Work completed as a portion of Master's Thesis Project at RISD.
The manipulation of objects is an essential part of learning. Children with visual impairment have a paradoxical relationship with touch. Many are hesitant, even fearful to reach out and explore their surroundings; yet they have much to gain by engaging their sense of touch. This project seeks to encourage children of all abilities, visually impaired and others, to increase academic, spatial, and motor concepts essential for their future success.
The project is intended for children from three to six years of age with visual impairment and other disabilities, but the appeal of fun activities, bold colors, and interesting textures makes it an appropriate toy for all children.
Initially, the project looked at encouraging spatial and gross motor skills in children with limited vision. These models were designed for the child to be able to create group or individual play spaces with defined boundaries, bright colors, and soft textures.
The final design, a set of five activity mats, was tested with four children with visual impairment. Because of the varying abilities of the children, the mats were designed to function at many levels of ability and can be used as part of a focused lesson or by the child independently as free play. The mats have specific features targeted at blind children but are meant to engage both children and adults of all abilities.