Laurentino, T.G., Xavier, M., Ronco, F., Pina-Martins, F., Domingues, I., Penha, B., Dias, M., Sousa, A., Carrilho, T., Rodrigues, L.R., Pinheiro, C., Rato, D., Balata, D., Botto, G.A., Matos, M., Campelo, M. & Botelho, R. (2021) EvALLution: making basic evolution concepts accessible to visually impaired people through a multisensory tree of life. Evolution: Education and Outreach, 14(5), 1-14. DOI:10.1186/s12052-021-00143-1.
People with visual impairment have benefitted from recent developments of assistive technology that aim to decrease socio-economic inequality. However, access to post-secondary education is still extremelly challenging, especially for scientific areas. The under representation of people with visual impairment in the evolution research community is connected with the vision-based communication of evolutionary biology knowledge and the accompanying lack of multisensory alternatives for learning.
Here, we describe the development of an inclusive outreach activity based on a multisensory phylogeny representing 20 taxonomic groups. We provide a tool kit of materials and ideas that allow both the replication of this activity and the adaptation of others, to include people with visual impairment. Furthermore, we provide activity evaluation data, a discussion of the lessons learned and an inclusive description of all figures and visual data presented.
The presented baseline data show that people with visual impairment indeed have lack of access to education but are interested in and apt to understand evolutionary biology concepts and predict evolutionary change when education is inclusive.
We show that, with creative investment, basic evolutionary knowledge is perfectly possible to be transmitted through multisensory activities, which everyone can benefit from. Ultimately, we hope this case study will provide a baseline for future initiatives and a more inclusive outreach community.