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Facilitating Accessibility in Performance: Participatory Design for Digital Musical Instruments

People with complex disabilities (conditions that affect both cognitive and motor abilities) can use technology to assist them in music performance. In such “facilitated performance,” musicians are supported by musical experts and other facilitators. This report explores facilitated performances as a design space where multilevel social interactions exist surrounding the technology. Results suggest that including facilitators in the design of Digital Musical Instruments (DMIs) could allow for improved accessibility for users with complex disabilities. During this project a gesture-based technology probe was deployed to explore the potential of embodied interactions with digital instruments for this user group. Outcomes show the social relationships between performer and facilitator to be paramount to success, and as such highlights Participatory Design as a strong design methodology for Facilitated Performance. Facilitators can be considered to be gatekeepers to musical activity for performers with complex disabilities. Not only because they possess a multitude of knowledge around music performance and technologies involved, but also because they are most equipped to communicate this knowledge to the performer. As there is limited research about this practice, designers and developers of DMIs wishing to optimize their products for this setting should consider participatory design methods through engaging facilitators in their product testing and development.

JAES Volume 66 Issue 4 pp. 211-219; April 2018
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AES - Audio Engineering Society