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Beyond the Visuals

An Audio Description App for the Smithsonian’s Fossil Hall

Project Services

  • User interface design
  • Graphic/visual design
  • Mobile app
“We wanted every visitor coming to the National Museum of Natural History to have the potential to have the same experience as anyone else,” said Samantha Barry, visitor experience and accessibility manager for the National Museum of Natural History. With RLMG’s app for blind and low vision visitors, the Smithsonian is able to provide that experience in its Hall of Fossils.


Custom descriptions, prompts, and visuals combine in the Deep Time app to provide blind and low-vision visitors access to fossils, interactive activities, tactile displays, and videos in the Smithsonian’s Fossil Hall. The app is designed for both iOS and Android devices and uses a phone’s pre-established accessibility settings and screen reader, allowing visitors to explore on their own and go at their own speed.

By building off of a smart phone’s pre-established accessibility settings and screen reader, the app integrates with controls that vision-impaired visitors are already familiar with. Customizable modes reflect a visitor’s personal preferences. An easy-to-use interface encourages independent exploration at any pace. Input from members of the vision-impaired community was an integral part of developing a delightful and intuitive experience with accessibility at the forefront. Feedback was sought at every stage, from initial surveys to post-launch evaluation.


Visitors use the accessibility features built into the iOS and Android operating systems on their own personal devices. The app’s customizable features allow users to control type size, light and dark modes, and the text-to-speech feature at their preferred playback speed. (Devices are also available for use at the museum.)