Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

Participants Sought for Study on Tactile Graphics

Pearson logo

Pearson is conducting a study of tactile graphics and looking for interested participants. For more information, please contact Jan McSorley, Vice President of Accessibility at or 512-673-9569. Please find below the information about this study:

Creating tactile graphics for braille users requires thoughtful design to avoid adding cognitive complexity to assessments when graphics are converted from visual to tactile mediums. Pearson is conducting a 3-phase tactile graphics (TG) study using a concurrent nested design (Creswell, 1994) to guide the methods and data analysis for the following research questions:

  1. What are the characteristics of TGs that can be effectively interpreted by students?
  2. What are the characteristics across all levels of complexity that create barriers or make the TGs easier to interpret?
  3. How does the method of production impact students’ ability to read, consume and interpret TGs?
  4. How do student experiences and training affect their ability to read, consume and interpret TGs?

Participants are selected based on pre-determined criteria:

  • A documented visual impairment
  • Ability to read braille
  • Being in 2nd – 12th grade

Using a mixed methods approach (Mertens, 2003), researchers use observations, rating scales, and surveys, including structured interviews and questionnaires.  Phase 1 of the study was completed at the 2019 National Federation of the Blind Convention.  Students were asked to explore TGs produced using three different production methods: (1) Embossed braille, (2) Swell Touch, and (3) Collage. They identified information and rated each graphic for complexity with a 5-point scale.  Data was collected on the time each participant took to explore the graphics and whether they used a systematic and consistent method for exploration.

In Phase II, tactile graphics will be mailed to Teachers of the Visually Impaired (TVI) who will work with targeted students.  We are recruiting 94 students, from second grade through twelfth grade.  Identical to Phase I, students will be asked to identify requested information and rate the complexity of each graphic.

In Phase III, TVIs will emboss graphics from electronic files and ship them back for analysis.  Subject matter experts will evaluate the graphics to determine if there are any inconsistencies in quality across multiple braille embossers. TVIs will complete a survey about how they embossed the files, including the model of their embosser as well as software and printer settings.

To validate results, data from multiple sources will be triangulated. Descriptive and inferential statistics will be provided, along with results from constant comparison and matrix analysis. Targeted outcomes include the development of a complexity scale to guide decisions related to the inclusion of tactile graphics in assessments and the production methods used to create them.