Tactile graphics allow visual, graphic information to be conveyed through touch. Tactile graphics are a combination of raised surfaces including textures, lines, Braille labels, points, shapes, and scale (see sample images below). Tactile graphics are frequently made for maps, diagrams, charts, graphs, geometric figures, organic shapes, and building layouts that are difficult to describe in text alone. Students with visual impairments can learn the same information from touching the tactile graphic as a sighted student would from looking at it. Tactile graphics are used mainly by students with visual impairments and sometimes by students with learning disabilities. They can help communicate and convey important visual content to blind students when that visual content cannot be adequately described in a text format.
Important images that cannot be adequately described in a text format should be made into tactile graphics. These often are complex images, like: diagrams, maps, graphs, charts, workflow charts, building layouts, geometric figures, and organic shapes. To determine whether you need a tactile graphic, here are some questions to ask yourself. You don’t need a tactile graphic if:
Otherwise, a tactile graphic would be appropriate, especially if the information is necessary for the student to complete an assignment or participate in class. (Source: The American Foundation for the Blind from Ike Presley & Lucia Hasty. Techniques for Creating and Instructing with Tactile Graphics. Copyright © 2005. New York: American Foundation for the Blind).
Supada Amornchat (firstname.lastname@example.org) from Distance Learning can work with you to create tactile graphics for your students. However, there are limitations to designing a tactile graphic. A tactile graphic shouldn’t have too many details because there needs to be space enough to discern the different demarcations. In order to assist you, she will need the image itself, as well as image descriptions. Each of these requirements is explained in more detail below.
Some example image times include diagrams, maps, pie charts, flowcharts, 3D graphics.
Below is an example of a complex image with "touch points" added:
Here is an example of the same image with all the detail eliminated. The order of each section is revised to make it easy for blind students to naviage.
The following information will be used to create the tactile graphic:
Here are some sample tactile graphics that Supada created that demonstrate various features that are useful for blind students.
Below is an image of a latch logic circuit diagram:
Here is an example of the same image converted to a tactile format, with Braille text:
Below is a block diagram of a CPU:
Here is a tactile version of the graphic:
In this example, line weight and style (dashed vs. solid) have been used to tactilely distinguish between the different busses. Different tactile textures have also been added to each of the functional components of the CPU to help the student distinguish between them. Ideally, the student would also be given a legend that matched these textures to a Braille description of the component.