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Woodturning with Physical Limitations - Vision
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Woodturning with

Physical Limitations




Seated Turners

Symposium Events

The greatest challenge in learning to turn for the blind and low-vision community is the lack of learning opportunities and adaptive technology, not the lack of vision. The average AAW member is a baby boomer now 60- to 65-years old. The AAW’s second largest member segment is members who are 45- to 60-years old.  Given those demographics, the AAW has direct experience with the challenges that woodturners experience with age-related vision loss.


As the population ages, the number of members with visual impairments is increasing. The challenge is to improve service to our current audience by providing information and adaptive resources and to reach out to new potential turners to make them aware that this artform is and will continue to be accessible to them.


The AAW had identified one roadblock, that of instructor confidence in the ability to work with blind and low-vision students. The AAW is in a position to organize, lead, and develop materials that will provide a sustainable model for instructors, local chapters, and members to use in making their programming accessible to people of all abilities.


The AAW created a successful youth-turning curriculum in 2009 that is available electronically at no charge to any instructor. The AAW is doing the same for turners with challenges.


Accessible Lathe Manual

Download the Accessible Lathe Manual to open in a new window. The bookmarks are based on headings, and the document is prepared for "activate read out loud."


The Accessible Lathe Manual describes the process of woodturning for a person who is blind or visually impaired.  It provides alternative approaches to some of the techniques that traditionally have been described only in terms of those not sight-challenged. 


This manual focuses on adaptive approaches for woodturning.  In most cases, it is not an attempt to teach woodturning ... the basic techniques for turning would be the same for anyone, sighted or not.


This manual is intended to be used by both the instructors or mentors who would assist a blind or low-vision student and by the students themselves.



The goal of the Woodturning with Physical Limitations program is to break down common barriers for the participation of blind and low vision woodturners by developing a repeatable curriculum and teaching support materials. Below is an assortment of the Accessible Lathe videos developed to provide information, adaptive resources, and reach out to potential turners to make them aware that this art form is achievable and accessible.


Phil McDonald, AAW Executive Director, gives a short introduction to the Accessible Lathe (running time 2:13).


The Accessible Lathe: an Introduction (subtitled) from AAW on Vimeo.


View a video about the "Woodturning Process" by Dennis DeVendra (running time 33:06). He reviews sharpening, the work bench, and spindle turning.

The Accessible Lathe: The Woodturning Process (subtitled) from AAW on Vimeo.


This video offers important information about safety (running time 4:00).

The Accessible Lathe: Woodturning Safety (subtitled) from AAW on Vimeo.


View "Woodturning for the Blind" by Dennis DeVendra, Gary Mrozek, Bruce Aarons, and Jim Sannerud (running time 6:30).

The Accessible Lathe: Woodturning for the Blind (subtitled) from AAW on Vimeo.


The American Association of Woodturners (AAW) is the largest international nonprofit organization in the world dedicated to the advancement of woodturning. AAW was founded by woodturners in 1986. Members include beginners, amateurs, professionals, gallery owners, collectors, and wood and tool suppliers. The AAW and its local chapters provide an opportunity for individuals at all levels to meet, engage in an exchange of ideas about art, materials and techniques, learn new skills, and discuss the aesthetics of the craft.

The Accessible Lathe: The AAW (subtitled) from AAW on Vimeo.





VSA Minnesota logo Clean Water Land & Legacy logo This activity is funded in part by VSA Minnesota - the State Organization on Arts and Disability, and by the Minnesota State Arts Board. Our grateful appreciation for this vital support.


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