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Tactile Graphics

Overview of tactile graphics, which are the means by which non-textual information are conveyed to people who are blind, visually impaired, deafblind

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.

Basic Principles for Preparing Tactile Graphics
Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

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

Design Principles for Tactile Graphics

Guidelines and Standards for Tactile Graphics (2010)
Braille Authority of North America (BANA)
Image Sorting Tool Decision Tree
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.
Tactile Graphics Instruction
Teaching Students with Visual Impairments
Carmen Willings shares activities that can be used to instruct students in learning how to read tactile graphics.

Where can I get more information?

Tactile Graphics Resources
Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Website created by Lucia Hasty

Collage of overview of tactile graphics

Elephant Braille Design in UEB
Activity and strategy

Elephant Braille Design

Uno braille playing cards with large print
Activity and strategy

Games for Students with Visual Impairments

Noye infront of a CCTV

Noye’s Path to Literacy