Interactive 3D-Printed Models for Students with Visual Impairments

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Blind people face many barriers in our educational system, which lead to lower employment rates and lower projected incomes. One major barrier is access to visualizations, which are abundant in instructional materials, especially in STEM. Three-D printing presents an exciting opportunity to create tactile models that represent concepts non-visually. A wealth of 3D-printable models can already be found on the Internet (e.g., on, and 3D printers are becoming more common in libraries, schools, and community maker-spaces. However, unlike diagrams or images typically found in textbooks, 3D printed models don’t have auxiliary information such as titles, labels, captions, and other annotations. As such, despite their tactile nature, their instructional power is limited compared with visualizations. In my talk, I will present Sensables, our new learning genre involving 3D models that respond to a user’s touch with multimodal annotations. I will describe our design process with blind adults and teachers of the visually impaired, and discuss key technical challenges encountered and implications for the broader printing and fabrication communities.
Presenter Bio
Shiri Azenkot is an Assistant Professor of Information Science at Cornell Tech, the new Cornell University campus in New York City. Her research lies in the intersection of technology, disability, and interaction. She likes building things and discussing their sociocultural implications. She does not like bloated bios, but has one on her website because that is the thing people do: