We acknowledge the importance of visual content in creating accurate mental images of the world, and we want to offer the blind the opportunity to explore as many tactile graphics as possible. We created more than just a LIBRARY of tactile graphics. We created a LIBRARY of self-describing tactile graphics, meaning that with the appropriate assistive technology – the READER app or Screen Readers, the blind can enjoy exploring independently.
1. The importance of the QR Code
There’s a particular thing about the self-describing tactile graphics in our LIBRARY, and it’s called the QR Code. This code is the link between the physical and the virtual world. Once the QR code is scanned with the smartphone – be it Android or iPhone, the graphics start giving you indications about the image in question.
There are two ways in which a blind person can read our graphics – with the aid of a Screen Reader or with the assistance of the Tactile Images READER app, the virtual assistant for the blind we created. These are two different ways, and you will find out more about them as follows!
2. Tactile graphics and Screen Readers
The great thing about Screen Readers is that they are available on all smartphones, which makes this first way of reading tactile graphics accessible to the majority of the blind. This method does not require expensive smartphone models; the majority of them have this function (VoiceOver – Apple, TalkBack – Android).
Let’s see how reading a tactile graphic with a Screen Reader goes! You need a tactile graphic with a QR Code, which you can download from our LIBRARY and then print at an ink or laser printer. You can then emboss it in any way. We recommend DIY techniques because they are inexpensive.
Then, you put the smartphone over it, scan the QR Code, and instantly find out information about the drawing. The smartphone will do a linear reading of the information available on the website. This first way of reading tactile graphics is limiting because it only provides audio information and no guidance.
3. Tactile graphics and the Tactile Images READER app
The READER app uses modern technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Finger Tracking, and Interactive Augmented Reality and was designed especially for the blind. Once more, the QR Code is the link between the physical and the virtual.
The difference is that the used modern technologies permit the READER app to guide the hands of the blind, just like the specialist over the shoulder does. This is why we call it the virtual assistant of the blind.
You already have a printed tactile graphic, so all you need to do is download the READER app from the App Store. Then, place the iPhone above the graphic. It will guide your finger as follows: 1 beep means that you have reached an area of interest and 3 beeps (which activate if you stay on an area of interest for a couple of seconds) indicate that the audio description of the area of interest is about to start. This is how you get to explore a tactile graphic with the READER app, and this is how the blind gain independence in enriching their visual knowledge.
4. How can you help?
The READER app is momentarily in the Alpha stage. This means that it has just been launched and that there are many improvements we want to do. Because we want to get better, we accept any feedback, so we would be more than happy if you wanted to test our app.
We still have a long way to go to accomplish our dream of revolutionizing the educational world of the blind. Our next step would be to make the READER app available for Android as well, to reach as many blind people as possible. If you also believe in our dream, you can donate here.
Image source: NordWood Themes | Unsplash