It’s hard to believe that 3D printing was the stuff of science fiction not all that long ago. Even though 3D printing was invented in the 1980s, with printers costing more than $20,000 most of us hadn’t even heard of it – until recently, that is. Now that 3D printers are affordable, applications of the technology abound.
One of those applications applies to teaching students with blindness and visual impairments. I just learned about the following website for those teaching students requiring tactile models. It’s a Google Group called 3D Printed Education Models. You leave a request on the site for the model you want, and people volunteer to make the design file for you. Note that they don’t actually print the 3D model. They create the design file necessary to print it. They assume that teachers have access to 3D printers. If you are able to create design files and would like to volunteer to make files for some of the requests, you can visit the site. It has many requests that have not yet been fulfilled.
If you don’t have a 3D printer, teachers of students who are blind or visually impaired can leave a request with See3D and they will design and print the model for you. This is a nice article about the company. They are also requesting help printing models and designing files. You can indicate your interest in helping by emailing them at this link.
There are many ways that 3D printing is impacting the lives of those with blindness and visual impairments, as mentioned in the article, 10 Ways 3D Printing Supports the Blind. Imagine young children being able to hold a model of The Cat in the Hat as they listen to the story, or a pianist with blindness being able to “feel” a musical score. You can read more about the latter, called Stave Notation, at this website.
Now it’s possible to use 3D printed materials with your students even if you don’t have a design file or access to a 3D printer!