A new tool for the blind is nearly ready for mass production thanks to 3D printing research and development.
The ABS-based Braille Doodle allows users to write in Braille through an array of hundreds of holes, each of them with a smooth metal ball that can be pulled to the surface by a magnetic stylus.
One side of the device focuses on Braille with examples of letters, numbers and words. The other side is more freeform, like an "Etch-a-Sketch for the blind," Daniel Lubiner, inventor, founder and executive director of the TouchPad Pro Foundation, told Plastics News.
Inspired by his work as a special education teacher during the COVID-19 pandemic, Lubiner transitioned from teaching to pursuing designing and marketing the Braille Doodle full time.
All students struggled to transition to learning at home via the internet during the pandemic, Lubiner said. But blind students had "nothing in front of them" and had to continue their studies "through phone calls."
"I was teaching art to blind and low-vision kids," Lubiner said. "They inspired" his idea to create "something the kids could have in front of them to use either in order to make art … or to help them learn how to read and write."
The Braille Doodle became Lubiner's life's ambition, he said.
"Pandemic or no pandemic, only 10 percent of blind or low-vision kids are learning how to read and write Braille. … It opens a whole world to be able to use this technology. … They'll be able to start on the road of literacy."
Lubiner based the "Braille side" of the device on how educators typically teach reading, he said.
"Start with the sounds and letters and the phonics," he said. "Demonstrate letters and have the student repeat the letter."
The "doodle" side can be used for free writing in Braille or "tactile drawing," where users to create shapes they can feel on the device.