Initial Experiences Using Vibratory Touchscreens to Display Graphical Math Concepts to Students with Visual Impairments

Gorlewicz, Jenna L; Burgner, Jessica; Withrow, Thomas J; Webster III, Robert J
Journal of Special Education Technology, 29 (2), pp. 17–25, 2014
Initial Experiences Using Vibratory Touchscreens to Display Graphical Math Concepts to Students with Visual Impairments

Abstract


This article presents initial experiences using vibratory touchscreens and audible sounds to communicate graphical concepts in mathematics education to students with visual impairments. These studies are motivated by the prospect of displaying graphical and mathematical concepts typically taught in a highly visual manner through nonvisual channels. First, a touchscreen-based teaching paradigm for math education of individuals with visual impairments is introduced and hardware and software employing commercially available and open source components are presented. Then, pilot studies on user comprehension of grids and points—graphical entities students encounter early in K–12 mathematics education and that can serve as building blocks for more complex lessons—are presented. These studies, conducted with students with visual impairments, explore perception of objects through haptic feedback alone, auditory feedback alone, and combinations of the two. The results show that each student could successfully find and locate 100% of displayed points on a grid. These results, complemented with the positive qualitative feedback received from students and their teachers, suggest that vibratory touchscreens have the potential to be beneficial in the classroom for conveying graphical math concepts.

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