Education is everyone’s right, but everyone has their limitations. Scientists and inventors have always worked on ways to enable people to see beyond their physical limitations. Learning for the visually impaired through Braille was introduced in the 19th century and has been a successful medium since. The blind people go through the early education with comparative ease, but higher education, particularly in the STEM fields, is a tad bit more complicated. This becomes a reason for them to push back even though they are mentally very capable of performing brilliantly in the field. To make it fair, MIT graduates have invented a tactile caliper so that the visually impaired can also use measuring tools.
All of the STEM fields require rigorous laboratory work that almost always involves the use of measuring instruments. The blind people who walk into these fields may have brilliant problem-solving skills, but in order to approach a solution, it often requires simple tasks that their vision inhibits them from performing. This will change with the tactile caliper invented by the MIT graduates.
Pranay Jain and Anshul Singhal are Ph.D. candidates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who are responsible for developing Squirrel Devices. The tools have imprinted Braille measurements and are meant for secondary level students who are either blind or have low-vision (BLV). These can help them obtain dimensions of geometrical shapes.
Both Jain and Singhal had worked on a project called Refreshable Braille Display in their undergraduate degrees where they learned that the device color made a difference to BLV students, so the first set that they developed was bright yellow.
The caliper has a precision of 1/16 of an inch which is four times as much as that of ordinary rulers. The caliper is available only for inches measurement at the moment, but the metric one is under production. The cost is something between $18 to $30, and it measures a maximum of 12 inches or 30 centimeters.
Some students have requested for talking instruments that can read out the readings, but the duo is bent on creating a system that is not costly and will not be affected by any electrical faults.
The calipers may not be a high-tech system, but they serve their required purpose well. The applications of the tool are beyond STEM fields, and the team is working to develop a whole line of Braille measuring instruments. The next on the list in a Tactile Protractor. The mission is to help people see and learn beyond their disabilities to prove that they are equally capable.
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