A research project that aims to help people that are blind or that have other visual impairments learn computer circuit design was recognized recently by a global conference on human-computer interaction.
According to the research team, web-based tutorials that teach novices how to make circuits are not accessible to everybody. As an example, many existing tools rely heavily on visual information for instruction, making them difficult to use for those who are blind or otherwise visually impaired.
The Dartmouth study, "TangibleCircuits: An Interactive 3D Printed Circuit Education Tool for People with Visual Impairments," allows users to interact with models of circuit boards that provide audio feedback in response to being touched. The research received an honorable mention award from the annual conference of the Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Computer Human Interaction (CHI2020).
"This is a powerful tool that can help people with visual impairments learn electronics," said Xing-Dong Yang, an assistant professor of computer science and the senior researcher on the paper. "Through innovations like this, we hope that visually-impaired people will no longer miss out on education opportunities and high-tech careers."
The Dartmouth research uses an inexpensive practice circuit board that can be accessed by computer hobbyists and students. The design is intended to broaden the inclusivity and accessibility of maker spaces and engineering classrooms by allowing instructors to create cheap, portable, and easy-to-use tutorials.
"We spent substantial time interviewing some amazing engineers and students with visual impairments before we created our system," said Josh Urban Davis, the lead author of the paper and a PhD student at Dartmouth. "We really wanted to get the design right since something like this could dramatically change people's lives."
"Human-computer interaction is a diverse and growing research community at Dartmouth. People can expect a lot of cool things from us in the future," said Yang.