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TACTILE MAPS AND GRAPHICS

"The Good Tactile Graphic," produced by the American Printing House, is a two-tape video presentation and a booklet providing guidelines for the design of tactile graphics and resources for creators of tactile graphics.

"Tactile Graphics Guidebook". Louisville, KY: American Printing House for the Blind, 1988. $30.00.

The Electronic Files/Research and Development working group of the AFB's Textbooks and Instructional Materials Solutions Forum has an excellent set of fact sheets on tactile graphics.

For some very practical advice on how to use tactile graphics, see the workshop paper by Boguslaw Marek, "Before a Blind Child Can Read a Map: First Steps in Tactile Graphics," delivered at the ICEVI 10th World Conference. [Follow the link to Publications, and then to Conference Proceedings, then to Workshop Presentation Authors in Alphabetical Order.]

Similarly useful is the presentation by Tricia d'Apice, "Audio-Tactile Graphics: The Role of Audio Input When Presenting Tactile Graphics and Models to Children."

"Atlas is a talking digital map consisting of most addresses and street intersections, nationwide, with a specially designed user interface to navigate and describe this map data verbally using right left, front back, the clock face, compass or 360 degree headings. Arrow keys are used to navigate around the map while a speech synthesizer announces as much or little information as the user wants to hear."

The Sendero Group is also developing a combination of the BrailleNote and VoiceNote notetakers and a Global Positioning System receiver. The "receiver is connected to the VoiceNote or BrailleNote and the information identifies locations that are near you and triggers them as you approach those locations."

MoBIC (Mobility of Blind and Elderly People Interacting With Computers), is a project of the TIDE program of the European Union. MoBIC uses electronic maps, the satellite-based global positioning system and other hardware and software to enable a blind person to establish his precise position and to navigate elsewhere, using spoken, audible or tactile signals. A list of the studies arising from MoBic is available.

"Braillables: A Manual for Parents and Teachers is a description of how to draw with a brailler and how to show others how to draw. It gives step-by-step instructions for a number of drawings. Available from the Catholic Guild for the Blind ($26.00).

Centaurian Systems has developed a graph reader that can read more than seventeen different business-style graphs.

The Commission on Maps and Graphics for Blind and Visually Impaired People of the International Cartographic Association publishes "INTACT," an electronic newsletter. Back issues are available on-line, as are conference abstracts and papers by Commission members who are doing research on "all aspects of the design, construction and use of tactile maps and other tactile graphics."

At a "Conference on Representation and Blindness" (San Marino, 1998) a number of papers on tactile graphics and maps were presented, as well as much material on braille and reading. Extensive abstracts of the presentations were published.

Creative Adaptations for Learning uses multi-textured raised-line drawings for alphabet and number cards, and has a workbook for learning shapes.

"EASI's Guide to Math and Graphics" is a 15-minute captioned video demonstrating the hardware and software that produce tactile graphics for the use of blind people working in or studying science or mathematics.

"The Enterprise and Innovation department in Anglia Polytechnic University [APU] has developed a highly versatile tactile printing machine that can produce cost effective, high quality, robust tactile diagrams, signs and maps, which can be easily annotated with raised text or Braille on a variety of materials." They also produce low cost Zychem tactile diagrams.

EtgraphX saves and converts images from scanning and drawing programs (DOS only) into Braille graphics.

Geographers at the University of Michigan have created a set of tactile maps of their campus using the Repro-tronics Tactile Image Enhancer to create the maps and a Nomad electronic tablet to store the keys and captions as well as other information too extensive to be captured in Braille on the map itself.

"Geometry Tactile Graphic Cards" is a set of twelve hand-embossed cards each with a drawing of a different geometrical shape, and with the name of each and the formula for its area in both braille and large-print. A set costs $25.00.
P. Hunt
P.O. Box 404
Pfaff Town, NC 27040

ghbraille will produce braille translation, embossing and tactile graphics to order and also has a catalog of immediately available tactile material.

Graph-it, for PC's, is a tactile scientific graphing calculator that can output graphs to a file, a Blazie notetaker or a Braille printer.

The Guild for the Blind (Chicago, IL): among its many services and products are books for teaching drawing to blind children, "Braillables: A Manual for Parents and Teachers" and "So What About Drawing?"

Horizons for the Blind has a catalog of over 1,000 raised pictures for sale.

The Information Access Laboratory at the University of Delaware's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering is sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF). It conducts research into new assistive technologies, does outreach and works with parents and educators. They have a good set of links to work on tactile representation. They have a good set of "Blindness and Tactile Graphics Information Sources."

InTouch Graphics, Inc.: customized tactile and low vision maps in a variety of formats, including braille and computer versions.

Martin Kurze has written a number of papers on accessible graphics, including "Giving Blind People Access to Graphics (Example: Business Graphics)."

The Living Paintings Trust, "Using tactile representations of great works, . . . provides a free service to ensure the vibrancy and emotional depth of painting is brought within reach of the visually impaired." The productions combine audio and tactile interpretation of works of art.

The National Centre for Tactile Diagrams in the United Kingdom (University of Hertfordshire) undertakes "the design and production of tactile diagrams, maps and pictures (tactile graphics) in a variety of formats with supporting explanatory materials," as well as training and consulting work.

LowRez is a freeware braille graphics and image processing package available from KanSys.

Metroplex Voice Computing, Inc. uses speech recognition in a number of programs capable of voicing mathematics and, with MathTalk/Scintific Notebook and MathBrailleTalk, emboss the math into Braille.

The Metropolitan Washington Ear produced a Braille/raised-line/large print atlas of the state of Maryland and a raised-line/large-print atlas of the Greater Washington Area.

Rainer Michel of the University of Magdeburg is doing research on the automatic creation of a map layout using commercially available digital map data and swell paper, as well as research on a tactile route map. His home page includes a bibliography of recent work on tactile maps by himself and others.

Picture Braille, produced by Quantum Technology, consists of software, a computer mouse and a hand-held scanner for the production of tactile graphics from a free-hand drawing or a scanned image.

Princeton Braillists sell tactile atlases and maps; they also sell "Basic Human Anatomy," a raised-graphic anatomical atlas. They have recently added sets of maps of the British Isles (eleven maps) and Maps of the Bible Lands (25 maps):
28-B Portsmouth St.
Whiting, NJ 08759-2049
Phone: 732-350-3708.

PRINT is a European project to develop a tactile printer that adds material to paper, rather than embossing it, in order to increase access to braille, Moon and, especially, tactile graphics materials.

Project Action commissioned the Computer Center for the Visually Impaired at Baruch College of the City University of New York, in cooperation with a number of other local groups, to create maps of the subway system of New York City. Their work was reported in "Tactual Maps: Accessible Information for Transit Users with Disabilities: Final Report" (New York: The Computer Center for the Visually Impaired (Baruch College/City University of New York), 1996). The Computer Center for Visually Impaired People "has developed a computer aided design system for converting existing maps, charts and other graphic material into tactual and large print form to increase the quantity and quality of information provided to individuals who are blind, or visually impaired."

The Psychology Department of Sheffield University offers a summary of their research into tactile maps and a set of links to other on-going research in the United Kingdom.

Quantum Technology has a free "PIAF Workbook" (PIAF stands for Pictures in a Flash) that covers techniques, image selection, labels, special effects and includes many practical hints.

"QikTac is . . . for sighted users (teachers, relatives, friends, workplace colleagues of blind people) who wish to make normal print to flexi-paper or Braille printer hard copy of graphics, quickly and easily."

Repro-Tronics, Inc. sells the Tactile Image Enhancer and Flexi-Paper for the creation of tactile graphics and maps, as well as software for combining graphics and braille text.

"Scientific Visualization Using Tactile Feedback for Visually Impaired Students," by Anshuman Razdan, and others, describes a project to represent complex three-dimensional models of chemical, physical and engineering data by means of "a scaled wax based model . . . created, in analogy to a Braille system. The data, after being geometrically modeled, is converted into a physical model using a Layered Manufacturing (Rapid Prototyping) machine."

Tactile Audio Graphics: "includes an integrated CAD system that can be used by blind, low vision and sighted people: a tactile graphics reading system with digitised sound facilities: a real time trip preview system and a tracing system for sighted users. Output to files, printers and embossers."

"Tactile Graphics: An Overview and Resource Guide," by John Gardner, Oregon State University, is an excellent introduction to the possibilities.

TactiSon is a multimedia instructional tool that uses sound, recorded messages, voice-synthesized texts, and raised-line maps and graphics. An English-language description is available.

TAEVIS Online (Tactile Access to Education for Visually Impaired Students) sells tactile diagrams online, from a collection of over 2,500 diagrams prepared for Purdue University students. Diagrams are downloaded from Purdue and then turned into tactile diagrams using tactile image paper and a thermal enhancer at the purchaser's school.

The Tiger Advantage Tactile Graphics and Braille Embosser from ViewPlus Technologies can produce graphics and braille on sheets as large as 17" by 50"; it includes a Windows printer driver and Duxbury braille translation software; it can be networked too.

vOICe is a system under development that converts images into sonic representations rather than tactile forms. It has applications for orientation and mobility as well as for representation of printed material or mathematical functions.

Two devices with refreshable braille displays are under development that promise to increase blind people's access to graphics:

Vuphonics, developed by David C. Dewhurst, "is concerned with researching and developing blindness-related sensory-substitution techniques, through the use of sound and corresponding haptic (touch and movement) methods. The aim is to produce a practical communication aid or mobility aid for blind people."

Some recent studies:
Tricia d'Apice, " Audio-Tactile Graphics: The Role of Audio Input When Presenting Tactile Graphics and Models to Children." [Follow the link to Publications, and then to Conference Proceedings, then to Workshop Presentation Authors in Alphabetical Order.]
Yvonne Eriksson, The Swedish Library of Talking Books and Braille, "How to make tactile pictures understandable to the blind reader," a paper delivered at the 65th IFLA Council and General Conference (Bangkok, Thailand, August 20 - August 28, 1999).
Dr. John Gill, Chief Scientist, Royal National Institute for the Blind, UK, "Presentation of Tactile Materials: The Need for Research," a paper delivered at the 65th IFLA Council and General Conference (Bangkok, Thailand, August 20 - August 28, 1999).
Ron Hinton. Tactile Graphics in Education. RNIB, 1966. 12. ISBN 0 901580 77 5. This is a thorough study of the preparation, use and effectiveness of tactile graphics.

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