Co-design of an Assistive Internet Navigation Device for People with Visual Impairments

The Internet is not inclusive for people with visual impairments. Indeed, assistive devices do not allow people with visual impairments to easily locate themselves on a web page, nor to interact quickly. However, the Internet has become an essential tool (especially during these pandemic times), for communicating, working, accessing leisure and social activities. Thus, this project aims to co-design an assistive device with users, partners, clinicians, research team, which can be adapted to online navigation for people with visual impairments. We will adopt the co-design method and, in this context, we will carry out focus groups, present some initiatives including a technological tool with haptic sensations reflecting the Web navigation hierarchy. One of the outcomes of the project will be to build and implement the device within the service offer of the partners for the people with visual impairments.


The main objective of this project is the co-design of the device. This project has four sub-objectives:

  1. Assess the user’s needs
  2. Develop the assistive device
  3. Test the performance of the device when performing an online task
  4. Evaluate the degree of satisfaction of users during their online interactions


  1. Co-design of the prototype
  2. Build the device & Co-creative Interactions
  3. Experimentation
  4. Analyses and final adjustments to the device
  5. Knowledge transfer


This is an open source technology to facilitate Internet navigation for visually impaired and blind participants. It is a technology that complements the use of screen reading software, such as NVDA or JAWS. The project focuses on trying to provide a tactile version of the headings on a web page that the user can interact with directly with their hands, such as a mini-map of the web page under the palm of the hands.

The design is participatory, which means that users are at the forefront during the design process. Their opinions and experiences will shape the design developed during the research process.

To develop the technology with the participants and clinicians, 6 one-hour sessions spread over 4 months were conducted.

This is a new open source technology. This means that anyone in the world can build it, sell it and improve it, making it better over time. For example, a researcher elsewhere in the world can use this technology to attach metadata or the result of an algorithm to the mini-touch map, or a Braille display company can take the design and use its touch technology to make a high-end product. Each interaction with the technology will help the project mature.

Device Details

The device is about 3 cm thick, 13 cm high and 8 cm wide. On the left is the mini map, on this prototype there are 4 rows of dots to represent 4 headers. Future versions may include more rows. If a line has its first dot raised, it means it is a level 1 heading. If a line has its 4th dot raised, it is a level 4 heading.

To the right of each line is a button that allows you to interact with the title while browsing the web page. By briefly pressing the button, you can have the computer read aloud the text in the heading. Press twice to access the header.


Prototype testing

photo d'un participant testant un prototype réalisé à partir de lego afin de dimensionner les emplacements des composants enectroniques



The participant tests a prototype made from lego in order to size the locations of the electronic components.




Photo d'un participant interagissant avec la version imprimé en 3D du prototype.


Here the participant interacts with the 3D printed version of the prototype.





Video presentation in English

More info


Last update: February 21, 2023

Global progress
Co-creation of the prototype
Construction & Co-creative Interactions
Analyzes and final adjustments to the device
Knowledge transfer
Team members


Jocelyne Kiss, principal investigator | Regular researcher, CIRRIS and Professor, Département de design, Université Laval

Frédérique Poncet, principal investigator | Researcher, Centre de réadaptation Lethbridge-Layton-Mackay (CRLLM), CIUSSS du Centre-Ouest de l’Île-de-Montréal (CCOMTL)

Walter Wittich, co-investigator | Regular researcher, CRIR and Professor, École d’optométrie, Université de Montréal

Juan Nino, student | PhD student, Faculté de design, Université Laval

Partners :

France Picard, principal partner | Chef de service de la recherche, de l’innovation et du secteur de l’adaptation de l’information et médias substituts, Institut Nazareth et Louis-Braille, Direction des programmes déficiences (DI, TSA, DP et DV) du CISSS de la Montérégie-Centre

Geneviève Chabot, principal partner| Rehabilitation Assistant Director, Centre de réadaptation Lethbrige-Layton-Mackay (CRLLM), Direction de la réadaptation et des services multidisciplinaires, CIUSSS Centre-Ouest

Pascale Dussault, partner | Executive Director, Regroupement des aveugles et amblyopes du Montréal Métropolitain (RAAMM)

Innovation stages
  • Émergence
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