This story is from the 2019 Access FYI: FedEx Young Innovators List. Explore more from this issue

A Young Innovator’s Vision to Help the Blind

A high school junior — the youngest FedEx Young Innovator to date — is innovating a way for people to “feel the color” of their clothes.

As a young girl in Minden, Louisiana, Jakayla Dixon would often stay with her Aunt Cynthia while her mother, Jacqueline, was at work. “Growing up with her, she was always asking, ‘Jakayla, what color is this? Jakayla, can you tell me what this looks like?’” Dixon remembers. Her Aunt Cynthia was blind. Little did Jakayla know, that would change her life.

I have to do something that gives her the opportunity to see but in a different way.

—Jakayla Dixon

Fast forward to Dixon’s freshman year in high school — the year she joined a business academy where students were charged with developing an innovation plan. That plan, she says, had to include something that had never been done before or change an existing product into something different. “I was sitting there like every other kid, stressing out,” Dixon says. “And then I remember calling my Aunt Cynthia because she helps me with my homework 24/7. And I’m like, ‘Aunt Cyn, I just don’t know what I want to do for this project. Everything that’s ever been done in this world has been done before.’ And she’s like, ‘Well, Jakayla, there’s nothing to tell me what color my clothes are.’” The realization struck, Dixon remembers: “I have to do something that gives her the opportunity to see but in a different way.”

Dixon’s innovation: embroidered fabric tags with Braille alphabet lettering and symbols to help the visually impaired feel the color of their clothing. And because many visually impaired people haven’t been able to see since birth or lost their eyesight at an early age, Dixon created a complementary color wheel and color chart so people could understand what colors go together. “They sometimes don’t fully understand what color is blue, what color is brown, what color is yellow,” she says. “Now they have the opportunity to be creative and fashionable on a daily basis.”

The innovation became a company, Feel the Color, when Dixon joined the Junior Achievement Company Program. Feel the Color went on to be named the 2017 Junior Achievement Company of the Year in her region and to win the FedEx Access Award at the Junior Achievement National Student Leadership Summit.

Patent in hand, Dixon hopes to partner with clothing designers in the future. “But it was never about money or becoming rich,” she says. “It was always about trying to inform people that not everyone is the same as us — that they might look different or can’t see — but that they deserve the same quality of life.”

Dixon appears in Made Possible, a documentary celebrating the 100th anniversary of Junior Achievement, airing this spring and summer on PBS stations nationwide. Learn more.

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