Choosing a format

There are many different methods for accessing graphics available to people who are blind, have low vision or a print disability. In selecting a method, consideration must be given to the individual, their skills and experience, available resources, the type of diagram and the purpose of the diagram.

These are some of the main methods in which graphics can be made accessible:

Englargement

Suitability: Users with sufficient usable vision. Original image must be high quality with good contrast.
Advantages:

  • original graphic can be used without modification
  • image can be accessed independently by the student

Disadvantages:

  • can cause headaches or fatigue
  • can be difficult to gain an overview or navigate

Resources required:

  • large screen
  • software, e.g. ZoomText
  • magnifier
  • desk space

Verbal description

Suitability: Information graphics where spatial layout is unimportant.
Example diagrams:

    1. single-path flow charts
    2. infographics
    3. concept maps
    4. cartoons
    5. illustrations

Advantages:

  • advance preparation not required
  • recipient has the opportunity to seek clarification
  • can also be useful for other students in an educational setting

Disadvantages:

  • does not allow independent access to information, and cannot be reviewed later
  • not suitable for conveying spatial information
  • often requires subject-matter expertise

Resources required:time of a sighted person with subject matter expertise

Written description

Suitability: Information graphics where spatial layout is unimportant.

Example diagrams:

    1. single-path flow charts
    2. infographics
    3. concept maps
    4. cartoons
    5. illustrations

Advantages:

  • quick to produce
  • can be reviewed at any time

Disadvantages:

  • needs to be prepared ahead of time
  • not suitable for conveying spatial informatin
  • often requires subject-matter expertise

Resources required: time of sighted person with subject matter expertise and training in provision of diagram descriptions

Image recognition

smart phone held over a text book
Pie graph identified using TapTapSee

Image recognition software or apps give a brief description of a photograph. Most are automated and a low level of detail is given.
Suitability: blind users working independently (at home, university or in the workplace) needing to determine whether an image can be ignored or contains important information and should be requested in an accessible format.

Advantages:

  • quick
  • portable
  • can be used independently
  • cheap

Disadvantages:

  • does not give access to information in the graphic; only gives an indicator of whether the graphic is important enough to pursue in another format
  • can be inaccurate

Resources required: software or app, e.g. TapTapSee
Note: IRIS is an image recognition app specifically for maths and science materials, currently in beta testing.

GraVVITAS

screen image of GraVVITAS author tool with diagram of a brain
GraVVITAS author tool

GraVVITAS encompasses a free authoring tool and iOS app for creating and accessing simple diagrams with touch-activated audio labels.
Suitability: Simple diagrams with important spatial information and/or lengthy labels
Example diagrams:

  • multiple-path flow charts
  • simple maps
  • tables
  • Gantt charts
  • graphs (line, bar, pie or scatter)

Advantages:

  • cheap
  • portable
  • able to convey spatial information
  • quick and easy to produce
  • graphs can be created from an equation or data, enabling independent access

Disadvantages: cannot convey fine detail

Resources required:

Sonification

audio speakerSonification software converts data to audio tones.
Example diagrams: graphs from an equation or data
Advantages:

  • quick
  • cheap
  • enables independent access

Resources required: software, e.g. MathTrax or Desmos free accessible graphics calculators

Tactile graphics (pre-prepared)

Stereocopy tactile graph with axes and two curved lines.
Tactile graphic

Tactile graphics are also known as raised line drawings.
Suitability: Ideal format for diagrams with important spatial information, but can also be used for most other diagrams.
Example diagrams:

  • maps
  • graphs
  • complex flow diagrams
  • shapes, angles and geometry
  • technical drawings

Advantages:

  • able to convey spatial information
  • can be combined with print for people with low vision
  • high quality

Disadvantages:

  • expensive
  • time-consuming to produce
  • requires specialist equipment
  • tactile reading skills required (this must be taught and maintained by exposure to tactile graphics)
  • bulky

Resources required:

  • graphics software for image design, e.g. CorelDraw, Illustrator, Inkscape, Word or PictureBraille
  • specialist equipment, e.g. braille embosser, swell machine)
  • specialist supplies, e.g. braille or swell paper
  • time of a skilled tactile graphics transcriber

Tactile graphics (ad hoc)

tactile graphic of a number tree made with spur wheel and pencil on paper
Handmade tactile graphic

Suitability: Diagrams with a spatial component, required quickly without a high level of accuracy.
Example diagrams:

  • simple graphs
  • flow or process diagrams
  • shapes, angles and geometry

Advantages:

  • cheap
  • quick
  • able to convey spatial information
  • independence: blind users are able to produce or modify their own drawings

Disadvantages:

  • not durable
  • limited labelling
  • tactile reading skills required (this must be taught and maintained by exposure to tactile graphics)

Resources required:

  • equipment and supplies, e.g. tactile drawing board, thick paper, tracing wheel, string with glue, sticky dots, etc.
  • time for diagram production

3D models (3D printed)

3D printed topographic map of Australia


Suitability:
Representation of 3-dimensional objects that are not readily available for touch.
Example diagrams:

  • anatomy
  • 3D graphs
  • geographic data
  • landforms
  • maps
  • buildings
  • any other objects too large, to small, too dangerous, too delicate or too rare to touch

Advantages:

  • easier to understand than tactile graphics
  • highly engaging for both the vision impaired user and their sighted peers
  • designs for many commonly desired models are available for free

Disadvantages:

  • long print time (up to 24 hours)
  • time and expertise required to create new models
  • bulky
  • difficulty with labelling

Resources required:

  • 3D printer and materials
  • 3D design software, e.g. TinkerCad or SketchUp (free)
  • 3D model online repositories, e.g. Thingiverse (free)
  • time and expertise to design new models

3D models (ready made)

3D chemistry model made using a commercially available kit

Suitability: 3D model is readily available or 3-dimensionality is important.
Example diagrams:

  • anatomy models
  • chemistry models
  • geometric shapes
  • equipment

Advantages:

  • may be readily available
  • can also be useful for sighted peers

Disadvantages:

  • bulky
  • difficulty with labelling
  • may be expensive or time-consuming to obtain

Last updated: August 8, 2018 at 14:07 pm