In December 2013, TechBridgeWorld received funding from the Fetzer Institute to run a 9-month comparative user study of our Braille Tutor devices. The Fetzer Institute is a Michigan-based nonprofit and private operating foundation whose mission is to “investigate, activate, and celebrate the power of love and forgiveness as a practical force for good in today’s world.” Together, TechBridgeWorld and Fetzer were interested in how the Braille Tutor devices compared to each outer, how compassionate engineering manifested, and how love and forgiveness could inform future work in technology solutions for the blind and visually impaired community.
The comparative user study was launched in May 2015 in partnership with the Mathru School for the Blind. One of the first lessons in love and a manifestation of compassionate engineering we encountered was to respect your partner community’s constraints. When working with a small population on a technology prototype, utilizing traditional tools for evaluation may not always be feasible, but it does not make the results any less substantial. The comparative user study was set up in such a way that accommodated the school’s constraints.
Ultimately, several teachers and primary and middle school students from the school voluntarily participated in the study and all had access to our Braille Writing Tutor (BWT) and Stand-Alone Braille Writing Tutor (SABT). We deployed six BWTs and six SABTs and teachers could choose which of the devices to use in the classroom, how to integrate it into their curriculum, how best to rotate the available devices among students, and how frequently to use the devices in a given week.
The following posts will share results, stories, and lessons from the comparative user study.