By Elexus Robinson, Research Assistant
HEI is proud to spotlight and support our friends at Independence Science (ISci), a research center which “seeks to promote the full integration of blind and low vision students into hands-on science laboratory learning experiences.” (HEI is serving as an evaluation partner for this innovative organization.)
Founded in 2009 by chemist Dr. Cary Supola, who is blind, ISci has worked to develop technology and devices in support of this mission. For example, in 2011, Dr. Supola and his team commercially invented and released the Sci-Voice Talking LabQuest device, which gave STEM students who are blind and low vision greater access to scientific data by leveraging text-to-speech output in a handheld scientific data logger. As a result, blind and low vision students now have greater choices in the classroom and the lab to either work independently or with a classmate.
Still, graphical and tabular information is not readily available for blind and low-vision students in a real-time dynamic way in science inquiry. Currently, they use braille embossers that are compatible with data loggers to provide a static representation of data trends. In response, ISci is proposing a new innovative device, called the Sci-Dot, that intends to provide dynamic, real-time engagement with graphical and tabular information for blind and low vision students.
ISci has been awarded the NSF Small Business Innovation Research grant to support research and development efforts for this project, which is officially titled “Synergizing Braille and Science: Real-time Accessibility of Tactile Graphics in Laboratory Settings for Blind and Low Vision (BLV) Students.” As ISci’s evaluation partner, HEI’s most recent work involved independently interpreting field testing data that the Sci-Dot team collected this past summer at the National Federation of the Blind conference in Louisiana, garnering blind and low vision participants’ user experience with this device.
Future demonstrations are planned and HEI is enthusiastic about ISci’s innovations. We look forward to our future collaboration in the coming research phases of this project.