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Thursday, November 30, 2023

How tactile graphics can assist end image hardship

Dealing with images isn’t in the task description for many gain access to technologists like me, however I think it needs to be. I imagine a day when having a look at a street map, browsing tattoo styles, or making a seating chart are simply as hassle-free and prevalent for blind folks when it comes to our sighted equivalents.

When we speak about graphics and images, the presumption that they will be skilled aesthetically is implicit in the language we utilize. We describe the visual arts, visual help, and information visualizations; we conflate the world of images with the sense of vision as a method of understanding. Our mainly sighted culture centers and shares spatial representations that are suggested for, and trust, vision as a path to understanding.

If you consider blind individuals’s access to material, it’s most likely that a couple of things enter your mind: the advancement and advancement of braille, the schedule of text-to-speech and braille output for onscreen material, and the requirement for available sites and apps that comply with standards for screen-reading software application. While these innovations form a bedrock of gain access to important to info literacy for blind and low-vision individuals, they mainly deal with one particular kind of info: text.

In an age when lectures, organization discussions, news, and home entertainment are generally provided with abundant, typically interactive visuals, those people who are blind typically discover ourselves relegated to a text-only experience. Although alt text– the description of images online– permits content authors to explain essential visuals, the expression that “a photo deserves a thousand words” fails when just words are readily available. It is necessary to experience a stock chart, a circuit diagram, or a map as planned– that is to state, as an image. Textual descriptions of products like these, if they include all the info in the initial image, are painfully verbose and regularly stop working to provide important insights with the accuracy of an image.

The power of images to communicate info specifically and concisely through spatial representation, nevertheless, isn’t naturally visual at all. For blind readers, students, and developers, tactile graphics– images rendered understandable by touch– open the world of spatial interaction.

Tactile graphics

As a blind tech teacher, it’s my task– and my enthusiasm– to present blind and low-vision library clients to tools that assist them move through every day life with autonomy and ease. Our group of blind and sighted personnel and volunteers runs group workshops and private visits that intend to provide everybody the self-confidence to print existing graphics or make their own.

a map entitled "MacArthur--Street" showing the concourse and a parking garage between MLK and Telegraph.
In the meantime, tactile readers lose out on the usefulness of focusing on the information of makings like this Bay Location Rapid Transit (BART) map.


In 2016, a blind customer brand-new to New york city City called me up with a basic demand: he desired a map of the 5 districts, revealing their shapes, relative areas, and sizes. I addressed this query with some result in braille book publishers who make maps, however I quickly began to question: What should blind individuals do when they desire a tactile graphic that does not yet exist? Why had I seen more tactile graphics as a kid, in books, than at any other time considering that? What would require to take place to produce an uncomplicated course, accessible by any blind or low-vision individual, in between sensation curious about an offered image and having a tactile variation of the image in hand?

Tactile graphic style is an art of improvement: what interest the eye might be jumbled and disorderly to the fingertips. The legibility and effect of a tactile graphic depend upon the author’s grasp of practices for communicating info by touch. Considering that perceivable tactile resolution is much lower than resolution perceivable by vision, it’s important that tactile graphics be scaled up enough to make crucial elements noticeable. Considering that color isn’t within the scope of tactile style, other techniques need to be utilized to draw differences. For instance, a tactile pie chart may utilize 4 various textures (untextured “white” area, dotted infill, squares, and stripes) to separate 4 wedges. The timeless “flatten the curve” graphic, which utilized colored lines to communicate considerably various public health results for covid-19 with and without protective steps, is simply as reliable as a tactile graphic when dotted, rushed, and strong lines are used to interact the message.

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