why  &  how

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© All images appearing on this web site and all designs and trademarks related to Fittle are the exclusive property of Tania Jain and are protected under the Indian and International Copyright laws.

Video by  Debanshu Bhaumik  Project & Site by  Tania Jain

© All images appearing on this web site and all designs and trademarks related to Fittle are the exclusive property of Tania Jain and are protected under the Indian and International Copyright laws.

Video by  Debanshu Bhaumik  Project & Site by  Tania Jain

Fittle is an attempt to help people who are visually impaired learn spelling of new words and understand the shapes of objects—all through playful 3D puzzles. For example, the word “fish” is constructed by joining together four puzzle blocks that have the letters F-I-S-H on them, each embossed in braille. When a child with vision impairment fits together the blocks by feeling and matching the right shapes (which are designed in a way that they can only fit their right match), s/he can read the word “fish” in braille and also feel around the contours of the entire block to understand what a fish is shaped like. In this way, children with vision impairment can be taught to comprehend the shapes of objects while learning the spelling of new words.

 

 

Objective of Fittle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The statistics of the acceptance of braille in the current world are quite poor, and there need to be numerous novel ways to help better this, given the fact that most of the current evolving modern technologies and solutions are based on braille. The available statistics are from countries like USA and according to the 2007 Annual Report from the American Printing House for the Blind, there are approximately 57,696 legally blind children in the U.S. Out of those school-age children, only 10 percent use braille as their primary reading medium1. Fittle envisions enabling learning in a playful way to make braille interesting for the visually impaired at a very young age.

 

 

Why braille is still important in the Digital World?

 

Braille is a tactile reading and writing system designed for use by individuals who are blind, and it is the primary means by which they become literate. It is the most significant literacy medium for blind people and is an essential component of any educational program that serves children who are blind. 

 

In the writings of people who are blind, the literary braille code has been called “the key to opportunity” (Schroeder, 1989, p. 290), “the means of emancipation, the greatest gift to the blind” (Eldridge, 1979, p.331), “a viable equivalent of the print media . . . highly flexible and adaptable” (Stephens, 1989, p. 288), and “this marvelous vehicle . . . [that] holds the key to genuine literacy and independence” (Napier, 1988, p. 144). A 1996 study regarding employment among individuals who are blind reveals that braille use has a high correlation with employment. Early braille education is crucial to literacy for a visually impaired child. A study conducted in the state of Washington found that people who learned braille at an early age did just as well as, if not better, than their sighted peers in several areas, including vocabulary and comprehension. In the sample group, 44 percent of individuals who read braille were unemployed compared to 77 percent of individuals who are blind or visually impaired who do not read braille2.

 

In this modern information age, questions have arisen about the continued importance of the braille code, since technology has increased accessibility to information for blind individuals. It should be noted that much of the best assistive technology combines speech and braille and requires knowledge of the braille code by the consumer. Even as speech output technology has improved, computer users throughout the world who are blind have found that the ability to use braille input and output devices, to refer to hard copy and refreshable braille products, and to read and write in a tactile medium has enhanced their professional and personal lives. Advances in technology have improved and increased the use of the braille code. As long as sighted computer users access information in print on the screen or in hard copy format, computer users who are blind must have a tactile equivalent. Writings on the braille code make it clear that “as long as print is the primary literacy medium of sighted people, braille will be the primary literacy medium for blind people” (Wittenstein, 1994, p. 523).

 

In addition to typical literacy activities, persons who are blind use braille for many daily tasks that sighted persons take for granted, such as using recipes to cook, measuring wood before cutting it with a power tool, and reading aloud to their children. For persons who are blind, braille represents independence and equality as well as literacy—in the workplace, in the home, and in the community. The importance of the braille code is more recognized today than at any time in its history (Schroeder, 1989). Currently, among the estimated 85,000 blind adults in the United States, 90 percent of those who are braille literate are employed. Among adults who do not know braille, only 1 in 3 is employed3. Statistically, history has proven that braille reading proficiency provides an essential skill set that allows visually impaired children not only to compete with their sighted peers in a school environment, but also later in life as they enter the workforce4.

 

 

Who is Fittle built for?

 

Fittle is primarily built for Visually Impaired individuals who encompass a spectrum ranging from people with Low Vision to the Blind. The unique needs of a Low Vision individual, and the ability to 3D print Fittles in contrasting colors to enable better perception of shapes, increases the outreach of this project.

 

WHO (World Health Organization) Definition of Low Vision and Blindness

 

Blindness is defined as visual acuity of less than 3/60 (0.05) or corresponding visual field loss in the better eye with best possible correction. (ICD-10 Codes 3, 4, & 5)

 

Low Vision corresponds to visual acuity of less than 6/18 (0.3) but equal to or better than 3/60 in the better eye with best correction. (ICD-10 Codes 1 & 2)

 

Low Vision, Severe Performs visual tasks at a reduced level.

 

Low Vision, Profound Difficulty with gross visual tasks.

 

Near Blind Vision unreliable.

 

Blind Totally without sight.

 

A recent WHO recommendation of the change in nomenclature but still encompassing all the spectrum mentioned above can be found here.5

 

Blindness can be Congenital or Acquired at a later age depending on various eye diseases, the bilateral congenital blindness category being one of the smallest percentages in the entire spectrum in this discussion.

 

It is a well know fact around the world that visual rehabilitation teachers use 3D toys which are realistic representations of objects to help visually impaired children touch and feel the form of these objects, at schools for the blind, and visual rehabilitation centers. This is done so that touching the form of these toys may help visually impaired children create a visual perception in correlation to what they are being taught.

 

Fittle is an attempt to make this process more immersive, where the child him/herself puts together the 3D form of the object. This leads to motivation towards learning from what one has put together oneself, both in terms of spelling and form of the object.

 

While it is nearly impossible for sighted individuals to grasp a true sense of how visually impaired people construct the reality of the world, scientific research papers and other links mentioned below have looked at understanding visual perception of the visually challenged, and it’s link to haptic and audio modalities. We are trying to model activities and tools based on past research of how cross modality works in people who cannot see, or see clearly. We seek to further understand this complex interaction involving different modalities of Touch and Hearing.

 

When we direct our whole attention to any one sense, its acuteness is increased; and the continued habit of close attention, as with blind people to that of hearing, and with the blind and deaf to that of touch, appears to improve the sense in question permanently.

                                                                                                                            -1890, Charles Darwin

 

We were touched to receive a request from a blind teacher to get Fittle toys for her blind children in Buffalo, NY. There are many teachers and visual rehabilitation experts who have written to us, expressing their appreciation for the concept, and their willingness to procure Fittles for their students to play with. Apart from parents of the blind, we have also received numerous requests from sighted individuals to introduce braille to their sighted children in an attempt to sensitise them to the needs of the visually impaired and also as a learning tool and puzzle.

 

 

Concepts of Fittle

 

Experienced Visual Rehabilitation experts from around the world who actually work with visually impaired children and adults over the years have described the following benefits of this novel concept:


1. Learn the Braille Alphabets
2. Construct words and learn more vocabulary
3. Concept construction and utility value of object
4. Orientation to Direction
5. Number concept
6. Motor Co-ordination concept
7. Tactile Stimulation
8. Audio feedback improves listening skills

 

 

Perception in the Visually Impaired

 

There have been numerous studies over the past decade that have dwelled upon the important issues of perception of the visually impaired and their interaction with different modalities of touch and audio. As with all scientific studies, we expect to have a deeper insight as newer research is published over time. All of the research quoted here has compared various levels of visual impairment and this understanding is VITAL before proceeding to review each one of them.

 

Broadly, the following are the major components:

 

Tactile Perception - Haptics

Visual Perception

Audio feedback

Rehabilitation Strategies

 

 

 

Exploratory Procedures of Tactile Images in Visually Impaired and Blindfolded sighted children: How they relate to their consequent performance in drawing

 

By Annie Vinter, Viviane Fernandes, Oriana Orlandi, Pascal Morgan

 

The aim of this study by Vinter et al.6 in 2012 was to compare the types of exploratory procedures employed by children when exploring bidimensional tactile patterns and correlate the use of these procedures with the children’s shape drawing performance. 18 early blind children, 20 children with low vision and 24 age-matched blindfolded sighted children aged approximately 7 or 11 years were included in the study. The children with a visual handicap outperformed the sighted children in terms of haptic exploration and did not produce less recognizable drawings than their sighted counterparts. Close relationships were identified between the types of exploratory procedures employed by the children and their subsequent drawing performance, regardless of visual status. This close link between action and perception in the haptic modality indicates the importance of training blind children in exploratory procedures at an early age.

 

The haptic explorations of both the sighted and visually impaired children seemed to be performed actively and were generally adapted to the task demands, as the very low level of use of the static contact procedure by all the children testifies. The children with a visual handicap exhibited greater expertise during their haptic explorations than the sighted children, as their more frequent use of bimanual exploration and the greater number of different procedures employed by them when exploring patterns indicate. Identifying which of the exploratory procedures spontaneously employed by blind children are beneficial for or, to the contrary, detrimental to the extraction of shape information might help us define a pedagogy of tactile image exploration which will make it easier for such children to understand the tactile books available to them. At the same time, the present study provides interesting findings relating to the types of exploratory procedures used by children with different visual statuses when asked to extract shape information in order to draw the explored pattern as accurately as possible.

 

This study suggests that certain exploratory strategies are optimal for the encoding of the shape and size of bidimensional patterns, and especially in blind children. Since it has been found to be effective to train blind children to perform specific exploratory procedures, a specific educational program of exploratory activities could be designed for young blind children when they are introduced to illustrated tactile books. It also suggested that his educational training should intervene early in development. Achieving a high level of expertise in the haptic exploration of bidimensional patterns at the earliest possible age might well help compensate for the deficits in spatial representation resulting from the absence of visual experience.

 

 

 

Visual Imagery Without Visual Experience:

Evidence from congenitally totally blind people

 

By Andre Aleman, CA Laura van Lee, Mariska H.M. Mantione, Ilse G. Verkoijen

and Edward H.F. de Haan

 

In this article published by Andre Aleman et al. 7 in 2001, they reported on the performance of congenitally totally blind people and matched sighted control subjects on a behavioral measure of pictorial imagery (in which multiple object forms have to be compared with each other) as well as a measure of visuospatial imagery. In addition, it has been suggested that blind people may rely more heavily on spatial processing strategies to compensate for the lack of visual processing and they investigated the hypothesis by including a spatial interference condition in a dual-task paradigm.

 

Fifteen volunteers (seven males and eight females), classified as totally and congenitally blind, participated in the experiment. People were considered totally blind when they could not perceive shapes and positions of objects and to be congenitally blind when the deficit was present at birth or appeared in the first months of life. Etiology included retrolental fibroplasia, congenital glaucoma, Leber's amaurosis, and congenital malformations of the eye. Fourteen sighted control subjects (six males and eight females) also performed the experimental tasks; they were blindfolded during the tasks. There was no significant difference between blind and sighted subjects regarding the variables age, education and sex.

 

They discussed that this evidence may suggest that haptic sensory experience is sufficient to generate visuospatial representations. By inference, representations used by congenitally, totally blind people in solving these visuospatial tasks must be of haptic origin. This suggests the existence of a common pathway in which representations of different sensory origin converge. Consistent with this, another study using cross-modality priming in normal healthy subjects concluded that vision and haptics may share common representations8. Such processing may occur in visual areas of the brain, which might explain their visuospatial characteristics.

 

Indeed, evidence of visual cortex involvement in tactile perception has been reported for blind people9, as well as for sighted people10. The blind participants were well able to perform the visual imagery tasks, which may imply that the representations involved in this type of information processing go beyond the limitations imposed by the properties of single sensory channels and integrate information from different sensory modalities. Thus, visual imagery may be purely visual only to a small extent.

 

 

 

 

A Randomized Controlled Trial Assessing the Effectiveness of Strategies Delivering Low Vision Rehabilitation: Design and Baseline Characteristics of Study Participants

 

By Beula Christy, Jill E. Keeffe, Praveen K. Nirmalan, Gullapalli N. Rao

 

In this article published by Beula Christy et al.11 in 2010, they looked at the various factors for effectiveness of strategies delivering Low Vision rehabilitation. Vision loss has multidimensional implications such as physical (reduced visual acuity), functional (self care, mobility, and activities of daily living), social dimensions (social contact and interpersonal relationships), and psychological dimensions (emotional status, well-being, life satisfaction, and happiness). They compared the effectiveness of four different strategies  to deliver low vision services

(a) a center- based,

(b) a community- or- home- based,

(c) a mix of center– and home- based and

(d) a center-based approach with supplementary home visits.

The primary goal of any model of rehabilitation is to maximize functional independence and foster psychological well-being. It has been estimated that 90% of individuals with vision impairment have useful residual vision, which could benefit from low vision rehabilitation  programs12,13. A variety of factors may influence the success of rehabilitation strategies and outcome measures within service delivery models. These may include the personal characteristics of individuals, support from family and other community members, type and location of services, ease of access to services, the personnel providing the service and the inclination of the individual to accept the problem and manage it. The lack of significant differences at baseline between individuals in the four arms of the trial and between those who dropped out and those who completed the trial is a strength of this trial, as well as the relatively low (<10%) dropout rate.

 

This is relevant in planning the strategy to deliver FITTLE as a learning tool as it has compared a center based strategy to a home based one and also a combination of both and they are all equally effective.

 

 

 

 

Blindness Enhances Tactile Acuity and Haptic 3-D Shape Discrimination

 

By J. Farley Norman and Ashley N. Bartholomew

 

This study by Norman et al.14 in 2011, compared the sensory and perceptual abilities of the blind and sighted. The 32 participants were required to perform two tasks: tactile grating orientation discrimination (to determine tactile acuity) and haptic three dimensional (3-D) shape discrimination. The results indicated that the blind outperformed their sighted counterparts (individually matched for both age and sex) on both tactile tasks. The improvements in tactile acuity that accompanied blindness occurred for all blind groups (congenital, early, and late). However, the improvements in haptic 3-D shape discrimination only occurred for the early-onset and late onset blindness groups; the performance of the congenitally blind was no better than that of the sighted controls. The participants’ tactile acuity was measured using grating orientation discrimination with procedures developed by Van Boven and Johnson.15

 

First of all, the fact that the congenitally blind participants performed more poorly with respect to 3-D shape discrimination than did early- and late-blind participants is consistent with an image-mediation model, because unlike the early and late blind, the congenitally blind have had less (or no) experience with visual images. What was really an interesting finding was that the congenitally blind participants performed just as accurately as the sighted participants.

Thus, there was no difference between the shape discrimination performance of those participants who have had little or no experience with visual images (the congenitally blind) and that of participants who have had extensive experience with visual images (the sighted controls). In general, blind adult participants outperform age and sex matched sighted controls on tasks involving the judgment of tactile grating orientation and haptic 3-D shape discrimination. 

 

 

 

 

Haptic Concepts in the Blind

 

By Donald Homa, Kanav Kahol, Priyamvada Tripathi, Laura Bratton,

and Sethuraman Panchanathan

 

Noma et al.16 in 2009 had investigated and compared the acquisition of haptic concepts by the blind with the acquisition of haptic concepts by sighted controls. Each subject—blind, sighted but blindfolded, sighted and touching, and sighted only—initially classified eight objects into two categories using a study/test format, followed by a recognition/classification test involving old, new, and prototype forms. Each object varied along the dimensions of shape, size, and texture, with each dimension having five values. The categories were linearly separable in three dimensions, but no single dimension permitted 100% accurate classification. The results revealed that blind subjects learned the categories quickly and comparably with sighted controls. On the classification test, all groups performed equivalently, with the category prototype classified more accurately than the old or new stimuli.

 

The blind subjects differed from the other subjects on the recognition test in two ways: They were least likely to false alarm to novel patterns that belonged to the category but most likely to false alarm to the category prototype, which they falsely called “old” 100% of the time.

 

All analyses were redone on the blind subjects who had lost their vision early (0–3 years),  intermediate (4–9 years), or late (12 years) in age. None of these analyses—learning, classification or recognition on the transfer test, or recognition performance across the full set of 20 objects—revealed either a main effect of age of blindness or any interactions with type of transfer object. In fact, the within-subjects variance, when computed for each group and for each of the four tests, was smallest for the blind subjects, greatest for the blindfolded group, and intermediate for the sighted-only and sighted and touching subjects. In effect, the blind subjects functioned more alike in learning, recognition, and classification, in spite of their differing age of blindness, than did the subjects in any of the remaining groups.

 

 

 

 

Touch Influences Visual Perception with a Tight Orientation-Tuning

 

By Onno van der Groen, Erik van der Burg, Claudia Lunghi, David Alais

 

Groen et al.17 in 2013 opined that stimuli from different sensory modalities are thought to be processed initially in distinct unisensory brain areas prior to convergence in multisensory areas. However, signals in one modality can influence the processing of signals from other modalities and recent studies suggest this cross-modal influence may occur early on, even in ‘unisensory’ areas. Some recent psychophysical studies have shown specific cross-modal effects between touch and vision during binocular rivalry but these cannot completely rule out a response bias. To test for genuine cross-modal integration of haptic and visual signals, we investigated whether congruent haptic input could influence visual contrast sensitivity compared to incongruent haptic input in three psychophysical experiments using a two-interval, two-alternative forced-choice method to eliminate response bias. They concluded that the tactile influence on vision is a result of a tactile input to orientation-tuned visual areas.

Functional activation of brain areas that are usually used for visual processing has been  demonstrated in blind people during Braille reading 18,19,20,21,22 and arises relatively quickly in normally sighted observers after several days of blindfolding23. Discussion of these observations generally centers on whether there are pre-existing connections from tactile to visual areas, which are usually inhibited or hidden when vision is present, or whether these cross-modal effects are due to plasticity and the growth of new connections after uni-sensory loss. Their results provide strong support for the hypothesis that there are pre- existing connections between tactile and visual areas.

 

Their results show that congruent haptic stimulation can improve performance on a simple visual grating detection task compared to incongruent haptic stimulation. The orientation  dependence of this haptic enhancement of vision suggests that neurons in the visual cortex, where orientation-tuned responses are common, receive inputs from the somatosensory cortex, likely via multisensory areas. They reported that their results cannot be due to a response bias, and are unlikely to be due to attention. Several studies suggest tactile inputs to visual cortex exist but are usually weak and masked by strong visual signals. By conducting their experiments at visual contrast threshold, the relative strength of the tactile signal has been increased to the point where it can have a small but significant enhancing effect when congruent with vision. Analogous to a visual-tactile summation model suggested by Arabzadeh and colleagues24 for tactile tasks, they suggest that tactile signals feedback to visual cortex and sum with visual signals to increase the signal-to-noise ratio and therefore improve visual contrast sensitivity. A review by Randall Stilla et al.25 focused on cross-modal plasticity resulting from visual deprivation. They opined that visual cortical areas are recruited during tactile spatial perception in the blind, as well as during a variety of other including linguistic ones and future research should focus on delineating the extent of functional specialization within visual cortex in the blind and relating such long-term cross- modal plasticity to its temporal evolution, its perceptual consequences and the influence of modulatory factors such as specific types of sensorimotor experience.

 

 

 

 

The Occipital Cortex in the Blind: Lessons about Plasticity and Vision

 

By Amir Amedi, Lotfi B. Merabet, Felix Bermpohl and Alvaro Pascual-Leone

 

Conventional wisdom in neuroscience dictates that the brain possesses only limited capacity to reorganize itself following damage (e.g. from sensory loss or brain injury). However, more recent evidence demonstrates that the brain is capable of remarkable dynamic change and adaptation throughout the lifespan gathered through the remaining senses. There is evidence that blind individuals (as compared with sighted controls) show superior skills in tasks involving touch and hearing 26,27,28,29

 

The process of seeing is as follows: Focused light landing on the retina causes neuronal signals to leave the eye through the optic nerve; those signals are sent via the lateral geniculate nucleus of the thalamus to the occipital cortex, where the majority of visual processing actually takes place. Sighted people read through visual recognition of words, involving a complex network of language-processing areas intimately related with spatial information processed by the visual system. In contrast, a blind Braille reader relies on touch. Using the pad of the index finger (or multiple fingers for some proficient Braille readers), arrays of raised dots are scanned and spatial information is extracted and interpreted into meaningful patterns that encode semantic and lexical properties.

 

 

Furthermore, a blind subject also learns to rely on verbal descriptions and verbal memory, in place of visual perception as employed by sighted subjects. This dependence on language and memory may also be accompanied by the development of superior capabilities for these functions30. This raises the question: Does the part of the brain used by a sighted person to recognize objects or read visually (in other words, to see) play a role in a blind person reading through touch and relying heavily on verbal language? Growing experimental evidence suggests that it does.

 

The results from late-blind and blindfold studies support the notion that the adult brain is capable of undergoing considerable plastic change throughout the lifespan 27,31.Fundamental principles underlying neural plasticity in response to visual deprivation may be applicable across neural systems27,32. The challenge is to modulate neural plasticity for each individual’s optimal behavioral gain. This might be possible, for example, through behavioral modification or brain-stimulation techniques. Strategies to promote such plastic changes are important to aid blind individuals to compensate for their disabilities.

 

We are exploring to incorporate audio experience related to object puzzles that the visually impaired child puts together, to enhance connections between sounds they hear, and things they visually perceive.

 

 

 

 

Fast, Accurate Reaching Movements with a Visual-to-Auditory

Sensory Substitution Device

 

By S. Levy-Tzedek, S. Hanassy, S. Abboud, S. Maidenbaum and S. Amedi

 

Tzedek et al.33 in 2012  used a Visual sensory substitution devices (SSDs) that uses sound or touch to convey information that is normally perceived by vision in their study. The primary focus of prior research using SSDs was the perceptual components of learning to use SSDs and their neural correlates. The purpose of this study was to test the use of a novel visual-to-auditory SSD to guide a fast reaching movement.

 

Their findings combine with previous brain-imaging studies to support a theory of a modality-independent representation of spatial information. Task-specificity, rather than modality-specificity, of brain functions is crucially important for the rehabilitative use of SSDs in the blind and the visually impaired. We present the first direct comparison between movement trajectories performed with an SSD and ones performed under visual guidance. The accuracy level reached in this study demonstrates the potential applicability of using the visual-to-auditory SSD for performance of daily tasks which require fast, accurate reaching movements, and indicates a potential for rehabilitative use of the device.

 

There is published literature that blindness enhances non-visual perceptual abilities. Wan et al.34 found that blind participants exhibited superior performance for auditory pitch discrimination and auditory pitch–timbre categorization when compared to sighted controls. Similarly, Lessard et al.35 found that the blind could localize sounds more accurately than the sighted.

 

 

 

Size and Spacing of braille Characters36

 

We are referring to US Standard braille Size and Spacing guidelines to guide our designs. We have created several prototypes which build upon these size and spacing standards, and are carrying out user-tests to find out which size setting is perfect for 3-5 year old visually impaired children to read on a block of around 2.5cm x 8cm x 2 cm on an average.

http://www.brailleauthority.org/sizespacingofbraille/sizespacingofbraille.pdf

 

 

Further Reading

 

This article by John M Kennedy37 describes how the Blind draw. In this, he explores various outlines, perception tests, metaphors and motion perception in the blind. It is a must read. http://www.artbeyondsight.org/teach/how-blind-draw.shtml

 

 

Another project that explores perception among the Visually Impaired on similar lines as Fittle, is by Yahoo! Japan, called Hands on Search38. They have installed a specially designed 3D printing machine in the University of Tsubuka, Japan, to give 3D printed models of objects that blind children search for, using voice input. You can read more about this initiative at www.sawareru.jp

 

 

Fittle aims to combine different modalities and explore its impact on the lives of the visually impaired. We are currently developing prototypes of various models of Fittle, and early user testing has been conducted with children at Devnar School for the Blind, Hyderabad, School for the Blind, Gandhinagar, Andh Kanya Prakash Gruh, Ahmedabad, and a few centers linked to the National Association for the Blind, India. Focus groups are ongoing at various locations in India and abroad, and we are continuously reiterating to come up with the best possible design for the visually impaired. We are keen to get constructive feedback and have made the project OPEN SOURCE to encourage creative mids to come together to build on the concept. We are keen to keep expanding our learning, and explore the possibility of helping visually impaired children create a strong visual perception at a young age, along with getting interested in learning braille through a playful activity.

 

 

 

References

 

1. American Printing House for the Blind (2008), "Facts and Figures on Americans with Vision Loss", American Foundation for the Blind

 

2. Riles Ph.D., Ruby (2004), "Research Study: Early braille Education Vital", Future Reflections.

 

3. Ranalli, Ralph (2008-01-05), "A Boost for braille", The Boston Globe

 

4. Riles, Ruby, "The Impact of braille Reading Skills on Employment, Income, Education, and Reading Habits", braille Research Center

 

5. http://www.who.int/blindness/Change%20the%20Definition%20of%20Blindness.pdf

 

6. Exploratory procedures of tactile images in visually impaired and blindfolded sighted children: how they relate to their consequent performance in drawing. Vinter A, Fernandes V, Orlandi O, Morgan P. Res Dev Disabil. 2012 Nov-Dec;33(6):1819-31.

 

7. Visual imagery without visual experience: evidence from congenitally totally blind people.        Aleman A, van Lee L, Mantione MH, Verkoijen IG, de Haan EH. Neuroreport. 2001 Aug 8;12(11):2601-4.

 

8. Do vision and haptics share common representations? Implicit and explicit memory within and between modalities. Easton RD, Srinivas K, Greene AJ. J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 1997 Jan;23(1):153-63.

 

9. Activation of the primary visual cortex by braille reading in blind subjects. Sadato N, Pascual-Leone A, Grafman J, Ibañez V, Deiber MP, Dold G, Hallett M. Nature. 1996 Apr 11;380(6574):526-8.

 

10. Involvement of visual cortex in tactile discrimination of orientation. Zangaladze A, Epstein CM, Grafton ST, Sathian K. Nature. 1999 Oct 7;401(6753):587-90.

 

11. A randomized controlled trial assessing the effectiveness of strategies delivering low vision rehabilitation: design and baseline characteristics of study participants. Christy B, Keeffe JE, Nirmalan PK, Rao GN. Ophthalmic Epidemiol. 2010 Aug;17(4):203-10.

 

12. The effectiveness of low-vision rehabilitation on participation in daily living and quality of life. Lamoureux EL, Pallant JF, Pesudovs K, Rees G, Hassell JB,Keeffe JE. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2007;48(4):1476–1482.

 

 

13. Impact of an interdisciplinary low vision service on the quality of life of low vision patients. Hinds A, Sinclair A, Park J, Suttie A, Paterson H, Macdonald M. Br J  Ophthalmol. 2003;87(11):1391–1396.)

 

14. Blindness enhances tactile acuity and haptic 3-D shape discrimination. Norman JF, Bartholomew AN. Atten Percept Psychophys. 2011 Oct;73(7):2323-31.

 

15. The limit of tactile spatial resolution in humans: Grating orientation discrimination at the lip, tongue, and finger. Van Boven, R. W., & Johnson, K. O. (1994). Neurology, 44, 2361–2366.

 

16. Haptic concepts in the blind. Homa D, Kahol K, Tripathi P, Bratton L, Panchanathan S. Atten Percept Psychophys. 2009 May;71(4):690-8.

 

17. Touch Influences Visual Perception with a Tight Orientation-Tuning. van der Groen O, van der Burg E, Lunghi C, Alais D (2013) PLoS ONE 8(11) e79558.

 

18. Early ’visual’cortex activation correlates with superior verbal memory performance in the blind. Amedi A, Raz N, Pianka P, Malach R, Zohary E, et al. (2003) Nature Neuroscience 6: 758–766.

 

19. Visual cortex activity in early and late blind people. Burton H (2003) The Journal of Neuroscience 23: 4005–4011.

 

20. Different activation patterns in the visual cortex of late and congenitally blind subjects. Buchel C, Price C, Frackowiak RS, Friston K (1998) Brain 121: 409–419.

 

21. Neural networks for braille reading by the blind. Sadato N, Pascual-Leone A, Grafman J, Deiber MP, Ibanez V, et al. (1998) Brain 121: 1213–1229.

 

22. Activation of the primary visual cortex by braille reading in blind subjects. Sadato N, Pascual-Leone A, Grafman J, Ibanez V, Deiber MP, et al. (1996) Nature 380: 526–528.

 

23. The plastic human brain cortex. Pascual-Leone A, Amedi A, Fregni F, Merabet LB (2005) Annual Review of Neuroscience 28: 377–401.

 

24. Vision merges with touch in a purely tactile discrimination. Arabzadeh E, Clifford CWG, Harris JA (2008) Psychological Science 19: 635–641

 

25. Cross-Modal plasticity of tactile perception in blindness. K. Sathian, Randall Stilla. Restor Neurol Neurosci. 2010 ; 28(2): 271–281. 

 

26. A functional neuro-imaging study of sound localization: Visual cortex activity predicts performance in early-blind individuals. Gougoux, F., Zatorre,R.J., Lassonde,M.,Voss, P., & Lepore, F. (2005) PloS Biology, 3, 324–333.

 

27. The plastic human brain cortex. Pascual-Leone, A., Amedi, A, Fregni, F., & Merabet, L.B. (2005) Annual Reviews of Neuroscience, 28, 377–401.

 

28. Compensatory plasticity and sensory substitution in the cerebral cortex. Rauschecker, J.P. (1995) Trends in Neuroscience, 18, 36–43.

 

29. Developmental functional plasticity. Roder, B., & Neville, H (2003). In S. Grafman&I.H. Robertson (Eds.), Handbook of neuropsychology (2nd ed. Vol. 9, pp. 231–270). Amsterdam: Elsevier.

 

30. Early ‘visual’ cortex activation correlates with superior verbal-memory performance in the blind. Amedi, A., Raz, N., Pianka, P., Malach, R., & Zohary, E (2003). Nature Neuroscience, 6, 758–766.

 

31. Plasticity of sensory and motor maps in adult mammals. Kaas, J.H. (1991). Annual Reviews of Neuroscience, 14, 137–167.

 

32. Cross-modal plasticity: Where and how? Bavelier, D., & Neville, H (2002). Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 3, 443–452.

 

33. Fast, accurate reaching movements with a visual-to-auditory sensory substitution device. Levy-Tzedek S, Hanassy S, Abboud S, Maidenbaum S, Amedi A. Restor Neurol Neurosci. 2012;30(4):313-23.

 

34. Early but not late-blindness leads to enhanced auditory perception. Wan, C. Y., Wood, A. G., Reutens, D. C., & Wilson, S. J. (2010). Neuropsychologia, 48, 344–348.

 

35. Early-blind human subjects localize sound sources better than sighted subjects. Lessard, N., Paré, M., Lepore, F., & Lassonde, M. (1998).  Nature, 395, 278–280.

 

36. http://www.brailleauthority.org/sizespacingofbraille/sizespacingofbraille.pdf

 

37. http://www.artbeyondsight.org/teach/how-blind-draw.shtml

 

38. www.sawareru.jp

 

  

Dr.Beula Christy is the HEAD of the Dr.PRK Prasad Center for Visual Rehabilitation for the Visually Impaired and the Blind at the L V Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad, India. She has over 27 years experience in the field of Visual Rehabilitation and is mentoring the development of future models in this project. Among various areas of her expertise in visual rehabilitation science, she is passionate about Early Intervention. She can be reached at beula@lvpei.org

 

Dr.Anthony Vipin Das, is a Consultant Ophthalmologist in Comprehensive Ophthalmology Service and Ocular Trauma at the L V Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad, India. He is actively involved in projects in the Visual Rehabilitation space such as the Braille Phone, LeChal (Haptic shoe for the Visually Impaired), and Fittle. He is named among the global list of TR35 2012 by MIT, USA and is a TED Senior Fellow. He can be reached at vipin@lvpei.org

 

 

The How

 

We have been prototyping, testing, and reiterating models. Here are some of the prototypes arranged chronologically. Our aim is to incorporate texture details in the final models to create a richer experience for visually impaired children, along with adding experiential sounds to the models. We are also trying to work on a solution to suggest the scale of models compared to the actual size of the represented object.

 

We have kept the project Open Source so that creative minds and scientific experts from all over the world can contribute to the project and build upon it. We are looking forward to people collaborating with us to make new series of Fittles after the A to Z series that we are currently working on. We would also like people with expertise in different languages to adapt Fittle to as many languages as possible.

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