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The blind cannot explore tactile graphics on their own. The exploring process requires the presence of a sighted person, known as the specialist above the shoulder. This person must have enough time, knowledge about the explored subject, patience, and limitless kindness.

Because this is a very demanding process and because the blind are practically tied to the other person for exploring tactile graphics, it’s challenging for them to gain spatial knowledge. This is why we created a Mobile App that acts as the virtual assistant of the blind and gives them all the information they need.

  1. The role of a teacher when exploring tactile graphics

2. The READER App as the virtual assistant of blind
a) Free of charge
b) Easy to use
c) Limitless resource
d) Mobile solution
e) Specialized knowledge
f) Personalized materials

1. The role of a teacher of the blind when exploring tactile graphics

A blind person needs the constant assistance of a specialist if he/she wants to enrich his/her visual or spatial knowledge.

Because exploring tactile graphics implies both touch and hearing, a teacher for the blind has a twofold mission. To begin with, he has to get close to the blind child to be able to touch his hands. This is because the teacher has to take the child’s hands in his own and guide them on the tactile graphic.

As he guides the blind child’s hands on the tactile graphic, the teacher has to give verbal information about every part of the drawing. For this process to make sense, hand guiding, and verbal information providing are done simultaneously.

Just close your eyes for a second. Imagine there’s a drawing of a seagull on a table in front of you. A person takes your hand into his own and guides it across the drawing. As you reach a fairly triangular shape, the person near you tells you that’s a beak. You’ve never seen or touched one in your life, so this is the first time you get to create an accurate mental image of a beak. Two tiny parallel lines make the legs of the seagull. But that is something you cannot know on your own unless the person near you tells you that. You’d otherwise think that they are just two parallel lines (this if you’ve ever explored a tactile drawing of two parallel lines before). If you didn’t have a person near you to help you explore, you wouldn’t know the aspect of a seagull.

2. The READER App as the virtual assistant of the blind

Based on modern technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Finger Tracking and Interactive Augmented Reality, the READER App is the solution to a problem as old as time – the dependency of the blind on a sighted person to be able to understand the world. The app comes to guide the finger of the blind on the tactile graphic and give audio information (voice-over) just like a sighted person would do.

a) Free of charge

The Tactile Images READER is available on the App Store, and anyone can download it free of charge. For now, it is available only for iPhones, but we are working on making it available for Android as well. If you want to help us out, you can read about ways of investing in our dream.

b) Easy to use

Because it was designed for the blind, the READER App is very easy to use. It does not have any buttons and does not require any interaction from the user. Once the app is downloaded, the phone must be placed above the tactile graphic.

c) Limitless resource

If traditionally, a blind person’s capacity to learn about visuals is limited to the time of the specialist above the shoulder, with the READER App, the blind can study anytime they want and for as long as they want. They can explore a tactile graphic at their own pace.

d) Mobile solution

The exploration of tactile drawings is usually done in schools or at home if the blind have their tactile graphics, but the majority do not, because they are costly. So we created a LIBRARY full of self-describing tactile graphics that can be read by the app and embossed at home with inexpensive DIY techniques. We promote adhesive and syringe methods so you do not depend on special embossing machinery anymore.

Because we are talking about a mobile app, the place of study is no longer limited to a particular area. Studying tactile graphics can now be done anywhere – in the living room, in the yard, or in the park.

e) Specialized knowledge

Because we want to help educate the blind and give them only valuable information, we collaborate with specialists in creating the descriptions of our tactile graphics. For example, for our project ”Romania in Accessible Images – Romania’s Centenary (1918 – 2018) and The First World War,” we collaborated with The Historical Consulting Centre in Bucharest and The Ministery of Culture to create 300 tactile graphics.

f) Personalized materials

The READER app only works with tactile graphics in the LIBRARY, but you can use the EDITOR to adapt your tactile graphics or create a new one.

The blind can now explore tactile graphics independently and enrich their spatial knowledge. All they need is embossed self-describing tactile graphics from the LIBRARY and their virtual assistant, the Tactile Images READER App. It’s free and easy to use – anytime and anywhere they want!
Do you have any questions about the READER App? Write in the comment section below!

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