Accessible Data Representation with Natural Sound

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Md Naimul Hoque, Md Ehtesham-Ul-Haque, Niklas Elmqvist, and Syed Masum Billah. 2023. Accessible Data Representation with Natural Sound. In Proceedings of the 2023 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’23), April 23–28, 2023, Hamburg, Germany. ACM, New York, NY, USA, 19 pages.


Sonification translates data into non-speech audio. Such auditory representations can make data visualization accessible to people who are blind or have low vision (BLV). This paper presents a sonification method for translating common data visualization into a blend of natural sounds. We hypothesize that people’s familiarity with sounds drawn from nature, such as birds singing in a forest, and their ability to listen to these sounds in parallel, will enable BLV users to perceive multiple data points being sonified at the same time. Informed by an extensive literature review and a preliminary study with 5 BLV participants, we designed an accessible data representation tool, Susurrus, that combines our sonification method with other accessibility features, such as keyboard interaction and text-to-speech feedback. Finally, we conducted a user study with 12 BLV participants and report the potential and application of natural sounds for sonification compared to existing sonification tools.