Tactile graphics are challenging to create. They require a specific drawing technique, special materials, and a substantial financial effort. Most importantly, their exploration involves the presence of another person, the specialist who guides the blind. Tactile graphics can be explored individually only with the aid of costly devices. We are here to change that. We are here to offer you a free solution for the independent exploration of the tactile graphics you already have or of other new graphics we created especially for the blind. Find out how in this article!
1. Tactile materials
The term tactile implies that you are using the sense of touch to explore versus other senses. This is how the blind have access to spatial information – through touch.
Consequently, tactile materials are materials you can touch. On a general note, everything around can be considered a tactile material – the blind can learn about leaves by going in the park and touching different types of leaves. But what about bigger or smaller objects like the sun or a fly? The first is unreachable by touch, and the other has too small proportions to be grabbed and accurately understood by touch.
The education of the blind is centred on human-made tactile materials such as tactile carpets, statues, tactile catalogs, or tactile graphics.
2. Types of tactile graphics
Tactile graphics include tactile pictures, tactile diagrams, tactile maps, and tactile graphs. They are simplified images with raised surfaces, created especially for the blind to touch and explore. Tactile graphics can be found in specialized schools for the blind – predominantly in Geography labs (maps). Blind children around the world have limited access to tactile graphics; most of them do not have these precious educational materials at home because they are costly.
Another reason why access to tactile graphics is limited is the need for the specialist over the shoulder. Blind children cannot explore graphics on their own. They need someone next to them to guide their hand and give verbal information about the drawing they are touching. You can find an impressive collection of tactile graphics here: btactile.com.
3. Tactile images
The term tactile image is a metaphor we coined. It refers to tactile graphics that self-describe with the aid of technology. So, what is the difference between a tactile graphic and a tactile image? They are both simplified embossed drawings that have the same role – teaching the blind visual content. The difference is that tactile graphics can only be explored with the aid of the specialist over the shoulder, while tactile images make use of technology. It’s a different kind of experience; our tactile images are richer and can be explored independently.
We created a mobile app called READER, and it comes to play the role of the specialist over the shoulder. The app uses technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Finger Tracking, and Interactive Augmented Reality and can be downloaded free of charge from the App Store.
If in the case of tactile graphics, blind children are dependent on another person, tactile images team up with the READER app to give them total exploring independence.
4. Tactile Images – the educational platform for the blind
You can find out everything you want about self-describing tactile graphics on the educational platform for the blind Tactile Images. The platform is comprised of a LIBRARY of 800 such tactile images, an EDITOR which allows the creation of personalized tactile images, and the READER app, the virtual assistant of the blind. Anyone can benefit from this complete solution for free.
The READER app is momentarily in the Alpha stage, and we want to enhance the Tactile Images platform with the DRAWER and PRINTER module. For this, we need both your feedback and support. You can get the READER app, download a tactile image from the LIBRARY, and send us your feedback or donate if you want to help us achieve our dream.