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OBA: An Inclusive Botanical Garden for Children with ASD

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Universal Access in Human-Computer Interaction (HCII 2023)

Part of the book series: Lecture Notes in Computer Science ((LNCS,volume 14020))

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In recent years, the mission of museums has expanded, adding to the preservation of cultural heritage the need to reach ever new users, including those with special needs. Accessibility has become a central issue in enabling people with physical, sensory, or cognitive disabilities to access culture. In our work, we focus on visit to the Pisa Botanical Garden and Museum by children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and cognitive impairments. Contact with nature has important therapeutic functions for children with ASD. However, new environments and unfamiliar sensory stimuli can unsettle them. The goal of our work was to use the appeal of technology to create an interactive website that allows them to learn about the garden before visiting it. The website is accessible to children with ASD and includes multimedia materials and educational games. The main purpose is to help teachers find a way of inclusion for educational visits, since in Italy children with ASD are included in traditional school lessons. The site was developed in a participatory way together with garden operators, teachers, caregivers and by observing children with ASD. The site was initially tested in 2019 during three school visits with four male youth with ASD, whose observations triggered an iterative improvement process. Usability testing followed from 2021, involving four classes from an elementary school. The results of the SUS questionnaire showed great potential; children with ASD were enthusiastic about the activities carried out and expressed interest in repeating the virtual experience long after the museum visit.

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We thank the staff of the Pisa Botanical Garden and Museum and the staff of the University of Pisa involved in museum accessibility projects for their helpfulness.

We thank the experts in psychology and psychotherapy from Synopsis Pisa and the ASD specialists from the Autism Association Pisa Onlus for their support in understanding this neurodevelopmental disorder.

Thank you to the experts of IT of CNR Pisa for their support in the concrete implementation of the technological material.

Finally, special thanks to the children with ASD, their families and caregivers who participated in the pre-tests and to the schools that participated in the final tests.

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Correspondence to Susanna Pelagatti .

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Pelagatti, S., Poggianti, C. (2023). OBA: An Inclusive Botanical Garden for Children with ASD. In: Antona, M., Stephanidis, C. (eds) Universal Access in Human-Computer Interaction. HCII 2023. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 14020. Springer, Cham.

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