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Tactile Printer One – from dream to reality

Taliking with Dan Patzelt

Today we are talking with Dan Patzelt about Tactile Printer One and more.

We met Dan in 2019 when we became partners in the Tactile Printer One project, a project funded by the Orange Foundation through the World through Color and Sound Program 2019. A project initiated by the Association for Urban Development in partnership with the Polytechnic University of Bucharest, Lions Club Arad, Tandem Association, Sense International Romania and the National Library of Romania, which comes to the aid of people with visual and multisensory impairments and aims to make their information accessible.


Who is Dan Patzelt and what motivates him?

Dan Patzel is a stubborn person. Which if he believes in something, he holds on with his teeth until he succeeds. Falls are successful, right? (laughs)

When you’ve been working with visually impaired people for 10 years, you’re forced into introspection every day. You learn to look at yourself with other eyes. You learn to measure each action in such a way that you do not trample on each other’s space, freedoms and rights.

Some people would say I’m nosy by nature, but I like to help if I’m not asked. I get involved because I think of humanity as a part of us. And I think that’s exactly my motivation. I have a crazy thirst to help (change) people.


Tell us about the projects you are working on (including the one we are partners in).

The project I’m working on now is a story that started 10 years ago. Back then, I did advocacy projects, made museums accessible, organized tactile exhibitions. When I realized that a blind child can’t enjoy a painting unless he has a specialist by his side to guide his hand and patiently explain what he’s touching, I thought that we need a change. That even these children should be able to enjoy the art at any time.

And that’s how I turned the idea that blind people should be able to discover the world, concepts or objects that they can’t touch on their own, into my mission.

After a decade of work, blind children can now independently explore images using a mobile app, enjoy the presence of the specialist at the museum or at their home.

Although I started from an experience in the museum, the desire is to change for the better the education of children with special needs. On the tactile Images e-learning platform, teachers and parents have free access to drawings that describe audio, the chance to create their own materials and install the assistant app on their children’s phone. Thus, they can give children access to homeschooling and remote teaching, vital in the context of the pandemic.

When we created the app that describes audio drawings, we were thinking about visually impaired children. But there are other categories of children with special educational needs who are dependent on a specialist when they want to explore drawings and need personalized materials. That is why we have joined several partners in the “Tactile Printer One” project, funded by the Orange Foundation. To create drawings tailored to the needs of as many children as possible. With the Tandem Association, we will create maps of cities where there are large communities of blind people, and with Sense International Romania and the National Library we will create educational content that can be used in any classroom.

In addition to expanding to other special needs, “Tactile Printer One” also means the development of a tactile printer that will greatly reduce the costs of embossing drawings. This is where specialists from the Polytechnic University of Bucharest come to the scenes, who are working at its production.

Now we are also working on a new tactile catalogue, with which children with special needs will be able to discover the fascinating world of electricity on their own. This is where Electrica SA came to support us.

To help as many children with special needs to study on their own, the next project would be to make the assistant app for Android (it is currently only available for iOS). But for that we need support. If those who read us want to help, they can do it here: www.tactileimages.org  


How can deafblind children benefit from these projects?

I think the best example is the tactile catalogues that I mentioned above. Let’s talk a little bit about “Urban Landscapes”, the first self-described tactile catalogue, which we created in collaboration with ING Bank and which anyone can download for free here: . 

Simplified drawings contain not only audio descriptions, but also Braille descriptions, to allow children with deafblindness to independently explore intangible objects. They can find out for themselves what animals, traffic signs, public transportation or buildings look like.

“Urban Landscapes” and “Electric Network” are just two of the tactile catalogues created, we have also worked on catalogues with portraits of historical figures, with descriptions signed by the Center for Historical Consulting, catalogues with vehicles, biology or geography, made with the help of OMV Petrom. They will be free to be downloaded to allow children with deafblindness to discover new things and deepen school subjects.

We invite parents of children with deafblindness to join the Tactile Images platform to create their own self-described drawings, to which they can also add descriptions in Braille. Only together can we help children with special needs enjoy a fulfilled life through easy access to education!