Designing for Inclusion: Seeing Solutions for Unseen Problems

Prof. John Eric Ligon
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Sighted students learn to read as they begin to understand the relationship of the visual signs that are letterforms and the various meanings of those signs as they are spoken or heard. At its most basic level, there exists a more-or-less one to one correspondence between the sound and the sign in early literacy development. Teachers are able to guide their sighted students through this process, at least in part, because they understand the signs of the written code. 85% of blind children in the United States attend traditional public schools and function in mainstreamed classrooms. These students usually receive Braille education from an itinerant teacher of the visually impaired, but the majority of the student's day is spent with a teacher who is almost always illiterate in the Braille code.

Existing braille book formats for early education inhibit the ability of the sighted teacher to adequately help a braille-reading child who stumbles or struggles with interpreting the embossed Braille code. Consequently, blind children are often, if unintentionally, excluded from the learning processes that occur in a mainstreamed classroom.

It is the nature of the humanities — and graphic design — to define and solve problems, to expand horizons, broaden understanding, and increase knowledge. Designers change the way we consider the world by offering new perspectives for looking at a problem, and by creating new metaphors and visual languages for finding solutions. Well-considered design is capable of great egalitarianism. It has the ability to make society (and education) inclusive rather than exclusive. In this presentation, I will demonstrate the benefits and drawbacks of existing Braille book formats — specifically for early literacy, and compare a newly designed format that is at once useful to both sighted and blind readers. This new format solves many of the inherent problems in early, shared reading. The need for this kind of format is apparent and has the potential for becoming a more effective tool in the development of Braille literacy in the classroom (and the home) than currently exists.

Keywords: Aesthetics and Design, Literacy, Disability, Diversity
Stream: Aesthetics, Design, Teaching and Learning
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Prof. John Eric Ligon

Associate Professor, Division of Design, School of Visual Arts, University of North Texas

Ref: H05P0335