As I wrote out a pretty substantial check for my son to purchase his yearbook for seventh grade, I knew from experience that while it might momentarily seem like quite a chunk of change to spend on a book, it was an investment in something he will hopefully have for his lifetime. For kids, yearbook time comes and goes, and most don’t think about the implications of posterity and realize that when they are grown and have kids of their own, those yearbooks will still have emotional value to them, their classmates, and their progeny.
During orientation at my son’s school last year, we went to the library and ran into an old classmate of mine who is actually the school librarian now. What did she do? She went right to the archives and pulled out actual copies of our yearbooks and years there together, and showed them to my kids with great amusement. These books mean something in the present, but the images in them are significant for decades, lifetimes, and future generations. The yearbook is a true cultural tradition, and no one should have to miss that. While it might be sentimental, it is personal history.
It’s also perhaps a small gift that many of us take for granted. As with many things that are not available to the visually impaired, often the yearbook experience is overlooked overall. With such progressive design and technological tools at our disposal these days, no one should be left out from such an experience. It’s easy enough to read text in Braille, and obviously classmates’ names could be read in the customary Braille, but the yearbook is often called ‘the picture book’ for a reason — and many of us have yearbook pictures etched in our minds forever, without even having to dust off the tomes of our schooldays.
Working to make sure all students in South Korea receive the full yearbook experience — and then some — 3D TEK is working with the Touchable Yearbook agency to provide 3D printed yearbooks for visually impaired Korean children.
The visually impaired Korean students don’t just receive yearbooks, but actual 3D printed statues of their classmates’ faces, accompanied by Braille nametags. Amidst excited chatter and laughter of true delight and awe, the students are able to read the names and then run their hands over the finely detailed faces, as well as examining the accuracies of the products by feeling their own faces and those of their friends, and then comparing them with the 3D printed products.
Thanks to 3D TEK and Touchable Yearbook, they will be able to visualize all of their classmates in a true gift, not only of insight, but a memory they can keep with them. A yearbook that can be ‘read by hands’ may be treasured even more than one that is read by the eyes.
Not only does the Touchable Yearbook provide visually impaired students with yearbooks, but it also gives them an introduction to the true innovations of 3D printing and how it can benefit them point blank — not to mention many others in the world who have other special needs. It’s a reward in more ways than one as exposure to the technology of 3D printing is invaluable in terms of encouraging and opening kids up to the wonders of STEM (science, technology, education, manufacturing) education, where 3D printing is beginning to play a substantial role.
What do you think of this innovative idea and service being provided by 3D TEK and Touchable Yearbook? Have you seen any other similar concepts being used for the visually impaired? Share with us in the 3D Printed Touchable Yearbook forum over at 3DPB.com.
Check out this video (in Korean) showing the project, and the students’ pleased reactions to their new yearbooks: