Learning Tool for Visually Impaired Children
In this project, my team and I partnered with the Pittsburgh School for the Blind to develop a product that would make learning easier for pre-braille blind children. Pre-braille is a term for students who are partially or entirely visually impaired and have not learned the braille alphabet yet.
Our research started broad and exploratory, learning as much as we could about the education of the visually impaired. Next we moved to more specific observational research where we would watch the aid and the child throughout the day to see how an aid would facilitate activities with the child, and understand the context in which our solution would live. Finally we moved on to interviewing the aids, the children, and the parents to gain more specific insights.
After evaluating our research, we identified three distinct stakeholders, each with different needs. We aimed to create a product that can improve the experience of each of the stakeholders.
The student goes to and from school each day by car with his parents. On arrival, the student goes through a series of activities led by their aid (often times custom made for the individual’s learning needs). The student’s day is broken down into individual and group activities with multiple teachers with breaks for food and play.
The aid is responsible for multiple students at different ages and levels of education. The aid starts their day hours before the students show up, organizing and planning for activities. Often times the aid is keeping track of multiple students at the same time. The aid is also responsible for keeping the children safe in the classroom, navigating the children through the facility, and cleaning up after activities.
After the parent drops their child off at school, they do not see them again until later in the afternoon. The parent wants to take an active role in the child’s learning, but is often disconnected from the child’s school experience due to lack of communication skills. Sometimes the activities that the parent and child do together outside of school conflict with learning goals in school. The parent is frustrated that they do not have a better idea of what is going on in their child’s education.
Each student has an individual learning process that the aid develops to build fine motor skills and physical sensitivity to be able to find and interpret braille letterforms. However, this level of personalization creates organizational issues for aids that teach many students, and a gap between the activities that a student does with their aid and the activities the child does at home. To help reduce friction and confusion in the learning process, our team set out to create a set of learning tools that bridge the gap between school and home for the student, alleviate organizational issues for aids, and adapt activities so that anyone can lead the child through them.
Our final solution was a set of activities that are self contained and stackable. When the student shows up for school, the aid guides them through their activities for the day. When it is time for the student to go home, the individual activities can easily be stacked and brought home so the student’s parents can review the activities with their child.
The ideas for activities stemmed from observing how lessons are taught in the school and learning tools that are already in use. We worked to adapt the existing activities to be self contained in units that would fit together.