Co-Designing Assistive Apps with Students Who are Blind

Faculty Lead: Paul Ruvolo

Student Researchers

  • William Derksen ‘20
  • Jeremy Ryan ‘20
  • Ryan Louie ‘17

Research Objectives

Working collaboratively with his Olin student researchers and students who are blind, Prof. Ruvolo is developing systems to help students who are blind to safely, efficiently, and independently navigate and utilize resources in physical spaces. His research has two interrelated initiatives.  First, they will work with the Perkins School for the Blind to create games to teach and reinforce orientation and mobility (or O&M) skills for their students. Second, the research team will co-design mobile apps with students who are blind to increase the accessibility of the modern high school.  The specific apps will emerge from user-centered design work, but possible areas of opportunity include both making classrooms easier for students to navigate and creating an app to allow students to find and navigate to objects.


The proximal impact of the work will be to improve the lives of two populations of Boston-area youth with visual disabilities, including high school students and students at Perkins’ lower school. This improvement will come partially through providing better solutions for O&M for these groups and partially through the quality of the interactions between the project team and the young people (e.g., providing mentorship to the high school students). The distal impact of our work will be developing technologies for teaching and improving O&M that can be used by all Boston-area young people who are blind.

This research project was made possible through a grant from The Peabody Foundation, Inc.