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3D Printed Talking Tactile Learning Objects will make Learning by the Blind More Compliant

| Proposal No: 1989

Bios & Handouts


  • Michael Kolitsky, Ph.D., UT El Paso

Disability Area:          

Topic Area:                

Length of Session (in hours): 1-hrFormat: Lecture Expertise Level: All Levels Type of session: Not provided

Summary of Session

Digital learning objects are not easily accessible by blind students in image-rich science courses. 3D printed tactile learning objects with touch-sensitive audio feedback provide greater learning options and expand in a new way how reasonable accommodation and compliance may be interpreted.


A paper published in the 2014 Journal of Blindness Innovation and Research ( shows examples of 3D prints made from 2D images obtained using the microscope and telescope. Four ways were found to incorporate audio into tactile learning objects. First, a Livescribe pen linked to a 3D printed line graphic produces audio identifying structures on the line graphic. Second, capacitance sensing with an Arduino-based microcontroller and voice chip generates audio when a fingertip touches a spot on the 3D print. Third, 3D prints made of conductive steel can be linked to the Arduino microcontroller and voice chip for audio production. Fourth, steel 3D prints can be placed on an iPad so that text on the iPad screen can be spoken by VoiceOver software to identify the structure being touched. 3D printed tactile learning objects that can speak challenge current expectations for reasonable accommodations and compliance.


  1. Will learn how 3D printing can make tactile learning objects from 2D images
  2. Will learn how audio can be incorporated into tactile learning object design
  3. Will learn how tactile learning objects will expand reasonable accommodations expectations

Speaker Bio(s)

Michael Kolitsky

Mike has been teaching biology courses for over forty years and online since 2000. In 1992, Mike received a Distinguished Natural Sciences Curriculum Innovation Award for his Embryology videodisc and HyperEmbryo courseware from EDUCOM. In May 1994, he received The University of Texas Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Awards at The University of Texas at El Paso. Mike retired in 2003 but has been teaching online biology courses with simulated labs. Over the past year and a half, he has been exploring how 3D prints can be made from 2D images so that blind or visually impaired students can sense by touch what sighted students see when using microscopes or telescopes. Mike sees a future where reasonable accommodations made for blind or visually impaired students will include making available tactile learning objects in image-rich STEM courses.