Transensational Objects

Inventing Methods for Inclusive Design


Design Studio in Collaboration with Perkins School for the Blind, MIT, January 2019

Co-instructor: Athina Papadopoulou 


Design for the Blind, with the Blind 

Design pedagogies tend to prioritize vision over other senses. This vision-centric approach often neglects aspects of accessibility and inclusivity in the ways that we experience space. Transensational objects studio acted as a platform exploring how visual spatial experiences that are inaccessible to the blind can be expressed in non-visual modalities. Students identified spatial problems related to the everyday lives of blind or visually impaired  individuals: how do blind people orient themselves in space? How do they experience everyday activities and objects? Using the campus of the Perkins School for the Blind as a site of intervention, students developed auditory and/or tactile objects of inclusive design –transensational objects– to address these questions.


The proposed objects varied in scale and type, ranging from wearables and interfaces to design objects and spatial installations. The design process was guided by the method of sensory correspondences: students devised rules for translating visual properties into tactile or sound properties in order to design inclusive spatial experiences. Through the course of the workshop, students had the opportunity to test their prototypes on the Perkins campus while receiving on-site feedback from Perkins students and specialists. The studio culminated in a public presentation and discussion addressing broader questions of sensory engagement and accessibility in design.



Final review session at Perkins School for the Blind. Photo: Gerard Patawaran



Students and instructors with Dave Power, CEO of Perkins School for the Blind. Photo: Gerard Patawaran


Student Projects


Touch Sound. Student: Jill Qua


Tactile Navigation. Student:  Michelle Xie


Tactile Organization. Student:  Jackie Xu


Tactile Graphics. Student:  Alan Lundgard