Thematic and informative, tactile catalogs represent an excellent means of acquiring spatial knowledge for blind people. They can come in different shapes and dimensions, but they all have something in common – they can only be explored with the help of another person, the specialist above the shoulder.
We resorted to modern technologies and created self-describing tactile graphics to give blind people exploring independence. Find out more about self-describing catalogs and how they revolutionize the education of blind children!
1. What are self-describing catalogs?
The blind can only explore classic tactile catalogs with the help of another person – a specialist who guides their hands and gives verbal information simultaneously. Well, for self-describing catalogs, this is not the case. They are self-describing. This means that they do not need another person to create the illustration’s context and guide the blind people’s hands.
Self-describing catalogs contain self-describing tactile graphics. We call these tactile images because they can be explored independently by the blind, in two different ways.
The first way is with any smartphone and a Screen Reader app through a QR Code, and the second one is with the aid of the READER mobile app, created especially for the independent exploration of tactile images. The first is a linear experience because people can listen to the descriptive text as if it was broadcasted at the radio, and the second one is a non-linear experience.
What does this mean? By using the READER app, blind people can find out pieces of information about all the parts of the image as they explore with their hands. For an audio description to start, they have to point at the part of the image they want to hear more about with their index finger. The descriptions can be personalized by parents or teachers to fit the needs of the children.
2. The “Tactile Network” catalog and Electrica S.A.
We created this catalog with the needs of blind children in mind. After years of research, we know how hard it is to study visual subjects such as Geography or Mathematical equations. This is because tactile graphics are expensive to produce and because exploring them always requires the presence of a specialist.
With the self-describing” Tactile Network” catalog, blind children can find out about the structure of an atom, aeolian structures, nuclear power stations, historical figures in the field, and many other subjects on their own. It could easily become a schoolbook they could use in the classroom or even at home.
The ”Tactile Network” catalog was funded by Electrica S.A., a Romanian state-owned company specialised in electric power supply and distribution. We couldn’t have created the catalog without their help and are deeply grateful for their support.
3. The independent study of the catalog
Studying tactile catalogs independently allows blind children to learn more and at their own pace about a particular subject. They can do it whenever and wherever they want – in the classroom, at home, or even in the park.
4. How can you get the catalog?
It’s easy to get the free self-describing tactile catalog. All you have to do is access this link and it will be yours to explore free of charge.
Did you download the catalog? You can emboss it with a PIAF printer or by using inexpensive embossing methods. You only need materials you can find at home, such as a syringe, wood adhesive, or food. Find out more about cheap embossing methods here!
5. Other self-describing tactile catalogs
The “Tactile Network” is not the first self-describing tactile catalog we created. In 2019, we created the “Urban Landscapes” catalog, with the aid of ING Bank Romania.
Our second self-describing tactile catalog tackled the “Portraits” theme. It was created with the aid of the Romanian Cultural Heritage Administration and the Historical Consulting Center in Bucharest and consists of 150 portraits of famous Romanian historical figures.
The “Vehicles” catalog is the third self-describing catalog, and we created it with the help of OMV Petrom. Because our aim with this one was to help the blind feel more relaxed about everyday life, it consists of tactile drawings with bikes, motorbikes, ships, planes, and other means of transportation.