If you have good eyesight, you probably take it for granted. But visual impairments affect every aspect of a person’s life. It doesn’t just make it difficult to get it around, it makes it difficult to perform most tasks because we’ve built a world where sight is almost a requirement. That extends to the maker world, too. Even identifying a resistor is nearly impossible if you’re color blind — complete loss of sight is, of course, far more challenging. That’s why Lauren Race has created standards for tactile schematics that can be read by touch.

Race designed these as a thesis project for NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, with help from advisors Tom Igoe and Amy Hurst. The idea is simple: to create a braille-like system for electronic schematics. But just because the concept is simple, that doesn’t mean the execution is easy. It’s not as straightforward as just making existing schematic symbols , because those weren’t designed for touch. Even something as simple as a leader line had to be redesigned to be readable using only touch.

Aside from creating a whole new standard for the shape and style of schematic symbols, Race also needed a practical way for people to print tactile schematics. For that, she turned to the Swell Form Machine. The machine heats up printed paper, and causes black ink — but not other colors — to swell so it can be felt. That creates a unique opportunity, because schematics can be printed in black for the -, and have color labels so people who don’t know braille can still them. By taking advantage of that, a single schematic can be made that anyone can , regardless of how good their eyesight is.

[h/t: IEEE Spectrum]

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