WACO, Texas (FOX 44) – Chemistry is a hands on and visual subject, so for those who are visually impaired, there can be some challenges.
A professor at Baylor has come up with a way for everyone to access images regardless of their abilities.
Using lithophane allows everyone to access the exact same data whether you feel it or read it.
“Systematically, it’s been very exclusive for people with disabilities,” a blind student at Baylor, Noah Cook, said. “I would say especially blind people since it’s a very visual subject.”
Cook is a sophomore at Baylor and wants to go into research, but in a field like chemistry that is historically exclusive, lithophane is a game changer.
“Blind people will stay in their own little corner and correspond with each other,” Cook said. “But now that the bridge is kind of gapped, it’s going to be really helpful for promoting inclusivity in the STEM field, not just in the chemistry.”
Baylor professor Bryan Shaw wanted to find a way to make data shareable using formats blind and sighted people can access.
“We stumbled upon an old fashioned art form, and now we’re using it to rescue science from itself and make it more accessible to people with blindness,” Shaw said.
Shaw says chemistry is the central science and without it, other sciences can be hard to understand and that’s why it’s so important.
“Chemistry is a great starting point for making all of science accessible to people with blindness,” Shaw said. “It’s central, and it’s been historically one of the worst offenders in terms of keeping people out.”
Cook says this increased accessibility motivates him to contribute more to the field.
Matthew Guberman-Pfeffer agrees.
“If we lower that barrier, then my research productivity will go up, my contribution to the scientific conversation will improve,” Guberman-Pfeffer said.
But, his undergrad experience at a Fairfield University was different. He was strongly encouraged to major in humanities.
“She said to me, I don’t know how you’ve done it so far,” Guberman-Pfeffer said. “You passed all your courses, but this one you can’t pass. Well, I passed it to”