A student at Heriot-Watt University has created a new type of “tactile” tartan, designed to provide tactile feedback to people with visual impairments.

Anna Cuinu, who is studying for her Masters Knitwear course at the university’s Galashiels campus in the Scottish Borders, designed a knitted tartan fabric which translates the traditional colours and patterns of tartan into a sensory experience.

The tactile tartan uses a colour coding system which translates colour into texture called Feelipa in her knitted garments, which also include draw string pockets and tie fastenings instead of zips and buttons, all of which were influenced by focus groups held with the Royal National Institute for the Blind, which focused on solving issues that visually impaired consumers have with clothes.

Anna said of her collection: “It’s been an astonishing project into accessibility issues with clothing, not only for those with visual impairments but for many others.

“Accessible designs are often gimmicky or designed by larger companies to use as a marketing tool, where the innovative product is then not rolled out for use by those who would benefit from it.

“I’m excited to go forward with what I’ve learnt over the past year between knitwear manufacturing, materials testing methods and methodical approaches to research and design to create more accessible clothing solutions.”

James Adams, director of RNIB Scotland, the country’s leading sight loss charity, said: “It’s wonderful that the new generation of designers are thinking of people with disabilities. It’s their generosity of spirit, allied with their undoubted talent that will go far in creating the more inclusive society we all want.”

Image: Heriot-Watt University


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