How do we do what we do? These photos will give you a behind-the-scenes look at our work.
Brett Oppegaard, the principal investigator of The UniDescription Project, presented about the project's scope, focus, and research agenda, including sharing initial research findings, to a group of about 20 Harpers Ferry Center Interpretive Design Center staff members in 2019. This West Virginia center is the hub of design in the U.S. National Park Service, and The UniDescription Project was seeded and has been significantly supported since 2014 by the NPS through multiple federal grants. In this scene, Dr. Oppegaard is shown far in the background of a conference room, on the far side of a long wooden conference table, with the NPS staff gathered around the table, in rolling chairs, listening to the presentation.
UniD researcher Brett Oppegaard, right, uses an audio recorder to capture the thoughts of Bob Hachey, center, as they walk across the North Bridge with NPS staff member Steve Neth at Minute Man National Historical Park near Concord, MA. Hachey, a former president of the Bay State Council of the Blind, and Neth, a museum technician at Minute Man, were collaborating on a field test of the UniDescription project at the site in July 2018. The North Bridge, which spans the Concord River, is the location of a key opening battle of the American Revolution, a moment Ralph Waldo Emerson memorialized in poetry as the "shot heard round the world." In this image, the three are walking across that famous bridge, toward the viewer but to the left, like they are passing by on a two-lane path, with Hachey holding onto Neth's arm for guidance and using his left hand to use his white walking cane. Oppegaard holds the audio recorder in his right hand, as close to Hachey as comfortable, to try to pick up his verbal comments about the environment and evaluations of the Audio Description in the UniD app that he had heard about it. Oppegaard wears a tan vest, with a NPS Volunteer logo on it, to indicate he is on official business. Neth has a lanyard around his neck, also as a form of identification. They both wear long pants. Hachey is wearing shorts and sandals, though, more reflective of the pleasantness of the sunny day. In the background of this scene is a forested area, where an obelisk of a monument rises on a small grassy hill and also tells the story of this place (although without sound). The dirt path is a bit muddy, indicating that despite the current weather, it had rained recently.
Associate Professor Brett Oppegaard of the University of Hawaii, who also is the principal investigator on The UniDescription Project, presented a workshop at the University of Piraeus in the urban area of Athens, Greece. There were about 50 UP students in attendance, but this image shows Dr. Oppegaard standing at the front of a classroom, with a Powerpoint slide projected on the large screen behind him, titled "Audio Description in Athens: Making Locative Media in the Wild." In this workshop, he taught UP students how to audio describe artifacts at the nearby Acropolis Museum.
Sajja Koirala, a UniDescription project research assistant and PhD student at the University of Hawaii, tested the UniD Audio Description available at Denali National Park & Preserve during her visit in 2018. In this image, Koirala is standing under a wooden sign, about 20-feet-tall, that states in carved lettering: "Mt. McKinley Princess" and "Wilderness Lodge." It's a cloudy day, so some of the peaks are not visible, but the majesty of the Denali mountains can be seen in the background, framed within the sign's posts. Koirala has her phone in her hands and is listening to the description via headphones.
A dozen people are gathered in a nondescript conference room – on the third floor of Crawford Hall at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in September 2017 – to participate in a focus group about Audio Description. The tables are configured in a T shape, roughly in the middle of the image, with the top of the T to the right. Ten of the people are seated at the table, engaged or listening to the discussion. UniD's Principal Investigator, Brett Oppegaard, UniD's NPS liaison, Michele Hartley, and UniD Research Assistant, Sajja Koirala, are at the base of the table, on the left-hand side of the image. The two people not at the table are behind it. They are a couple of young, female college students with video cameras and sound equipment, who are recording the proceedings. The other seven participants are a diverse group of men and women (and at least one visible guide dog) from the Hawaii Association of the Blind (the state chapter of the American Council of the Blind). A projection screen above that table's T top shows the 2017 homepage of www.unidescription.com, which featured at that time research assistant Sajja Koirala using her smartphone to listen to UniD Audio Description, with distinctive Hawaiian greenery, such as a Birds of Paradise bush, behind her.
The second virtual Descriptathon had a large support team behind it. This image shows a conference room in Crawford Hall at the University of Hawai'i, where most of the core group of Descriptathon administrators gathered to host the 28-team event. These eight people are sitting around a rectangular table. If you imagine the table as sort of a Daliesque clock, with Research Assistant Tuyet Hayes, in a bright pink shirt at the Noon position, the rest of the team, clockwise, is: Consultant Annie Leist, Consultant Sina Bahram, Developer Joe Oppegaard, Co-PI Thomas Conway, PI Brett Oppegaard, NPS Accessibility Coordinator Michele Hartley, and Research Assistant Phil Jordan. Everyone has a laptop in front of them and is busily working, except Jordan, who is standing next to Hartley and talking with her about a piece of paper he is holding.
Even our first Descriptathon was held virtually, but that one involved a core group of participants working together physically in a conference room at the Harpers Ferry Interpretive Design Center in Harpers Ferry, WV. This September 2016 image shows those four people sitting around a rectangular conference-room table. From the viewer's perspective, on the left side of the table, from nearest to farthest, are Joe Oppegaard (from Montana Banana Web and Mobile Development company) and Michele Hartley (the U.S. National Park Service's Accessibility Coordinator). On the right side of the table, which is stretched lengthwise away from the viewer, are Phil Jordan (a Research Assistant) and Brett Oppegaard (the project's principal investigator). Each person has an open laptop in front of them. There are papers strewn throughout the table. There also are coffee cups and water bottles. They all are smiling and looking directly at the camera. At the far end of the table is a screen that drops down from the ceiling. Projected onto it is a website supporting the Descriptathon. A large American flag is on a pole in the corner of the room.
As a way to build the Audio Description community, we also openly share our research