Singapore, 23rd June 2012
I think we all wonder what it is to be blind, certainly as a lighting designer. We need to see in order to work in our profession, or at least so it seems. I was triggered to write about this subject after I read a story in Illumni, a creative online lighting magazine, reporting about a blind boy who was able to read an illuminated form of Braille with his own eyes. The installation, called cBraille and developed by Rob Caslick, was on exhibition in Melbourne’s Federation Square. Custom made panels of LED’s are arranged in Braille code usingon LED per Braille point. The boy was not 100% blind and had partial sight in one eye I believe, but still it is an interesting topic as we live by light and what we see. It has been said that 80% of information we receive is visual.
Searching Google on the subject I found another experiment carried out by some scientists in Europe where a man, totally blind, managed to walk an obstacle course without touching any of the obstacles. He walked a hall straddled with objects such as boxes, a garbage can, a tripod, stacks of paper etc. He managed to navigate his way without touching any of them. The researchers claim this is, I quote: “a dramatic demonstration of “blindsight”, the native human ability to sense things using the brain’s primitive, subcortical – and entirely subconscious – visual system”. It seems to indicate that we “see” more then only visual images.
We design for visually healthy people, we assume all our end users are people with normal sight. But like the urban landscape more and more is provided with Braille-street tiles to guide and inform the visually impaired, we may need to think about our lighting design in the same way? Should we consider creating additional brightness or contrast to help the visually impaired identify critical areas, transitions, peripheries? It is hard to imagine being blind, even more to know how lighting design could help the blind, or can it?
Light Watch 3-91: Here are the images from cBraille exhibition and the blind obstacle test. Here is the link to the video about it.