$98,809 NEH grant to increase Clio accessibility for visually impaired

 The Marshall University-founded history app, Clio, has received a $98,809 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities this month to improve accessibility of the app for users who are visually impaired. Clio will collaborate with the American Foundation for the Blind on the project.

The Digital Humanities Advancement Grant is being presented to the Marshall University Research Corporation for a project titled, “Accessibility in Digital Humanities: Making Clio Available to All,” conducted under the leadership of Clio founder Dr. David Trowbridge, an associate professor of history at Marshall.

Clio (https://www.theclio.com) is a website and mobile app that allows educators and cultural institutions to design mobile tours for exploring local history and culture. The GPS-guided mobile app provides its users with information and photos and allows them to hear interviews and experience walking tours detailing historic sites in the vicinity. It features thousands of historic locations throughout the United States.

Partnering with the American Foundation for the Blind, Trowbridge and the team of local software engineers who built Clio will review each aspect of the educational website and mobile application for accessibility. Trowbridge will also work with Marshall University faculty and students as well as former AmeriCorps members who served with Clio via Preservation West Virginia throughout the year as they test features and build accessible guides and instructional videos.

As more universities, historical societies, museums, libraries, and other organizations use Clio — which is designed with the help of Strictly Business in Huntington — to connect residents and visitors to the history and culture of their communities, Trowbridge and his team say they hope that these guides and videos will ensure that everyone will have the chance to contribute and utilize Clio. Trowbridge also hopes that Clio will be a model for other digital humanities projects.

“By building an accessible website and native application, we hope to make it possible for millions of Americans with vision loss to discover and enjoy immersive and location-based humanities scholarship that includes audio narration and oral histories,” Trowbridge said. “New features will include an expansion of our current text-to-speech feature and more options for users to make text fields accessible by allowing users to alter the size, font, color, and contrast of each text-based section. We will also add alt-text fields and other features as identified by the digital accessibility experts at AFB.”

Each day, Clio connects over 5,000 people to nearby historical and cultural sites. Clio is nonprofit and free for everyone, with a library of historical and cultural sites that has grown to over 30,000 entries and over 600 complete walking tours.

“Clio is a fantastic public history resource for anyone with a mobile device,” said Dr. Robert Bookwalter, dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Marshall. “Dr. Trowbridge has created a widely accessible public history museum that we can access in the palm of our hand.  This NEH grant is making it possible to enrich the content and make information available to a broader range of users.  I am grateful to the NEH for their support, and to all of the contributors to Clio who have made it a valuable tool for learning about our communities and our culture.”