February is Low Vision Awareness Month. For many individuals who are blind, living with low vision, or who are Deaf/blind, touch is an important sense for experiencing the world around them. Technology that is tactile or haptic can help people with visual disabilities to interact with the physical and digital world around them. Tactile is defined as relating to, involving, or perceptible to the sense of touch. Haptic is also defined as relating to the sense of touch, particularly relating to the perception and manipulation of objects. The National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) currently funds two projects conducting research related to low vision, touch, and tactile systems—Touch-Responsive Models for Universal Access to Smithsonian Museums Exhibits and Audio-Tactile Web Accessibility with Haptic Gloves.
The Touch-Responsive Models for Universal Access to Smithsonian Museums Exhibits project overseen by Touch Graphics builds upon previously-funded research to develop new methods for fabricating replicas of museum artifacts and other 3D objects that describe themselves when touched allowing for museums to create exhibits that are accessible to everyone, including visitors who are blind or have low vision. In addition to exhibits/displays, tactile systems are making it possible for individuals with visual disabilities to experience art through tactile books that use tactile imagines that employ a variety of effects. Depth effects are achieved by varying the height of relief of raised lines, and texture fills help improve awareness of figure-ground distinctions.
Physical exhibits/displays are but one way in which tactile systems are making it possible for people with visual disabilities to experience the world around them. Tactile systems are also improving the ability of people with visual disabilities to access and browse Internet sites. The Audio-Tactile Web Accessibility with Haptic Gloves project overseen in partnership by the Stony Brook University and Lighthouse Guild aims to improve the utility of web access by exploring innovative ways that tactile interfaces in general and haptic gloves in particular improve non-visual web browsing. The project designs audio-tactile interfaces for general browsing, text entry and editing, and dynamic interaction with web interfaces; and develops haptic a haptic glove with finger tracking and tactile feedback for use by individuals with low vision to improve access to social networks, education, and employment opportunities.
To learn more about other available tactile assistive technologies please visit NARIC’s sister agency AbleData.
A search of our REHABDATA database resulted in over 600 documents related to haptic and/or tactile technologies, and over 70 documents specific to individuals who are blind, low-vision, or with visual disabilities. Ask a NARIC information specialist about our document delivery service today!