ferry Center: 304-535-6083.
Last updated: April 9, 2018