Adapting a Rubik’s Cube for an Individual Who Is Blind or Deaf-Blind

Editor’s note: Today’s post is from guest blogger Kristen Sharpless. Kristen has her bachelors in American Sign Language/English interpreting and is pursuing her master’s degree in Vision Rehab Therapy and a certification in orientation and mobility. She is extremely passionate about working with individuals who are deaf-blind. Kristen shares how to adapt a Rubik’s cube for an individual who is deaf-blind or visually impaired.

Adapting a Rubik’s Cube

By Kristen Sharpless

When I was in elementary school, I checked out my first two books from the library. The first book was titled My First Book of Sign Language, and the second book, unbeknownst to me at the time, would spark a flame that would continue to burn until this very day, 20 plus years later. This book was the autobiography of Helen Keller, a woman born in Alabama who contracted an illness that left her deaf and blind. From the moment I put that book down, Helen Keller was a hero of mine. I read everything I could get my hands on about her.

I knew from a very early age that wherever life took me, that deaf and blind woman from Alabama would play a significant role. As I continued through school, I began to focus on American Sign Language.

I am now in school getting my master’s degree in vision studies, and for my intro to vision rehab therapy class, I had to create an adapted recreational activity or game for someone who is blind. When I saw the Rubik’s Cube out shopping, I knew immediately what to do with it. I had my best friend in mind (she’s not blind, she just loves playing with these things), so I thought I would make it tactile and blindfold her to have her try it out!

Making an Adapted Rubik’s Cube

The process to make it was relatively simple. As soon as I had the cube, I headed out to Michael’s and looked for different tactile markers I could use. I wanted to keep the colors consistent because it was aesthetically pleasing and it could be used for someone who is colorblind as well. The most difficult part I had with this was finding textures that were completely different from each other to avoid confusion or mistakes. I had to really think about what I put next to each other—that took the longest part of my trip to Michael’s! The project took me about 10 minutes to put together, and I really love the way it came out.

I utilized a standard 3x3x3 Rubik’s cube that has a smooth side (orange), a side with nine buttons (yellow), a side with nine "loop" parts of Velcro (white), a side with nine "hook" parts of Velcro (green), a side with star-shaped foam stickers (red), and a side with plastic domed-jewels (blue). A grand total of $15 in supplies.

Any way you decide to craft it, make sure that the markers you place on the sides can be easily discriminated from each other. And consider placement! If they’re too similar, it might get confusing to remember which is which. I tried to go for as different as possible.

Additional Suggestions

  • Use a sealant to prevent the items from falling off!
  • If you want to use braille letters, make sure that they are letters that can be read at all angles (G, L, X, A, C, K).
  • Use a stronger adhesive than the stickers and Velcro already come with for increased durability.
  • >The tactile markers don’t have to match the colors if you don’t want them to! I did it for aesthetic purposes and colorblindness.
  • You don’t have to leave one side smooth if you don’t want to!

I wanted to share this simple project with people so that occupational therapists, vision rehabilitation therapists, teachers of the students with visual impairments, friends, and family members can see how simple it is to make!

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