Tactile Graphics Technology
The majority of persons who are blind or visually impaired will need some form of assistive technology in order access print on paper as well as electronic forms. Assistive technology (AT) also provides a means for producing written information. These pages provide a list of types of Assistive Technology a person with a visual impairment may use.
By: Carmen Willings
When preparing to create tactile graphics, it is important to gather material and tools needed to make them in addition to knowing guidelines in creating them.
There are many materials you may choose to use when creating tactile graphics. The tools and materials you choose will depend on the student and what the purpose of the tactile graphic. A craft supply store (or around the house!) is a great source for supplies for creating tactile books or activities for younger students, but if you are adapting materials for a text, test or academic project, you may need some of the following materials. Remember to refer to the BANA guidelines for creating a tactile graphic!
Low Tech Tactile Graphics Materials
Brailleable Labels and Sheets
These clear, blank self-adhesive labels, available from APH, can be brailled and used to label graphics. The labels are available in a variety of sizes.
Feel 'n Peel Sheets: Carousel of Textures
This collection of textures, available through APH, contains an assortment of sheet in a variety of textures and colors.
If you don't have access to APH funds, you can locate textured papers at hobby shops as well as home improvement stores.
Graphic Art Tape
This Graphic Art tape is available through APH but can also be purchased commercially. It can be used to insert tactile lines on graphs, mark hand positions on embossed clock faces, illustrate geometric figures in math, create diagrams and show features on a map.
This paper, available through APH, contains tactile colored sheets that can be cut and applied to other surfaces. See the list of suggestions on the Art page for more suggestions of materials that can be used.
Medium Tech Tactile Graphic Materials
Crafty Graphics II Kit
This kit, available through APH, provides supplemental tools to be used with the original Crafty Graphics: Stencil Embossing Kit.
Swail Dot Inverter
The Swail Dot Inverter, available from APH, allows the user to construct simple diagrams, graphs, maps, etc. by embossing a series of single dots. Braille paper is placed on top of the rubber pad. The special sylus allows dots to be embossed upwards by puncturing the paper on the down stroke and then pulling the dot upwards on the up stroke. USE CAUTION as the stylus is VERY sharp!
DRAFTSMAN Tactile Drawing Board
The DRAFTSMAN, available through APH, is used in combination with special film and a stylus to create instant raised-line drawings. It can be used to create simple raised-line graphics. The board has a plastic frame that encases a double-layered rubber surface. Clamp a sheet of included drawing film onto the board and use the stylus or a ballpoint pen to quickly draw a raised image.
Crafty Graphics, Stencil Embossing Kit
This kit, available from APH, can be used to create embossed graphics. The kit contains stencils, embossing tools, and other items needed to create tactile graphics by dry pressure embossing. Use a light source, such as the APH lightbox, to place underneath sheets to be embossed.
The inTACT Eraser is a battery operated eraser specifically designed for tactile drawing. It allows the user to erase mistakes and can also be used to create dashed lines. The eraser works like a miniature iron, heating the flat tip to approximately 180 degrees. It flattens tactile drawings quickly and erases them tactually. This eraser can be used in tandem with the inTACT Sketchpad or it can be used with the APH Draftsman.
The inTACT Sketchpad is a great alternative to the Draftsman. It is particularly beneficial for students to use and create their own tactual graphics due to its ease of use. When the cover is lifted, there is a recessed area to place the drawing sheet on. Magnet strips completely cover the perimeter of the board creating a secure closing when the lid is lowered.
Tactile Graphics Starter Kit
The Tactile Graphics Starter Kit, is ideal if you only need a limited number of graphics. It can be used to create maps, graphs, illustrations, and more. The kit includes three bottles of craft ink to draw raised lines, tactually discriminable fabrics and patterns, paper point symbols that may be glued to a graphic, alphabetical index of braille signs for reference , slate and stylus, and a print manual with rules for making tactile graphics.
Tactile Graphics Kit
The Tactile Graphics Kit, available from APH, allows teachers to create custom tactile graphics. It allows you to create raised-line masters on heavy -gauge aluminum that can be reproduced using a vacuum-form machine. It includes a braille slate and stylus, braille eraser, rubber embossing pad, ruler, and foil sheets.
High Tech Tactile Graphics Materials
Swell-Form Graphics II Machine
The Swell-Form Graphics Machine is a simple, fast method of creating tactile maps and graphics. Print onto specialty paper as you normally would through a standard printer or copy machine. Next, run the paper through the Swell-Form graphics Machine. The heat reacts to the black ink and swells, creating a tactile image.
Picture in a Flash Tactile Graphic Maker (PIAF)
Picture in a Flash (PIAF) is a simple and fast way to prepare tactile graphics. The PIAF machine makes raised line drawings on special paper, called capsule or swell paper. Users can draw, print or photocopy pictures onto the swell paper and pass it through the PIAF. The heat causes the lines to swell as it reacts to the carbon in the ink, and then the drawing can be read with the fingers.
A Thermoform Machine is the most accurate way to reproduce braille text and tactile graphics. To use, place a master copy or mold onto the machine, then place a sheet of specialized plastic material, Brailon, on top of it and close the clamp. Once the clamp has been engaged, slide the heating element to the front and wait a few seconds. When it is removed, there will be a tactual graphic of the master copy.
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