Matthew is a blind student at the University of Bologna, attending the Professional Educator course at the Faculty of Medicine. He’s doing his internship at the Fondazione ASPHI Foundation. These days, Matthew is exploring the shapes of the Empire State Building, 3D printed with a Delta WASP 2040. In fact he is actively involved, along with ASPHI experts and researchers, in testing the 3D printer that WASP has made available to the non-profit organization based in Bologna, that has been reaching out to people with disabilities through technology for more than thirty years. Matthew lost his sight when he was very young, and until recently he had only heard about, but did not know the real forms of Art Deco skyscraper, which is a symbol of New York City. Through this experience, we can say that Matthew can now “see” and learn through touch. 

The establishment of a 3D printing laboratory in the ASPHI Foundation headquarters in Bologna is focused on developing a branch oriented to construction of objects and computer aids for people with disabilities. People who have the same rights as every one else and special needs, to which they or their families often find original answers and crafty low cost solutions. Through ASPHI’s experience, particualr attention will be paid to the contribution that people with disabilities can make, directly as inventors directly, or indirectly as carriers of specific needs, in the design and construction of technological solutions, aids and items that can help to improve the quality of life for everyone all: at home, at school, at work or at play. The basis for a relationship between WASP and ASPHI were laid down about a year ago and have further grown starting in November 2014, on the occasion of Handimatica. The national show and conference on technologies for disability dedicated a special section to 3D printers and the Mak-ER network. The collaboration finally began to take form. “We have been following the the theme of aids, and particularly those that a disabled person could personally manufacture – said Rossella Romeo of the ASPHI Foundation – We know that several university research centers have already begun experimenting with 3D printing applied to the world of disability and also some FabLabs have been particularly sensitive to this issue. We were looking for a 3D printer manufacturer that was willing to cooperate with us.Partnering with WASP was the most natural thing.”

There are more obvious reasons for this ongoing collaboration, which WASP holds particularly dear. One is local, that is, the possibility of promoting local centers of excellence that are the crown jewels of this region. Another is deeper and Rossella Romeo explains it very clearly: “We, like WASP, began by accepting a challenge that could be defined as visionary: teaching blind people to become computer programmers. In WASP’s mission I see a lot in common with our own values ​​and aspirations: think big, do not stop at those which are considered to be the normal boundaries.”

The course has thus been set and not just for the blind but also for those with other disabilities: mobility impairments, cognitive problems, children with autism, elderly with dementia … There already is a specific project that will use the Delta WASP 2040 3D pritner. It is called Clip4all and was selected among 10 winners of the Think for Social program by the Vodafone Foundation ->

Within a few days of testing we have already created the first objects experimenting with conductive PLA to use with the Clip4all kit, in educational settings and for creating custom mice, in the most accessibile and creative way.

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