Touch the Sea

Interactive Toy for Visually-Impaired Children

Product Design | Interactive Design


Blindness & Vision Impairment

"Blind" is defined as having no more vision than light perception in both eyes and "Visaul impariment" refers to all degrees of reduction in vision.

Causes of Vision Loss in Children

Vision impairment and blindness of children and teenagers can be caused by many different things. Some are due to genetic anomalies and some are due to injuries to visual systems. Here are some of the common causes.

Global Population of the Vision-Impaired

According to WTO, an estimated 19 million children are vision impaired around the world. Of these, 12 million children have a vision impairment due to refractive error. Around 1.4 million have irreversible blindness, requiring access to vision rehabilitation services to optimize functioning and reduce disability.

Vision Disability Prevalence in the US

The data show that about 706,400 out of 86,714,100 people under 21 in the US were visual disabled. The estimates are based on a sample of 205,004 persons who participated in the 2016 American Community Survey (ACS).



Challenges Visually-Impaired Children Face

Low Self-Esteem

Visually impaired children have greater dependence on others' help and face more challenges in learning skills, which possibly cause low self-esteem, especially when social comparison occurs.

Difficulty in Social Integration

Visually impaired children have less access to the environment. When without visual reference and unable to read body language and facial expressions, they have more difficulty communicating with others.

 DIfficulty in Conceptualization

Lack of vision and less integration of obtained information make it hard to make connections between different objects and a objects' different features.

Though there are much difference between individuals, above are some common problems that visually impaired children would meet. These problems usually affect each other, ending up in a vicious circle.

Enhancement Non-Visual Senses

Studies show that brain will accelerate other senses to the absence of vision. Blind or vision-impaired individuals who rely much on non-visual senses will usually have a better ability to quickly process non-visual information.



Toys for visually impaired children are mostly intended to cultivate their abilities to use non-visual senses, especially touch. Many of the toys are directly educational, but only for young children. The playing methods are usually very simple and delivers less entertainment for older children.



Design Definition

The design is aimed at helping children, especially vision-impaired and blind ones, have fun, practice using senses other than vision and develope some other abilities.


The toy will be like a type of 3-D puzzle, helping children develop better spatial cognition and problem solving abilities.

Social Integration

Being monochrome, reducing the importance of vision when children try to solve the puzzle and narrow the gap between vision-impaired children and others.


Helping learn about ocean by imitating the structure of it and giving auditory and tactile ocean-related feedback after the puzzle is solved.




Concept Development




In order to see how well the puzzle is suitable for children/teenagers, I made a low-fidelity prototype with white expended PVC and paperboard. In the testing, three chidren/teens of different ages were asked to try to solve the puzzle, during which process information about their behavior was collected.


To test how the suitable the toy is for children of different ages and how senses of touch and sight affect the game difficulty, I planned to conduct two tests.

In test A, three participants at different ages will be asked to try to solve the puzzle as soon as they can.

In test B, an individul will be asked to solve the puzzle in three different conditions. According to the expected game difficulty, from easy to difficult, the conditions are:
      1  the participant can observe and touch the reference,
      2 the participant can observe but not touch the reference,
      3 the participant can touch but not observe the reference.
Experience will make the second try and thrid try easier. To reduce its influence, the puzzle will be put in different directions everytime. Also, the participant will try to solve the puzzle in harder conditions first, to assure the gap between the results will be amplified rather than reduced or offset completely.

Results & Feedback

 Test A 

Male, Age 5
Gave up after 9'41''

  • Lack in patience

  • Not very concentrated

  • Need detailed instructions


Male, Age 8
Finished in 21'44''


  • Patient and concentrated

  • Had some ability of self-correction

  • Took the given hint well


Female, Age 14
Finished in 05'17''

  • Need little instruction beforehand

  • Patient

  • Thinking fast

  • Able to solve the puzzle independently


 Test B 


Female, Age 20



Finished in 5'56''


Finished in 4'47''


Finished in 03'38''


  • Made mistakes when she can observe the reference, which cost her time to correct them.

  • Reported that she felt calmer and more concentrated when being blindfolded.


 Test A

With a certain degree of instruction, children above 5 years old are bascically able to solve the puzzle. Older children can finish it quicker without less instruction and were able to concentrate longer.

 Test B 

Though it takes more time to locate a block and its counterpart and to place the blocks accurately while solving the puzzle without sight, visual observation of the reference is not necessarily helpful, since it may cause some distraction and confusion.



User Flow

In order to see how well the puzzle is suitable for children/teenagers, I made a low-fidelity prototype with white expended PVC and paperboard. In the testing, three chidren/teens of different ages were asked to try to solve the puzzle, during which process information about their behavior was collected.



- Basswood
- Arduino UNO R3
- Tactile Buttons
- Mini MP3 Module
- Speaker
- SD Card
- Audio Files
- Jump Wires
- Circuit Board
- Arduino Power Shield





©2019 by Yuhan Zhou.