Katsutoshi Tsuji joined our virtual reality (VR) accessibility research and provided a lot of insightful feedback. You can read what he shared in Virtual Reality Accessibility: 11 Things We Learned from Blind Users After he tried the Equal Entry virtual reality environment, we interviewed him to gain insights on virtual reality from his perspective as a person who is blind.
Have you ever used or had any thoughts on virtual reality?
This was my first time using virtual reality. I had this image of sound moving around my body in various directions, but I was surprised at how subtle it was. The experience was not very different from everyday life. I had imagined that there would be a lot of sounds coming at me and many things happening at the same time.
What would you want to do in virtual reality?
I think it would be nice if I could visit a new place before I actually go there. For example, the virtual reality environment I tested announced how many feet there were to the door of a conference room.
If you can add ambient sounds of the actual place and make it sound like you’re actually walking there, that would be a good simulation of going there. I think it helps when you physically go to the place. For the visually impaired, landmarks are, for example, the sound of a train station, like some machine going ding-dong.
It’s hard to tell these days. I think it depends on the store. For example, in the old days, McDonald’s would play their own music. In the past, you could recognize McDonald’s because the McDonald’s song played. Another example is Big Camera — a consumer electronics retailer chain in Japan — playing their theme song. I think it would be interesting to mix the sounds of those places and simulate the physical visit.
What was your impression of the Equal Entry virtual reality environment?
I’ve only really used hand controllers for gaming, so this is the first time I’ve tried something that I could use for practical reasons. The convenience store is very interesting. I have always thought that it is better not to touch convenience store products before buying them. At the same time, I want to know what kind of products are sold there. I think it would be fun to shop if I know what items are sold in convenience stores.
For example, if you ask for a bottle of oolong tea, they give you one. However, they don’t tell you what products are next to oolong tea. If there is rooibos tea next to it, I would not notice. So, I think virtual reality can make it fun to go shopping. Usually, visually impaired people need to have a purpose when we go shopping. We are not good at window shopping.
Let’s say, for instance, I don’t really think about things like “Oh, there’s a new cake in the show window.” I am more like, “I want that maroon cake, so I go get one.” We need a clear goal when we go out and buy something. I can’t be like “Oh, this strawberry cake looks delicious.” I believe it will open up a lot of possibilities.
About Katsutoshi Tsuji
Katsutoshi has congenital total blindness and has used screen readers every day for over 30 years. He uses a white cane to walk around. He likes to play computer games such as “Street Fighter.” Katsutoshi works for SmartHR as an accessibility specialist. In Japan, there is a lot of paperwork that requires physical paper. He is working to take advantage of technologies to make them accessible to people with disabilities.
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