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evALLution: making basic evolution concepts accessible to people with visual impairment through a multisensory tree of life

  • Laurentino, Telma G.1, 2
  • Xavier, Marisa3
  • Ronco, Fabrizia1
  • Pina-Martins, Francisco4
  • Domingues, Iolanda5
  • Penha, Bruno4
  • Dias, Marta4
  • de Sousa, Alexandra5, 6, 7
  • Carrilho, Tiago8
  • Rodrigues, Leonor R.4
  • Pinheiro, Carlota4
  • Rato, Daniela8
  • Balata, Duarte4
  • Ayala-Botto, Gonçalo8
  • Matos, Margarida4
  • Campelo, Maria9
  • Botelho, Rafael8
  • 1 Zoology, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland , Basel (Switzerland)
  • 2 University of California, Berkeley, CA, 94720, USA , Berkeley (United States)
  • 3 Mariza Xavier Design, Lisbon, Portugal , Lisbon (Portugal)
  • 4 Universidade de Lisboa (ULisboa), Campo Grande, Lisbon, 1749-016, Portugal , Lisbon (Portugal)
  • 5 University of Exeter, Exeter, UK , Exeter (United Kingdom)
  • 6 Bath Spa University, Bath, UK , Bath (United Kingdom)
  • 7 University of Bath, Bath, UK , Bath (United Kingdom)
  • 8 Centro Pedagógico Do Jardim Zoológico de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal , Lisbon (Portugal)
  • 9 Tutisfore, Lisbon, Portugal , Lisbon (Portugal)
Published Article
Evolution: Education and Outreach
Springer US
Publication Date
Mar 11, 2021
DOI: 10.1186/s12052-021-00143-1
Springer Nature


BackgroundPeople 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.ResultsHere, 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.ConclusionsWe 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.

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