Hahn, M. E., Mueller, C. M., & Gorlewicz, J. L. (2019). The comprehension of STEM graphics via a multisensory tablet electronic device by students with visual impairments . Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness , 113 (5), 404–418. https://doi.org/10.1177/0145482X19876463

Journal Article

Hahn, M. E., Mueller, C. M., & Gorlewicz, J. L. (2019). The comprehension of STEM graphics via a multisensory tablet electronic device by students with visual impairments. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 113(5), 404–418. https://doi.org/10.1177/0145482X19876463


Electronic administration; Elementary; High school; Math; Middle school; Multiple ages; Science; Technological aid; U.S. context; Visual impairment (including blindness)





The accommodation of tactile graphics, presented in an embossed paper-based form as well as through a specialized touchscreen electronic administration tool, was investigated. The specialized tool was a multisensory electronic tablet relaying information with haptics and sound effects; participant responses were electronic for the tablet condition.


Twenty-two (22) students and youth with blindness or visual impairments aged 10–22 years in grades 5–12 participated, from three schools for blind students and a summer camp program in the Midwest (U.S.). Gender (50% female, 50% male) was also reported. Participant surveys gathered individual information such as details about disabilities and learning skills.

Dependent Variable

A set of questions measuring STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) content comprehension when using different accommodations was co-developed by the authors and an educator for students with visual impairments. Student participants also completed a self-report questionnaire on demographics, history of and related disabilities, degree of impairment, primary learning modality, and preferred operating system. Information about participants' testing experiences was obtained using an exit questionnaire seeking feedback on touch screen graphics, along with scaled items seeking scaled responses on problems with and impact of delayed access or inaccessibility to content, and motivational factors.


The researchers determined that the effects of using a multisensory tablet—with a touchscreen employing haptic features, providing both sound and vibration feedback—were similar to using embossed paper tactile graphic images on mathematics and science assessment items for individuals with visual impairments. Paired sample mean score comparisons yielded that participants had 6% more correct answers when getting test item information through embossed graphics on paper than through the multisensory tablet; this difference was not statistically significant. Factors such as the severity of participants' visual impairments, and their experience with braille reading, and even not having previous experience with the tablet did not mediate these effects. Participants' perceptions of using the multisensory tablet included both positive and negative feedback. Positive feedback indicated that users enjoyed using the device and that the sounds and vibrations were engaging, while negative feedback indicated concern of line thickness, use of space, and repetitive sounds. Researchers reported that this feedback could be incorporated easily to improve images. Limitations of the study were reported, and future research directions were suggested.