Due to the visual handicap and the requirements for assistive devices, blind and visually impaired people are usually at a disadvantage when it comes to modern digital education. However, digital competence will continue to be a key factor in the probability of placement on the labour market in the future.
Another aspect is that tactile teaching and learning materials are still essential tools in the education of blind and visually impaired students. Such tactile materials are used in lessons of natural sciences, mobility training and all-day living skills. In vocational training tactile models are used in medical and technical subjects.
Until now the production of tactile materials has been expensive and time-consuming. The more simple solution to work with swell paper, however, offers strong limitations in the three-dimensional representation and sufficient reproduction of details. The development of ever cheaper and more powerful 3D printers offers new opportunities for the individual production of versatile and affordable teaching materials.
3D printed tactile map of a building
In addition, 3D printing technology is an emerging innovation in the context of digitalization, which in particular educational organizations need to address in order to be able to transfer the knowledge in a second step to their students. However, in order to meet this requirement, trainers must be able to recognise and operate the technology in question and its potential. However, it is necessary that this topic is not limited to the STEM subjects, as is usually the case.
This project is an initiative to improve the digital education of visually impaired students and their digital competence by implementing 3D technology. These two objectives will be achieved by a two-step strategy.
- In the first step, teachers and trainers for visually impaired persons will be introduced in the utilization of 3D printers themselves. This step should enable the trainers to create tactile teaching materials and tools for their participants and gain practical experience by using this technology regularly.
- The next step is to enable the trainers to use their acquired experience to instruct their students in 3D printing according to the methodological requirements of visually impaired students. As an additional result, the products that have been developed during the project will be published on an already existing 3D printing portal (Thingiverse) and on a new and open portal for products for the visually impaired, which will be developed and continuously hosted by the Austrian partner.
The starting point for this project are the experiences of the applicant, who has already successfully realized this procedure in his own company. In the results of this project, the special experiences and requirements of the project partners will be considered and transferred.
Numerous results were developed during the project. Most results are available in the languages:
The project results are accessible on the project website
The exchange platform to download tactile 3D files are available on:
1. Project website Download page
2 Download page of the Hilfsgemeinschaft der Blinden und Sehschwachen Österreichs
in two one-week lasting courses, staff members of the project partners will be introduced into the creation of tactile teaching materials and the methodology of introducing visual impaired students into FDM 3D printing.
Two italian colleagues working on a 3D printer during the first course in April 2022
The picture shows the 10 participants of the first learning activity