Touch your way to learn science!

I recently received an email from a PhD student with blindness who is studying human development and learning.  He asked if he could “touch my way” to review the structure of a neuron for a psychology class.  Absolutely!

The experience made me realize that it’s not just science students with visual impairments who might need accessible science materials.  Perhaps you’re an art student wanting to depict human musculature correctly, or you’re simply curious about the world around you.  Fortunately, solutions do not have to be ordered, expensive, or technologically advanced to be helpful.  Here are some suggestions.

First, if you’re a student, staff, or faculty, check with the accessibility services office at your institution.  You may not be the first person to make such a request, so they may already have materials that could help.  If they don’t, it’s possible they could acquire them from a publisher.

Another possibility is to contact the science department at a high school or college.  Biology and chemistry courses, for instance, often have enlarged models of cells, animals, molecules, etc.  Someone knowledgeable in the field could explain the structures as you manipulate them.  Or if possible, the models could be labeled in Braille so you could explore the models on your own.

If there isn’t an existing model of what you need, simple models can be made out of pipe cleaners and clay.  More elaborate models could be produced if there is access to a 3D printer.  If so, this website might be helpful.  Neither is necessarily better, and in either case, there still would need to be someone available to explain the structures, unless they were labeled in Braille.

There are many different ways to make tactile graphics.  Labeled, raised line drawings are an alternative if there is someone knowledgeable who is able to create them.  This website has information on making raised line drawings and here are guidelines for creating tactile graphics.  There is more information on tactile graphics here and also here.

Science is not just for the sighted.  You can “touch your way” to learn science.  Email me if you have other questions or suggestions, or if I can help!



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