Origami for the blind


About origami for the blind

Origami is the folding of paper, which is a very tactile material that is easily accessible and available in many qualities. Furthermore, the folding takes place in small, well-defined steps where you primarily use your fingers and where the sense of touch is an essential element.

It is therefore natural to think that you must be able to fold without seeing what you are doing. I and many other origamists have also done this, even performed with it. The latter because sighted people are impressed that the folding magic can be done without seeing.

It is one thing to close your eyes and fold a model you already know. It is quite another to have to learn a new model without being able to see, yes, without having the frame of reference with shapes and colors that sighted people have.

The perception of what models are like changes. Are the same models even "good"? "Looking good" is not the same as "feels good".

Folding techniques are changing. When sighted people fold, they use their vision to see that edges and corners match. Without sight, you have to see with your fingers.

Sighted beginners often find it easier to fold with the paper lying down against the table. This technique frees up two hands to fold and guide the paper, and it is often easier to make sharp folds down against a hard tabletop. But the control of where the corners and edges are folded will depend a lot on vision. It can be difficult to feel edges and corners on paper that lies flat against the table.

Without vision, it may be easier to hold the paper in the air so that you can clearly feel all edges. For example, if you fold corner to corner, you can easily feel with two fingers that the edges of the two layers on each side of the corner match up, and that the two corners are therefore exactly on top of each other.

A common technique for the sighted is to make two fold lines that cross in the middle of the paper and then fold, for example, a corner in to this cross. For the blind, it is necessary to find other techniques, which requires other folding sequences.

Especially in slightly older times, origami masters have used telephone origami. That is, they have telephoned instructions or written them down as text. This is very close to how you would instruct the blind. Yet it is completely different.

The difference is that the blind cannot see the paper. A very famous example is Fred Rohm's instructions for folding a nice six-pointed star out of a dollar bill. The instructions start with: Bring the left end to the right until the edge exactly bisects the letter 'I' in "America".. No, right?

The description of where to fold things is therefore different for the blind. But the description of the current step also changes. The same Fred Rohm later writes "The black side of the paper is now up". Not easy to verify without sight.

Rohm's instructions are rightly praised, but they assume that the recipient can see the paper. For blind people, both landmarks and checking where you are must be expressed differently.

It is not easy, but it can be done in most cases, and blind people can both fold and design origami.

Rikki Donachie writes: A dear friend has been blind since birth, and took to origami as a fish out of water when she was introduced to origami. The pages here contain simpler models, but Rikke writes further: She prefers to fold the more complex 3D models and tessellations.

Another well-known example is the Japanese Saburo Kase, who was blind from around the age of 10. He designed and taught origami, often to children. Among other designs, his vase (Kase-vase) is very elegant.

The website Origami for the blind provides a first introduction to origami for the blind, in Danish.