(At his request, I am forwarding the following message from Dick
Tucker <dick.tucker@xxxxxxxxx >, a list member who is temporarily
working from a different email address and so couldn't post directly -- Joe S.)
Dear Joe and fellow listers, The question of research into the effectiveness of tactile graphics is interesting. There appears to be very little research although there is quite a lot of writing in Europe on the topic. You might like to look at some of the work produce through TPB in Sweden.
The Force Foundation has recently produced a book written by Marion Rippley of Clear Vision in London on the production of tactile books for very young children with little or no sight. This has been used on courses around the world and is available (free) from FORCE (info@xxxxxxxxxx ) in English, Russian, Vietnamese, Spanish and soon in French.
I am currently working with Anneli Salo of the Celia Library in Finland on a book on producing pre-braille tactile books for young children. My colleague Peter Konig at FORCE produced a guidebook on the production of tactile diagrams for school books when he was working with the Federation of Dutch Libraries for the Blind (www.fnb.nl). This library has for many years had the largest production of tactile diagrams in the world, and I say that without much fear of contradiction. A yearly production of tens of thousands of drawings over the last twenty years gives them a level of experience difficult to find elsewhere.
When I worked at the Students Library for the Blind, now part of FNB, I remember the graphic artist explaining that he was producing different versions of the same geometry diagram because he knew that one of the students could read the three-dimensional aspects of a cube and the pyramid that it contained, but that the other readers would have to have it broken down into a series of separate layers.
The one thing that has impressed me about tactile representations of any sort is that the element of the capacities of the reader are far more crucial in interpretation of diagrams and pictures than in the actual reading of text. The ability of visually impaired people to interpret tactile impressions is dependent on so many factors, primarily personal but also previous experience and the amount of information that is provided prior to attempting to decipher the image. The more that I see tactile images being used by both young and adult visually impaired readers and the more that I work with people in other cultures around the world the greater distrust I have in our desire to standardise everything and declare "this is an effective tactile diagram" [or anything else for that matter].
Most tactile diagrams that one sees are really made for the sighted and not for the blind. That is to say they are reasonable faithful tactiel versions of the visual original. It is much more complex to analyse an original and then produce a comprehensible version of content of that original, which may look nothing like the original but still convey the essential information. It is much more complex to train people to be such interpreters. While I remain scepticle about any universal judgements of whether something is or is not effective as a tactile diagram, I do think there is a lot to be said for having general standards about the lines and shadings used, about sizes and distances apart of elements, about standardised presentation of tags and captions etc. For this I would refer you again to the work of our colleagues in The Netherlands and Sweden, as well as to the Tactile Graphics Centre of the Royla National Institute for the Blind in the UK.
Happy hunting and a good meeting.
Dick Tucker (just retired from) The FORCE Foundation Huijgensstraat 9a The Hague The Netherlands www.f-force.nl
PS Can I also use this list to launch an appeal for information. I am putting together what will eventually by a free web-based book on low-tech production methods of making tactile diagrams. This is to help schools in the developing countries which cannot afford machines or swell-paper and may not have electricity. I am looking for ideas such the use of pegboard and rubber bands or string for maths and physics; wool on velcro; empty pen tubes as tools for laying lines of bright coloured wool on rough backgrounds - anything that will help people produce tactile diagrams with local materials. All ideas are very welcome. If you could send them to me - a short description and if possible a photo - to dick.tucker@xxxxxxxxx lots of people in the developing countries will be very grateful.