[accessibleimage] Mental synthesis of images

  • From: "Chris Hofstader" <chris.hofstader@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <accessibleimage@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 9 Jan 2006 11:17:20 -0500

Sylvie , et al,

In your last message, you mentioned "seeing print characters in your mind's
eye" in association with literacy.  I also lost my vision later in life (age
35-36 was the last time I could read a massively magnified and contrast
enhanced computer screen).  A few years ago, Oliver Sax published an article
in the New Yorker which described synaesthesia in blind people who lost
their vision later in life.  He described, in detail, how some blind people
have been able to train themselves to use their visual cortex to synthesize
images which they can then manipulate in their mind.  I was skeptical as
Oliver, a wonderful writer, has the tendency to find bizarre cases to
include in his essays.  So, I did a search and found that there is actually
a bit of research in this area.  I decided to give it a whirl and try to
generate images in my own mind's eye.

I've been practicing this skill for about 2.5 years.  I have been able to
generate wire frame drawings of 3D objects and manipulate them (stretching,
zooming in and out, etc.).  I have also found that, while playing Shades of
Doom, I can generate very realistic images while listening to a 3D audio
interface.  I have also been quite able to conjure up images of some of my
favorite paintings and photographs.

Last night, while listening to Studio 360, I heard the guest mention Edward
Hopper.  I had the wonderful opportunity about 25 years ago to spend time in
the Middlebury College art museum absolutely alone (accept for the security
guy) with a large number of Hopper works.  Last night, as I thought of the
name of a painting, I was able to generate, from memory, a very detailed
visual image of a number of his works.  I have been able to do the same with
other artists and photographers like Eugene Smith and Paul Strand.

Also, when using John's AGC, I can create very detailed images of the graph.
I've also been able to rotate it, stretch it and change its color.

Other than the book, "The man Who Could Taste Shapes" does anyone else have
sources on this topic?  Does anyone think that people can be trained to use
this potential skill productively?


-----Original Message-----
From: accessibleimage-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
[mailto:accessibleimage-bounce@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Kaizen Program
Sent: Monday, January 09, 2006 9:49 AM
To: accessibleimage@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [accessibleimage] Re: Future of Braille Discussion

Hi Lisa and all,

Braille needs to be thought of as another way of achieving literacy, in the
same way as we think of reading print. It is basically the same in our
minds. When people read braille by touch, they/we use the same part of the
brain as is used for reading print. As a formerly sighted print reader, I
certainly see the braille in my mind's eye, the same way I used to see the
print. And, sight and touch are much more closely connected than most people
in our modern culture realize. So, people can experience dyslexic challenges
reading braille too. The very exciting research on blind people drawing and
doing other art should be understood as showing the links between sight and
touch and helping us to understand the interconnections better.

Electronic access and audio recordings are important, but not enough for
independence of all sorts by themselves. Chris has made some good lists of
reading and writing tasks that braille is better for than electronic files
or audio recordings. I could add more, but I am sure you get the idea.
Everyone needs to figure out what mix works best for them, and we all use a

Most of the blind people I know are and have always been very interested in
using electronic media. The main problem has been and continues to be the
difficulties of accessibility, including how graphical interfaces and
graphics in general are presented in electronic media. And there is also the
challenges involved with cost of equipment and the specialized software we
use. Although some people can obtain these through government agencies, many
cannot. And then, many cannot afford to keep upgrading, so even when new
versions of access software make accessibility to electronic media a little
easier, those who cannot afford the upgrades are left behind. And, then
there are problems with things like AOL. I just e-mailed a blind woman who
has AOL and cannot access attachments with her screen reader with this
service. So, the problems of access are many and complex. And when some are
solved, others appear.

And learning to use computer programs is difficult for many older, and not
so old adults, both blind and sighted.

With braille, the blind person has a little more control over access issues
(to make an understatement).

The issue of knowing about the size and style of print fonts isn't all that
important for braille readers because there are other more effective ways
for achieving emphasis with braille material (including line spaces and
indentation, etc.), which skilled and imaginative braille transcribers are
aware of. They go beyond what is taught in the certification courses, and
are developed in response to working with braille readers, just as good
tactile graphics design.

When fully sighted people want to learn braille, be they children or adults,
I teach them to do it by touch because it is really the only way they can
effectively and efficiently read braille on both sides of a page, and
because it is the way that system of reading works. Fully sighted people who
want to teach braille can often be much better teachers when they read by
touch themselves because they both set an important model, it can be done,
and "I am not superior to you because I can see the braille," and because
fully sighted teachers who read braille by touch are more aware of the
challenges posed by learning the new way of reading and writing.

That said, it takes practice to learn to read braille by touch, for anyone.
It can take up to one year to become fairly proficient, even for a person
who practices reading and writing every day. For the fully sighted person,
there is a great temptation to give up before achieving the goal. For the
person who has lost sight, it is often combined with the trauma of dealing
with vision loss and reorienting to the environment, even if the vision loss
occurred years before beginning to learn braille.

I like to encourage fully sighted children and adults to learn braille by
touch. But, it doesn't really give them an idea of what it means for a blind
person. And, sometimes, it only gives the idea of how "amazing" or how
"pitiful" blind people are and how sad their/our situation is, which is not
what we want. So it can be a good idea or a bad idea, depending on the



Sylvie Kashdan
Instructor/Curriculum Coordinator
KAIZEN PROGRAM for New English Learners with Visual Limitations
810-A Hiawatha Place South
Seattle, WA  98144, U.S.A.
phone:  (206) 784-5619
email:  kaizen_esl@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
web:  http://www.nwlincs.org/kaizen/

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Lisa Yayla" <lisa.yayla@xxxxxxxxxx>
To: <accessibleimage@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Monday, January 09, 2006 1:30 AM
Subject: [accessibleimage] Re: Future of Braille Discussion

This is probably a pretty dumb idea, please excuse my ignorance, but I
wondered after reading Chris's and Sylvia's mail, if Braille by touch
couldn't be a help to those that have dyslexia? I don't know much about
dyslexia but from what I think I understand is that the visual image of
the font gets switched around. If the information came through touch then
perhaps this wouldn't happen. Perhaps the question to ask can one be
dyslexic and be a Braille touch reader? Also I have heard, don't know if
it is true, that in China there is not dyslexia because the writing is
based on pictures. Might not reading Braille by sight perhaps also then be
an aide?
Hope this wasn't too dumb.

accessibleimage@xxxxxxxxxxxxx skriver:
>Hi Susan,
>I remember you mentioning this once before and I thought it was really
>neat. I was wondering if, the idea of learning Braille by touch for the
>sighted,  might be an approach to increase the interest and knowledge
>about tactile information and increase the  awareness of visual
>impairements? That reading Braille is something everyone can do.This might
>be something sighted children would find very exciting.  Sighted adults
>might see this as a way to more fully use more of their senses potential.

Lisa Yayla
Huseby Kompetansesenter
Oslo Norway

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