Improving access for the vision impaired

Developing and prototyping accessible graphics using low cost technologies and digital fabrication

Information graphics, diagrams, plans, maps, plots and charts, are widespread in written communication. The ability to comprehend, use and create these graphics is an important skill that most of us take for granted. However, for those who are blind or have severe vision impairment, access to such graphics is severely limited, restricting participation in the workplace, limiting educational opportunities, and reducing enjoyment of media including the web. This research is developing processes for improving access to graphics as well as investigating technology-based solutions.

This research is looking at the combination of 3D printing and low-cost computing and electronics to create interactive accessible objects. These objects include ‘intelligent’ maps created with 3D printing and embedded electronics and teaching and learning objects that enable vision-impaired students to move from concrete to abstract representation.

In a series of projects, SensiLab has worked closely with the vision impairment community to explore the areas of greatest need and uses an iterative design process to produce meaningful accessible objects. Constant feedback from the vision impaired community has been used to create and evaluate accessible objects, informing the future use of new technologies.

This work is ongoing. To date major partners and outcomes have included the Insight Education Centre for the Blind and Vision Impaired in the development of education materials and classroom aids, developing interactive tactile maps for Vision Australia, and creating accessible versions of best-loved items from the Bendigo Art Gallery’s permanent collection. Further information regarding projects and outcomes can be found at