Hapdio: designing an interactive toy for visually impaired children
The purpose of this research is to design an interactive product which is enjoyable for visually impaired children, and simultaneously aids the development of visually impaired children’s spatial abilities. Visually impaired children take three to six years longer than sighted children to develop spatial abilities. They can have difficulty in understanding the concept of left and right, straight lines, diminished balance, and shape recognition. Sighted children use all senses to engage and learn about objects and spaces in the world – which is not fully possible for visually impaired children.
In order to define and clarify the ideas around spatial ability and enjoyment, various design method were planned and the results were systematically organised. This research investigates through market and product analysis to find existing problems and common patterns of spatial learning. Prototypes were discussed with Vision Australia, a facility for visually impaired people, and the children’s service centre to develop the concept and conduct interviews to better understand visually impaired children’s experiences.
The investigation recommends that it is necessary to provide information through various sense stimuli besides vision in their educational activities. Visually impaired children compensate for their impairment by using their sense of touch and hearing summarised in following basic factors: verbal instruction, tactile/haptic(input), real world sound (output), and guide rail/tray. Based on this analysis, this thesis seeks to improve the spatial learning in visually impaired children through the use of a haptic and auditory interactive toy. Sighted children can also enjoy the toy to develop their fine motor skills and stimulate their senses.