Teacher modernizes lightbox for students worldwide

Teacher modernizes lightbox for students worldwide
Posted on 06/11/2019
Nick, Tristan, and a representative from MDE with the new light box

Nick Hadfield had been using the same light box for his entire career as a teacher of the blind/visually-impaired (BVI), and even longer as a parent of a visually impaired son. In fact, BVI teachers across the world have been using this device since its inception in the 1970s. This important tool has only had mild revisions since it first became available to educators.

A light box is a back lit viewing device that is used in situations where a person who is visually impaired needs high-contrast lighting in order to see an object. Many of us have seen something similar in X-Ray laboratories or photography studios, but people with visual impairments also use the devices to create art, read text, and display visually-stimulating images that keep students engaged in learning. With a light box, students learn tracking, scanning, eye-hand coordination, visual discrimination, and visual perceptual skills.

The light boxes available to teachers were between 10 and 20 pounds and had limited mobility, which was a problem for people in wheelchairs and in unique positions. The fluorescent lights flickered, which was dangerous for people with a history of seizures. And the many heavy D batteries that it required to work often corroded if they weren’t changed often. While working with multiply-impaired students who have neurological visual impairments, including his own son, Nick realized a design change was needed. 

Nick partnered with the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) on this ambitious project. APH is the world’s largest nonprofit organization creating educational, workplace, and independent living products and services for people who are blind and visually impaired. They have offered many light box products for years that have been a great help to people with visual impairments, but they too recognized the need to modernize the technology.

Nick spent months creating and designing prototypes for APH multi-position mounts that would attach to the light box named MINI-Lite Box. Eventually, Nick and APH found a variety of solutions and vendors to manufacture and adapt products to work with the new design. 

The new MINI-Lite Box is significantly lighter at four pounds, contains LED lights that don’t flicker, and has a rechargeable lithium ion battery. It also has a threaded adapter on the back with multiple position stands that can be removed to accommodate movable arms and other features that make it easy to attach to a wheelchair or other surfaces. There are also accessories designed to make it easier for students to use paint or other materials without damaging the device. 

At a demonstration at Quora Education Center in June, it was standing-room only in the small conference room where Nick and APH’s Tristan Gay Pierce explained the new device and its features. The teachers couldn’t wait to use it in their classrooms, but the final product will not be ready for purchase until 2020 at the earliest. 

Nick and APH think it is worth the wait.