Melbourne Design Awards - City Design Awards

Reach & Match

Melbourne Design Awards 2010 - Winner

Project Overview

Through primary (centre visit and clients interview) and secondary research (findings on books, report and internet), the project is to design an educational and playful kit in assisting the emotional, communicative and cognitive development for young blind children with the following main objectives:

-To provide visually impaired children (3-6years old) an unique bridge and interesting path to Braille literacy.

-To provide tactile strategy and hearing pleasure through the sensory exploration.

-To build their motor development, special awareness and logical intelligence in the sensory play of design.

Project Team


Monash University
Lau Shuk Man


Monash University
Lau Shuk Man

This is the project under Master of Design of Monash University

Project Brief

The invention of Braille is ingenious, meaningful and effective, it is the only way for blind people to read and write, as children get older the Braille becomes more critical for employment and economic independence. However, few than 10 percent of the 1.3 million legally blind people in U.S can read Braille nowadays. Therefore, this project has involved looking at the literacy of Braille and its global change throughout recent years, and the literature on early childhood education for visually impaired children. Marketing research like product analysis, benchmarking and perception diagram, it provides an apparent opportunity in the market to develop a toy for Braille exposure and rehabilitation. Observational research has been conducted in Vision Australia for understanding visually impaired children with multi-disabilities and interviewing professionals like Braille trainer, physiotherapists, childhood educators and parents. The goal of the design is to provide an interesting exposure for them to Braille alphabets hence to encourage them to learn Braille at a young age. At the same time, through the sensory play in my design, it aims to build their motor development, special awareness and logical intelligence, hence in assisting the emotional, communicative and cognitive development for young blind children.

Project Innovation / Need

While sighted children have the advantage of visual pleasure to learn reading, there is no visual stimulation to motivate the blind children. A design should allow blind children to have a delightful experience with the exposure to Braille before the systematic learning. Therefore, my design aims to provide a unique bridge, a smoother and more interesting path to Braille literacy. Not only must pre-school blind children become aware of Braille as a means of communication, they must also have enough positive experience with it to be sufficiently motivated to learn how to understand it.

Through the observation- group play of visually impaired children, key discoveries of problem have been observed and design elements-tactile fantasy, hearing pleasure and spatial awareness & bodily identification, are added to enrich the design outcome.

The design has been fully utilized the double sides of the mat to create distinct purposes for visually impaired children to have Braille exposure and learn essential daily techniques through the sensory play. The play kit has provided both individual and interactive play for educational and playful functions. The carefully design of the back-side, different pathways can be perfectly designed by different configurations of mats hence to develop visually impaired children’s spatial awareness and motor skills. For the front-side of mats, it helps to train children’ logical intelligence by sorting patterns, sounds and shapes hence the blind children can learn the tactile skills and enjoy the hearing pleasure. Patterns of mobility symbols are carefully chosen for visually impaired children to learn the instruction of mobility in the future.

Design Challenge

The objective of the project is obvious and direct at the beginning, during the design development it has opened up to a deep consideration on the design specification, interface and every detail. The layers of the information for developing the design would not be possible made without understanding the complexity of early education for the visually impaired. The project is not only about blindness, but also with consideration of multi-disabilities like mental retardation, motor and cognitive problems, etc. The project has been conducted through several methods- interviews and discussions with the professionals and parents, observation of visually impaired children and extensive review of literature. The observation is the most valuable research for my project, it helps me to select the most appropriate tactile communication options for my design. The design is directly response to the actual circumstances and needs of the blind children. I am also inspired by the conversation with the Braille teachers, physiotherapists and childhood educators. Research and observations revealed many opportunities in designing for visually impaired children. However, to cope with the constraints and inconsistency lies between concepts and practice, my project has been conducted very carefully and with discipline in order to design in an organized, consistent and meaningful way for blind children.


Since the toys are provided by visually impaired children to have fun and rehabilitation purposes. Therefore the materials of design have been carefully considered. Safety is the most important factor to be considered, at the same time, chosen materials have also been considered to be sustainable and environmentally friendly. The mats are mainly made by two recyclable rubbers- EVA foam and silicone rubber. EVA is good cushioning, shock proofing and flexible. It is easy to clean, maintain and processing. Silicone is also the best choice of rubber for visually impaired children because it is very inert, stable and resistant to deformation but good impact absorber. At the same time, it is odourless and tasteless. On the other hand, tiles are made of ABS by injection moulding; it is safe with high strength and toughness.