Tactile Objects and Models are the Future of Accessibility

A man in a green polo shirt wearing gloves reaches into a large 3D printer to ready the space for construction of a 3D model.

Most people with disabilities from their lived experience understand what segregation and exclusion feels like. But ask the average disabled person what accessibility means to them, you are pretty much guaranteed to get a different answer every time. 

To a wheelchair user, it might mean facilities offering automatic doors, wheelchair ramps, and split-height counters. 

To someone with hearing impairments, it might mean a site providing a Counter loop or similar hearing enhancement system or Sign Language interpreted content. 

To a neurodiverse person, it might mean access to a quiet/sensory room or hearing protection.

For people with visual impairments, whether they experience blindness, partial sightedness, photophobia, or any other condition – we frequently recommend to our clients that their site facilitates adjustments which help sighted individuals with orientation and navigation. This could include implementing an appropriate amount of colour contrast to a site’s aesthetic design, extra consideration for the tidiness of pathways, and ensuring on-site staff have disability awareness training. 

A new path to accessibility which Direct Access has pioneered is our Tactile Models and Handling Objects, which we 3D print ourselves in our Innovation Centre.

Our tactile models are either scaled replicas of real life objects, or miniaturised versions of large-scale objects, designed to appeal to our ‘touch’ sense, inspiring the imagination and offering a different perspective. They have proven particularly successful in nature parks and museums; places where objects, animals, and experiences are traditionally experienced visually, appealing not only to people with disabilities, but children too.

As well as tactile models, our team have also produced braille Dungeons and Dragons dice, helping partially-sighted adventurers to roll for their ability checks independently.

It is our signature product, however; the Direct Access Tactile Map Board, that represents the future of accessibility, packing a diverse range of accessible features making everyday navigation simpler for people with visual impairments. 

As well as offering braille interpretation with raised characters, the board is ready-equipped with Sign Language and audio-descriptive content, which can be accessed via QR codes, providing visitors with wayfinding details that can help them navigate complex environments. 

Not only does many of its features benefit people with visual impairments, it also facilitates accessibility for people with hearing impairments, neurodivergent conditions like autism, and Sign Language users.

Tactile Braille Map Board displaying a museum map and key, featuring QR codes that link to audio description and sign language videos in a warmly lit building.

Since accessibility means something different to every individual, we believe the delivery of accessibility services should be malleable, diverse, and innovative.

Our goal, by introducing the world to our tactile products, is to create a world that accommodates the personal requirements of as many people as possible by providing a range of options for interactivity. Though there are no laws or legislation surrounding braille, Sign Language video, or audio description provision – going beyond legislation requirements and delivering an experience that is truly inclusive is what we believe ultimately makes a difference to people’s lives. 

If you are interested in learning more about our accessible products, visit our Accessible Media page here; Accessible Media – Direct Access Middle East (directaccessgp.com)

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