With support from NFB (National Federation of the Blind) a company called 3DPhotoWorks LLC has developed a 3-D printing process that allows people who are blind to "see" fine art, diagrams, and other images. This process, which has recently been patented, converts any conventional painting, drawing, collage or photograph into a 3D Tactile Fine Art Print, with length, width, depth, and texture.
Neuroscientist Dr. Paul Bach-y-Rita of the University of Wisconsin notes that 3-D tactile printing is based on the concept of neuroplasticity. He explains that his research confirms that, "The brain is able to use tactile information coming from the fingertips as if it were coming from the eyes. That's because we don't see with our eyes or hear with our ears, these are just the receptors, seeing and hearing in fact goes on in the brain."
In addition to the tactile feedback received through touching three-dimensional artwork, sensors are embedded throughout the prints that when touched, activate custom audio that describes what is taking place at that exact spot in the image.
This technology provides direct access to works of art, thereby allowing people with visual impairments to experience it without the need of someone who is sighted to explain it.