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Industrial design team wins award for blind swimming technology

Author: Arts and Letters


A team of University of Notre Dame researchers led by Paul Down, associate professor of industrial design, received the inaugural Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award for developing AdapTap, a system that empowers sight-impaired swimmers to avoid pool-side collisions.

Established by the National Federation of the Blind and named for a pioneering blind physician who practiced in the early 20th century, the Bolotin Award recognizes individuals and organizations working in the field of blindness that have made outstanding contributions toward achieving the full integration of the blind into society on the basis of equality.

Winners of a $10,000 Bolotin Award, Notre Dame’s AdapTap team members are: Down, graduate industrial design students Fernando Carvalho and Kyle Walters, aquatics coach Annie Sawicki, and student-athletes Ashley Nashleanas and James Fetter.

Under the designation of the AdapTap Team Swimmer Project, the team created the Tactile Navigation System for Blind Swimmers a guidance network of in-water touch rods (or tappers) attached to pool lane markers to signal a blind swimmer’s proximity to lane side and end boundaries. Their strategic placement, flexibility and soft, tactile ends are intended to painlessly guide swimmers.

Currently, blind swimmers are signaled to make flip turns at pool lane ends by paid assistants who tap them with a tennis ball fixed to a stick.

Kiefer and Associates, an international swimwear and swim accessory supplier, recently added AdapTap to its extensive product line, and the Notre Dame team plans to continue working with the company to further develop the product.

A video of the project, which was the subject of an NBC feature story last year, is available at .

Contact: Paul Down, 574-631-6836,

Originally published by Shannon Chapla at on July 17, 2008.