Art in Science: The benefits of drawing for students with visual impairment

Many thanks to Scott Baltisberger, TSBVI Outreach and Michael Coleman, EASY LLC for their wisdom on this topic. 
 
Please refer to for Scott's excellent webinar, Visual Arts for the Visually Impaired: Drawing for the Blind - Tools and Techniques, on the TSBVI website.  This webinar has been a great resource in writing this blog and I recommend that it be accessed for a more in-depth look at this topic.  Scott speaks in depth about each of the tools I highlight in the blog. In my descriptions of the tools, I made note of where to find his explanation in his webinar.

The Joy of Drawing

As I introduced my students to the InTACT Sketchpad, I noticed an enormous grin surface on the face of one of my students.  He was writing his signature (initials) and remarked emphatically, "I can SEE this!".  He had never had the opportunity to observe anything he had drawn himself and was overjoyed. He was so excited about this new tool that we spent most of class "playing" with it. 
 
As a complete non-artist, I don't think that I have thoroughly contemplated the benefit of drawing both for sighted students and for students with visual impairment.  This event and my subsequent research has convinced me that often students with visual impairment miss out on valuable learning experiences when we do not encourage them to draw.

What are the benefits of drawing for students with visual impairments?

The benefits of drawing for students with visual impairment are many.  They include improved fine motor skills and creativity and a better understanding of spatial and symbolic relationships.  Fine motor skill improvement in strength and coordination are observed.  Furthermore, recent studies indicate that participation in the visual arts, improves both academic achievement and performance on standardized tests.  Unfortunately, incorporating drawing into instruction for students with visual impairment is not common.  However, there are numerous tools currently available to this end. These tools vary greatly in both functionality and price.  They will be described briefly in this blog.  More information each can be found at the links provided as well as in the above highlighted webinar "Visual Arts for the Visually Impaired: Drawing for the Blind - Tools and Techniques."
 
Tactile drawing tools are available which produce either a positive or a reverse image. A positive image is produced when the images rises from the paper producing an image like the image drawn.  A negative image is produced when the "image" is pressed into the paper and is "observed" from the other side of the paper tactually.  Most of the tools produced currently produce a positive image. When considering the best tool for a student, it is important to keep in mind portability and ease of use as well as price and versatility.  
 

Consider:

  • Will the student require training to use the tool?  
  • Will it be easy to carry independently for the student? 
  • Is the tool in the school district's price range?  Can it be purchased on Quota Funds? 
  • Several of the tools are available for less than $50 so don't allow price to deter you!
 

Helpful Hints:

  • Any of these tools can be used to produce a negative image on printer paper or Braille paper if you are running low on the specialized paper for each tool.  
  • The Rubber Pad from the Swail Dot Inverter (below) can be purchased for $11.00 and used with any of the other tools. (Review: www.perkinselearning.org/accessible-science/rubber-pad-tactile-drawing)

The Tools

Tools are listed with a brief description and the location within the above webinar containing information on each.  For more detailed information please see the review links. 
 

Positive Image Tools

  1. Draftsman from APH

Draftsman from APH

  1. InTACT SketchPad from E.A.S.Y. LLC

inTACT sketchpad

  1. Sensational Blackboard

sensational blackboard

  1. Sewell EZ Write N Draw Raise Line Drawing Kit

sewell ex write n draw raise line drawing kit

  1. TactiPad

tactipad

  1. Swail Dot Inverter

swail dot inverter

  1. Quick Draw Paper from APH

quick draw paper

Negative Image Tools 

  1. Raised-Line Drawing Board

raised line drawing board

  1. APH Tactile Graphics Kit

APH tactile graphics kit

Low Cost Tools

  1. Tracing wheel
  • Cost: about $4.00
  • Notes: Sewing tool; Hard to create a natural image - easy to make a hole in the paper
  1. Aluminum foil
  • Notes: Heavy Duty BBQ type; The sheets can be purchased from APH in the Tactile Graphics Kit or separately; Durable - can be "viewed" tactually many times without being pressed down

Collage for the benefits of art in science

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