Six Lake Washington School District (LWSD) middle school students saw the fruits of their labor as they watched Aleana Roberts, a blind teacher from Seattle, use their braille menu for the first time.
The Jelly Jolts #39887 made up of Anika Joshi, Sawar Saini, Varnika Bhargava, Sanj Saini, Katiali Singh and Leisha Chabungbam have teamed up with Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream in Redmond to create a braille menu for those in the community who are blind and visually impaired.
The project has been almost a year in the making. The Jelly Jolts are part of For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), a nonprofit STEM-engagement program for kids worldwide. Within FIRST, the girls are part of a program called First Lego League (FLL) and as a team, participated in the City Shaper Challenge.
The challenge compelled students to identify a real problem in their community and find a solution.
The problem the Jelly Jolts identified: There aren’t enough restaurants that provide braille menus for the blind and visually impaired.
The solution: Make a braille menu that can adapt and serve the blind and visually impaired in the best way possible.
Their research concluded that about 10 percent of restaurants have braille menus. After reaching out to 30 local Eastside and Seattle restaurants about their idea, Molly Moon’s in Redmond showed the greatest interest.
Their next step was to learn more about the blind and visually impaired. The Jelly Jolts visited The Lighthouse for the Blind, Inc. in Seattle. Sawar Saini said she learned that people who are blind and visually impaired like to feel secure and confident and that having a braille menu would help them be able to place an order without having to ask someone to read the menu multiple times.
The Jelly Jolts partnered with Braille Works in order to print the menus in a more timely manner. They have been funded through LWSD.
In addition to the braille menus, the Jelly Jolts developed a QR code to help those who can’t read braille. The QR code is on the front page of the first-ever Molly Moon’s braille menu.
“The Jelly Jolts have worked hard this year to create a braille menu that lists our always flavors and toppings for our shop so that blind and vision impaired customers can more easily access our menu,” Molly Moon’s stated in an Instagram post. “They worked with the Lighthouse for the Blind to create an accurate menu and then with the help of a generous teacher with access to a braille printer, printed them.”
The braille menu debuted Feb. 23. For two hours, 100 percent of Molly Moon’s Redmond’s sales went to The Lighthouse for the Blind.
At the debut, the girls saw the menu work in action.
Roberts was one of the first to try it.
“It feels like I get to participate,” she said. “It let’s me be able to take my time and order what I want.”
Roberts said she was surprised by how descriptive the menu was. “It’s so interesting that they describe each flavor,” she said. “This is cool.”
Her only recommendation was creating a table of contents. “This would help in being able to better navigate the menu so I don’t have to read the whole menu to get to the section I want.”
Watching Roberts use the braille menu was especially rewarding to the girls.
“I feel so proud,” Anika said. “I’m so glad we were able to make an impact.”