Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

Tactile Graphics

Photo of two hands exploring a page of tactile graphics

What are tactile graphics?

Tactile graphics are a means of conveying non-textual information to people who are blind or visually impaired, and may include tactile representations of pictures, maps, graphs, diagrams, and other images. A person with a visual impairment can feel these raised lines and surfaces in order to obtain the same information that people who are sighted get through looking at pictures or other visual images.


Teaching Tactile Graphics
By Lucia Hasty

In this Perkins webcast, Ms. Hasty discusses special relationship and graphic literacy, moving from models to graphics, and strategies for teaching students to read tactile graphics. Ch. 1: Introduction, Ch. 2: Spatial Relationship and Graphic Literacy, Ch. 3: Moving from Models to Graphics, and Ch. 4: Strategies for Reading Tactile Graphics.

Teachers of the visually impaired often produce tactile graphics to accompany classroom materials and activities.  It must be remembered that tactile graphics are not automatically meaningful to students who are blind or visually impaired. Students must first have an understanding of that which is being represented. For example, a raised map of Africa will have little meaning for a child who has never heard of Africa and who does not grasp the fact that the world is made up of different continents. In order for tactile graphics to have meaning, a student must have a good understanding of symbolic representation, spatial orientation, and basic tactual perceptual skills.

To learn more, read Teaching Tactile Graphics adapted from materials by Lucia Hasty.


Tactile graphic of chickadee

What are the guidelines for designing tactile graphics?

Before creating a tactile graphic, one must first decide whether to make it at all.  Some information can be conveyed through a description and other images may be omitted if they do not communicate additional information. 

Guidelines for Design of Tactile Graphics
American Printing House for the Blind

Basic Principles for Preparing Tactile Graphics
American Foundation for the Blind

Design Principles for Tactile Graphics

Best Practice Guidelines for the Design, Production and Presentation of Vacuum-Formed Tactile Maps
Ann Gardiner and Chris Perkins

Braille Authority of North America (BANA)
Diagram Center
This flowchart is designed to help determine the purpose of the image, and whether it can be omitted, described, or a tactile graphic should be created.


Where can I get more information?

Tactile Graphics
Perkins School for the Blind, Scout

Tactile Graphics Resources
Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired


Website created by Lucia Hasty

Other Resources

Quick Tac 4 is a free program that can be used to create tactile graphics with any braille embosser and even embedded into DBT (Duxbury Braille Translator) and MegaDots documents.


tactile graphics collage