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Envision Teams With Sonify And Wichita Community Foundation To Ensure Access To Open Data For Individuals Who Are Blind Or Visually Impaired

June 10, 2020
Wichita – Envision announced today that it is part of a collaborative team that has received a $140,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to explore the use of audio components to ensure accessibility of Open Data to users who are blind or visually impaired (BVI). The Wichita-based not-for-profit organization, which is dedicated to inspiring and improving the quality of life of individuals who are blind or visually impaired, is joining forces with Sonify, a New York City-based data-sonification, voice and analytics company, and the Wichita Community Foundation, the fiscal agent of the Wichita Journalism Collaborative, a storytelling network, on the project.
 
The grant is part of more than $1 million that the Knight Foundation is awarding today to fund seven innovative projects throughout the country that are intended to build smarter, more engaged communities through data. The Knight Foundation said the projects will develop new models of public trust around big data and serve as a spark for civic dialog and conversation that will help residents be part of developing solutions for community challenges.
 
The Wichita-based team will explore how to best use audio to enable data-driven storytelling and allow individuals with vision loss to become more engaged and active in their communities. They will train a group of community journalists in the use of data portals and emerging audio technologies, produce proof of concept audio pieces using publicly available data from Open Data portals, and test and evaluate these pieces. All research findings and project documentation will be made public.
 
“We are honored and excited to be part of this project, and grateful to the Knight Foundation for making it possible,” said Heather Hogan, senior vice president for foundation & mission services at Envision. “Accessibility for all is a cornerstone of our mission. Combining our resources with the expertise in storytelling, technology and applied research represented by Sonify and the Wichita Community Foundation, we intend to establish clearer pathways through which to better engage with and benefit those we serve as a way to ultimately improve communities for all.”
 
“We are looking forward to working with the team at Envision to test new approaches for communicating data with sound,” said Hugh McGrory, co-founder of Sonify. “We hope that together we can help make Open Data truly open, accessible and inclusive for blind or visually impaired residents to become more engaged and active in their communities. Envision’s long-standing, robust ecosystem is an essential element of this project.”
 
“It’s not often that storytellers, technologists and applied researchers come together to problem-solve ways to increase inclusivity and access to information,” said Courtney Bengtson, director of strategic initiatives for Wichita Community Foundation. “An even more exciting component of this work is that the blind or visually impaired community will be directly involved in the experimentation and findings of the work. The end result will be data-driven audio solutions we can all benefit from as consumers of information.”
 
About Envision: Envision promotes advocacy and independence for those who are blind or low vision. Founded in 1933, Envision is one of the largest employers of individuals with vision loss in the nation. Headquartered in Wichita, Kan., Envision’s mission is to improve the quality of life and provide inspiration and opportunity for people who are blind or visually impaired through employment, outreach, rehabilitation, education and research. For more information, visit www.envisionus.com.
 
About Sonify: Sonify is a data-sonification, voice and analytics company based in New York City. Sonify is co-founded by Hugh McGrory and Debra (Anderson) McGrory. Hugh and Debra's data-driven products have included the TwoTone data sonification tool built with support from Google News Initiative, Geometric (WebXR geospatial immersive visualization) used in projects for the United Nations, and Airfield (spatialized audio) built with a Journalism360 award from the Online News Association. For more information email debra@sonify.io or call 917.363.6027
 
About the Wichita Community Foundation: Founded in 1986, the Wichita Community Foundation’s mission is to be the catalyst that creates lasting legacies by partnering with people, families, and organizations to devote resources to causes that matter. Through WCF’s News and Information Initiative, the Foundation strives to create a more informed city by strengthening Wichita’s local news ecosystem. WCF is a public nonprofit organization with more than 300 charitable funds and agency endowments, representing $83 million. For more information, visit wichitacf.org or call 316-264-4880
 
 

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