How might we encourage play between blind children and their sighted friends?
Playing together is an enjoyable activity. For blind children however, this is often not the case. They cannot see the game and do not experience the emotions of normally sighted children, or experience them differently. Joy improves the interaction between visually impaired children and normally sighted children. The blocks made from maple wood focus on aspects other than vision such as sound, shape and touch. Joy therefore allows the children to interact as equals, making playing together enjoyable for everybody.
I started the design process of Joy at the VISIO school for visually impaired children. By observing the children and speaking to teachers and parents, it became clear to me that vision is not necessarily required for play, as long as other aspects as sound, shape and touch are present.
In addition, I discovered that 'open-ended play' could help the development of blind children, who often have a development disadvantage compared to their peers. Open-ended play has no set outcomes and can evolve over time in any direction. Thereby encouraging children to create and problem-solve as they explore the world around them.
To foster open-ended play, creativity, and imagination, the blocks have geometric shapes that can be combined in different ways. The contrasting colors make it easy to distinguish shapes and hidden tactile lines & sounds challenge the children to play with Joy in various ways. I tested the blocks with the children at the Visio school during a very joyful afternoon. The children created Minions out of the blocks and built a bridge the size of the entire classroom.