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lit up building of the Eisenhower Memorial
Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission)

When the new Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial opens on September 17 in Washington, D.C., visitors who are blind or visually-impaired will have a more robust audio description experience through the help of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s UniDescription (UniD) Project. The memorial honors Eisenhower, who was the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II and the 34th President of the United States.

In August 2020, the UniD project team worked with Eisenhower Memorial staff members to address media-accessibility issues in preparation for the memorial’s grand opening. The team translated visual media, such as photographs and maps, into acoustic media allowing people with vision impairment or low vision to hear what the eye might not be able to see.

Since UniD‘s launch in 2014, more than 100 U.S. National Park Service (NPS) sites have collaborated with the project. In addition to the Eisenhower Memorial, more than a dozen NPS sites in the National Mall are now utilizing UniD to help make them more accessible through improved audio description. Other sites include the Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, World War II Memorial and Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, among other nationally important cultural and historical sites in the Washington, D.C. area.

UniDescription Project

The UniD project is a grant-funded research initiative based at UH Mānoa. Its mission is to bring unity to the world of audio description.

The project was recently awarded a $50,000 grant from NPS to continue its research on audio description. This latest grant will be focused on improving media accessibility with NPS collaborators in the Midwest.

The team is led by associate professor and principal investigator Brett Oppegaard in the School of Communications in the College of Social Sciences; and faculty member Thomas Conway, training and instruction coordinator at the Center on Disability Studies. Sajja Koirala, a doctoral student in the Communication and Information Sciences interdisciplinary PhD program, is also a member of the team.

Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial

Designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, the memorial encapsulates Eisenhower’s legacy in a four-acre urban park at the base of Capitol Hill. A transparent stainless-steel woven tapestry frames the entire memorial within its urban context and portrays an abstract artistic depiction of the cliffs of the Normandy coastline in peacetime to represent the peace Eisenhower won as Supreme Commander and then preserved as Commander in Chief.

The memorial site, located on Independence and Maryland avenues, is bordered by buildings that reflect the lasting legacy of the 34th President including the Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, Voice of America, National Air and Space Museum and the Federal Aviation Administration.

—By Lisa Shirota

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