Vitra caleidoscope

Vitra caleidoscope

Monday, 14 July 2014


Pwlina Papanikolaou is a 31-year old legal base criminologist, activist and researcher. Born partially sighted, she completed her primary and secondary education, graduating from the classic Hellenic general high school. She entered the Law school in Athens, Greece and quickly she got engaged to the movement of Equal Opportunities and Rights for the Partially Sighted and overall, for Persons with Disability. Pwlina is specialized in Criminology and the last four years she conducts her PHD research on the victimisation case studies in crimes against the environment (“Green criminology”). She is currently employed in the Ministry of Justice. Pwlina speaks to A4D-D4A about sight and her personal vision, technology and society- and finally- implementing design in everyday life.
Pic above: Pwlina Navigating Intelligence...
More about Pwlina and her admirable universe on her blog:
Central pic above: Pwlina Navigating Intelligence on her I-phone 5

A4D-D4A:Pwlina, what kind of applications, tools or techniques you use daily, for work or leisure?

Pwlina: I started reading and studying by using large-scale typefaces, audio-books and eventually a scanner/printer with a 24- screen reader on a PC with Windows Aero-NVPA (“NVDA”) (NonVisual Desktop Access). I convert photocopies on PDF and OCR files, to read and process them later, with the additional support of Alt Text (Alternative Text) description for pictures and photos. HIL Link database (through Virtual Private Network :VPN) is a big help also, giving access to thousands of magazines and publications. My I-Phone 5 offers some impressive apps as well, like a really good magnifying lens system (Magnificent), also the emoticons are a huge fun to play with, because of the great voice roll-overs. There is a proposal to VOICE OVER all Apple Apps- that would be ideal! The site APVIS.COM  has all kinds of apps to download, compatible with all different kinds of screen readers. I am trained to use the traditional white  cane if needed, which can be used as a kind of landmark  to facilitate interaction with my fellow citizens during public circulation and transport. I AM NOT a Braille user, never been one, and I cannot intonate enough the need to personalize the educational methods and tools for partially sighted people and people in general. Every single one of us is an individual!!!So he/she needs a different approach to learning, according to age, character, abilities, talent, flair etc.

A4D-D4A:You mentioned education. The RNIBP (Royal National Institute for Blind People) in Scotland, launched recently a new program, for training and accessibility of partially sighted, long-term unemployed people, to work. What's the importance of re-designing work environment, in order to absorb more professionals with disability?

P:The importance of education, functionality and accessibility FOR ALL, is huge. The political decisions and strategies need to readdress the agenda towards designing universal working environments for the digital age- places where all people could work together, having access to all the tools and applications they need, in order to be ABLE to work WELL . The more we create systems to engage professionals with a disability - to use their assets, (what THEY CAN DO and not the opposite), the more we eliminate poverty, discrimination and approaching regulation, growth and peace in society.

A4D-D4A:Ecofriendly, sustainable and ethical design is no longer a trend but an wide professional sector, tending to commercial domination and social recognition. You believe there is room for partially  sighted citizens to explore the field further, and attain eventually more equal opportunities and larger working flexibility?

P:It is a matter of how you see things, in the end. We live in a society of post-innovation, giving birth to new sectors and specialization, is also vital. We do not know everything, there is certainly room for knowledge and evolution towards new disciplines.

A4D-D4A:Do you have any favourite objects, buildings, spaces, interfaces, accessories or clothes?

P:Strong colours, touch pads, shapes and contrasts work with me! Especially in public places like the Metro, it is good when you have the staircase ends, defined with strong colours. GPS is a good invention also and speaking PCs and mobiles (laughs)...Google's interactive maps with voice rollovers. Shiny surfaces with colour and TEXTURE, (velvety, fluffy, furry)- I' d love to see embossed posters or maps, with textures you can TOUCH  in the metro, or even ads  spraying scent, triggered by motion detectors, when the passenger stops by... I was impressed in Strasbourg, France, when I heard a full AUDIO description at the ticket point, about how purchasing my ticket. They also do transport plan cards with large typeface, which I also used, designed for PT people. When I am at home, I often use to underline text, my favourite 1.0 lead- mechanical pencil- I don't use highlighters whatsoever.

A4D-D4A:What is the future of a child, born with high percentage of vision deficiency? Could we talk about a generation of partially sighted architects, industrial designers or/and graphic designers in 15 years from now?

P:As I mentioned before, it is a matter of how you see things in the end. Innovation accelerates evolution, in contemporary society. Maybe you should ask – where the percentage of prejudice would be, regarding disability, in 15 years from now? Disability is not a desease. It is a daily situation you deal with, like every other daily mission, and it is part of life.


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