Multisensory Graphic Communication for Blind and Partially Sighted Individuals (BPSI) by Mitali Kamat
Research shows that most blind learners often seek the help of a support worker to draw pictures or diagrams, or they avoid drawing because they find it difficult to believe that they would be able to create pictures or diagrams without the guidance from a sighted person and would not even make an attempt. Hence, expressing pictorial thinking for blind users through computers is limited. Subsequently, the need for self-reliant blind drawing techniques and technology has been recognised and highly valued among blind communities (Fernando & Ohene-Djan, April 2020). When sighted persons draw, they continually adjust their input based on visual feedback from the image that they are drawing. This process is essential for capturing a user’s mental model of the real world on a graphical medium. Current drawing tools designed for blind users miss this element of feedback-based input. The potential of drawing for blind people has been experimented upon (Ishihara et al., 2006; Kamel & Landay, 2000, 2002; Lambert et al., 2004; Ricciardi et al., 2009) in the past. This work has gathered new momentum with three-dimensional (3D) printing (Williams et al., 2014), Hyperbraille (Leo et al., 2017), haptic, speech technologies (Zhang et al., 2017), and sonification (Walker & Mauney, 2010)
This exhibit aims to provide an overview of analog and digital drawing tools and the idea of a multisensory graphic communication tool for blind and partially sighted individuals.
Analog Drawing Methods
For blind users, the most common analog methods to create tactile drawings are using raised line kits, form kits or some kind of handicraft methods [27, 8]. Raised line kits use special kinds of paper to draw on or add tangible structures to a standard sheet of paper. For example, special foils called drawing film, raise while applying a punctual pressure through a normal pen. Other techniques, such as drawing on swell paper or other heat sensitive materials use a pen with a heated tip to produce perceptible structures. Further common methods to create line drawings are embossing with a spur wheel, carving grooves into wooden plates or constructing line graphs through the connection of pins with rubber bands on a corkboard. Furthermore, the construction of more complex graphics through composition of predefined tactual primitives is quite popular. These primitives are delivered in tactile graph kits. They can be fixed on a drawing surface through magnets or Velcro (hook and-pile fastener). A Velcro covered drawing board is also utilized by a cheap technique for freehand line drawings . Here, a self-made pen tube is used to position a wool thread on the drawing board. The tactile detectable thread sticks on the board. The tangible line can easily be placed, removed and changed. Beside simple graphics, very detailed pictures can be produced as collages out of everyday available material through handicraft (Bornschein & Weber, June 2017).
A variety of analog drawing tools using these methods are available examples of which can be explored in the video linked below.
Digital Drawing Tools
Kamel and Landay (Jan 2000) stated,
“An effective electronic drawing tool for blind users will open up communication between the sighted and the blind to the rich medium of graphical information. Such a tool would also offer a method for studying blind users’ mental models of the world.”
Digital drawing tools provide a distinct advantage to sighted user to be able to collaborate online, share information and ideas and represent graphs and statistical information in an efficient manner. There has been ongoing research to develop digital drawing tools with audio and haptic feedback systems to provide blind and partially sighted individuals with the ability to create graphical information and share it digitally. Beside applications supporting graphic transcribers through semi or fully automated transformation of images into a tactile representation, tools for a non-visual graphic creation from the scratch are available. Often such tools combine a graphic access with a graphic creation approach and address a particular domain, such as mathematics, graphs,charts or line drawings (Bornschein & Weber, June 2017). Examples of digital drawing tools with a description of the tools can be explored in the slideshow below.