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App helps blind visitors appreciate Butler collection

YOUNGSTOWN — Joy Mistovich of Boardman used the Aira app to enjoy attractions ranging from the Westmoreland Museum of American Art outside of Pittsburgh to the St. Louis Aquarium.

Now she can use it at the museum where she works.

The Butler Institute of American Art is an access location for Aira (pronounced like the name Ira), a program designed to help blind and low-vision visitors navigate everything from retail businesses to arts institutions.

Subscribers to the app can use their smart phones to access human agents, who can describe for users what’s in front of them by accessing the phone’s camera. The service can guide users through a store to find the merchandise they want to purchase or, at a place like the Butler, describe details of a painting users might not be able to see without assistance.

“I consider it a springboard for accessibility,” said Mistovich, who has some usable vision in one eye and only light perception in the other eye.

Mistovich, who has been using Aira since 2017, was hired by the Butler in November as an education department assistant and as its digital user experience accessibility specialist. She first pitched the idea to the Butler in January 2020, but its implementation was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more in Sunday’s Vindicator.

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