When I was a full-time master’s student, I used to co-organize the Changing Worlds Conference, a transdisciplinary student-led conference. We spent 3 years exploring the possibilities to bring together artists, scientist, engineers, activists, students and teachers interested in science, technology and society within the framework of an academic conference.

For me personally, the most interesting aspect of the project was experimenting with the format of the conference itself. We were trying (and mostly succeeding) to create an accessible, inclusive environment in which people from different backgrounds feel welcome and can productively work together.

The experiment is growing up

After giving a few workshops on the topic, me and my colleague Victoria Neumann have decided to use the knowledge we were able to collect and make it available to others. We want to provide a starting point for learning to those who want to adopt more inclusive communication practices, both in their private and professional lives.

Title page of a document called "Finding useful questions" That is supposed to be a resource for people to learn about accessibility and inclusion

The first version of the “Finding useful questions” document.

This new project is called SocialTech, and it aims to provide a resource to learn about access needs, and more inclusive communication- and organizing strategies. Updates as the project unfolds can also be found on this project website.

The idea behind the project:

Rather than giving a specific set of instructions, the resource is built in a question-and-response format. There are no “one size fits all” solutions to dealing with people’s needs, but in this list we tried to provide a range of questions you could use as a starting point to consider your audience and how to make your space as accomodating and comfortable as possible.

We have published the first version of the document we are working on. It is a work in progress. For this first version, we have focused on a few topics that come up often. At the moment it is only available in English, but we are planning to translate it into German soon.

Das Klo.

Diese Animation zeigt die komplette Funktionalität des Modells

Im Sommer 2018 hatte ich die Gelegenheit, an einem besonders interessanten Projekt zu arbeiten. Im Rahmen eines Erasmussprojektes das sich mit der Erarbeitung 3D-gedruckter Lehrmaterialien für blinde Schüler*innen befasst, habe ich für das BBI eine Toilette entworfen, die dann in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Medienproduktionsteam von Sebus gedruckt wurde.

FreeCad Screenshot des Modells

Und so sieht das CAD-Modell dazu aus.
Ich habe für dieses Projekt erstmals FreeCAD verwendet, nachdem ein Open Source Programm natürlich später weniger Barrieren darstellt als die industrieüblichen Standardprogramme

FreeCad Screenshot des Modells

FreeCad Screenshot des Modells

Die 3D-gedruckte Toilette soll besonders für jüngere Kinder den Alltagsgegenstand greifbar machen und so die Benutzung erleichtern. In den größeren Instituten gibt es eigens dafür ausgerüstete “echte“ Toiletten, die niemals tatsächlich als solche, sondern bloß als Lehrmittel verwendet werden.

Eine Toilette in voller Größe und aus Porzellan ist allerdings kaum transportabel, was für Unterricht außerhalb des BBI ein Problem darstellt. Mit dem Kunststoffmodell wurde nun eine Lösung gefunden, das Lehrmaterial einfach an den jeweiligen Einsatzort zu bringen.

Foto des fertigen Modells

Foto des fertigen Modells

Das Modell ist außerdem teilbar, um die gesamte Funktionsweise einer Toilette mit Wasserspülung im Unterricht darstellen zu können.

Foto des fertigen Modells

Foto des fertigen Modells

Foto des fertigen Modells

Foto des fertigen Modells

Das Modell ist sowohl für den 3D Druck, als auch für zum Ertastet-werden optimiert: Es kommt im Druck ohne Supportmaterial aus, so ist quasi keine Nachbearbeitung notwendig. Zum Zusammenbauen werden bloß 2 Splinten für das Gelenk benötigt, das Modell kommt ohne Klebearbeiten aus. So soll es möglichst einfach sein, mit dem eigenen 3D-Drucker ein Modell anzufertigen wenn es für den Unterricht benötigt wird.

Eine Maßstabgetreue Toilette in dieser Größe – geschlossen ist sie etwa 19cm hoch – ist nicht mehr gut tastbar, da einige Hohlräume selbst für Kinderfinger zu klein wären. Die Proportionen wurden dahingehend angepasst, um die Benutzer*innenfreundlichkeit zu erhöhen.

3d printing

Gif of a model toilet. It's 3D printed and grey. In the gif, the toilet lid opens and closes

I made a 3D model toilet.

Maybe I’ll write more about it when I get around to editing the pictures, because it was actually quite a cool project. I made the 3D Model, Photos and GIF – I didn’t print it myself.

And it’s very functional ;)

Tactile Test Prints

3 Pages swell paper with maths graphics and formulas on a black background.

The first few pages.

Not much to add to the previous posts, but we have a bunch of actual pages for the braille project ready, and we got some of them printed for testing.

Pages of a tactile maths book, chapter polynomial functions

Close up of the polynomials maths page.

It’s still hard to get the puffed up parts to show. I had to turn the contrast up a bit, but I hope it’s clear.

Some of the pages have been printed in all black on accident – which is the usual mode for tactile pages. While it was a bit annoying at first, it made us aware that we need to be very clear about communicating the intention of the red text, and add printing instructions accordingly.

Close up of a page of swell paper, showing graphs with several different textures

Viele Schraffuren.

Stage 2: Experiments

Now that I understand how microcapsule paper works, it’s time to get a bit nerdy with material science.

Most blind students in Austria attend regular schools, so they will have sighted people around them. This is why we decided to try and make the materials work better for this integrative approach by including the text in schwarzschrift (literally black print, I don’t think this term exists in English so I’ll stick to the German) too. Schwarzschrift here, for us, is red though. There’s technical reasons for that, but maybe I need to explain how swell paper works first.

Pages of swell paper with test lines in different line styles and red writing in different shades that has stayed flat in the swelling process

Testing different shades of red by applying different heat settings.

Close up of swell paper with black, 3D lines and flat red writing.

Now to find a colour that is the easiest to read for sighted people while not interfering with the tactile parts of the page.

The basic idea is simple: Microcapsule paper, or swell paper, reacts to heat. It is being printed on like regular paper, but after printing it is put through a machine (the fuser) that heats paper up using infrared light. When the infrared light hits the printed pigment, the paper underneath the pigment gets hot enough to swell up (It’s a bit like popcorn).

Since the swelling is caused by a combination of black pigment on the special paper and infrared light, changing parameters means it is possible to print content that won’t puff up when put through the fuser. Specifically, red ink absorbs less infrared light and heat and therefore doesn’t make the paper swell up.

So why is this a good idea? Braille has a very low density of information, so one page can fit much less text than it would with schwarzschrift. Space on a Braille page is precious, so we do not want to take up space with text that doesn’t need to be tactile. Additionally, having the schwarzschrift parts swell up would be confusing when reading the Braille and tactile graphics.

A Page of the Pythagoras chapter. It has labelled tactile triangles. The text is available both in Braille and in red for readers that cannot read braille. This is the first finished page from the short test chapter we are using to test the basic design.

If the schwarzschrift text does not swell up in the production process, it can just exist in the white space of the tactile page. Reliably being able to have content that swells and content that does not means we can make the most out of the limited space we have available while still providing all the information for different readers: It simply adds another layer of information that is imperceptible for those who don’t need it.

How to read Braille

Pages of swell paper with different surface patters consisting of dots, lines and crosses

A number of pages with different surface patterns and intersections of lines and patterns

My new design project is interesting. It mostly consists of maths and programming, combined with social research. After that, finally, some layouting and typesetting – but the final product will not necessarily look pretty. That’s alright though, since it’s not made to be looked at: We are working on teaching materials for blind and visually impaired students. More specifically, a graphics catalogue to be used in high school maths education.

A page of swell paper with different styles of dashed lines.

How do dashed lines behave and feel? How much difference is needed so we can distinguish styles by touch?

close up of swell paper with different dashed line styles

It’s hard to get a good picture of the three dimensional quality of the paper.

And this is exactly why I love being a designer: Getting to make things that work, no matter how contradictory the requirements may seem initially.

A page of swell paper with different dot pattern surfaces

Here I am trying to come up with different patterns to replace what would usually be different colours. After creating a lot of “test squares” we had teachers and students test them at the school.

Pages of swell paper with different surface patterns

Pages of swell paper with different surface patterns

I’m really looking forward to working on this project. I have never used swell paper before I was approached with this project, but it’s an exciting material. It makes it possible to create tactile graphics with a standard printer and a special device to actually make the print tactile.

The first step is testing the properties of the material we are working with so I can get a feeling for it. We are closely working with both blind students and teachers to learn the basics about tactile graphics and typesetting in Braille, but also about the Braille system itself.

Close up of swell paper with different surface patterns and line styles

Intersections and Lines that go over what would traditionally be coloured fields are much harder to distinguish in tactile graphics.

Next up: learning how to actually read Braille.


Nachdem der erste Sticker so gut ankommt, ist direkt ein zweiter entstanden.

Der aktuelle politische Diskurs ist unglaublich laut, und gleichzeitig werden viele immer stiller.
Im Sinne der Metakommunikativen Axiome nach Paul Watzlawick et al.: Man kann nicht nicht kommunizieren.

Es ist Zeit darüber nachzudenken, was wir mit unserer Stimme eigentlich bewirken – oder eben nicht. Und ob was wir tun auch wirklich in unserem Sinne ist.

Sticker #2

Sticker mit Orange und Violettem Hintergrund und weißem Text

Macht was Schönes damit falls ihr mögt, und wenn ihr euch wegen der Lizenz unsicher seid könnt ihr mich auch gerne kontaktieren.