The “audio/touch” method [Parkes 1988, Parkes 1991] is known to provide excellent access to graphical information. Blind people who are unfamiliar with tactile graphics or even with Braille can understand graphical information if the important graphical objects are described in audio when touched. Until recently it has been difficult to author computer files that provide this audio information as well as to obtain the tactile copy that blind users need.

ViewPlus’ IVEO technology provides a number of straightforward methods for creating computer files for audio/touch graphics. IVEO Scalable Vector Graphic (SVG) files may be viewed on screen with the IVEO Viewer application [downloadable free from http://www.viewplus.com/support/downloads/IVEOViewer/] and accessed in audio with a standard mouse. Tactile copy for audio/touch use is easily made from any IVEO SVG file by printing it to any ViewPlus embosser. People who can see but have low vision or suffer from dyslexia or other print disabilities may choose to create a color tactile image with the ViewPlus Emprint SpotDot embosser [Gardner et al 2005] to achieve excellent visual/audio/tactile access.

Blind users and many with dyslexia or other severe print disabilities access the graphic by touching the tactile copy after placing it on a touchpad connected to the computer. Any information associated with a graphical object by the author or editor is spoken when that object is pressed. Longer descriptions can also be included for any object and heard by pressing a hot key once the object is selected. SVG text also speaks when touched. All spoken information is displayed on a status bar that is useful for people with low vision. The status bar can be viewed in Braille using an on-line Braille display. All audio/Braille information is recorded in a review file that can be browsed at any time.

The IVEO Creator application provides a number of authoring or conversion methods, many of which are usable by blind people who need to convert graphical information from paper copy or electronic data such as PDF or web images. The presentation at this conference will demonstrate conversion of flow charts, scientific graphs, and other graphical information using IVEO Creator. Since the text in these graphics is accessible in audio, these graphics are often quite accessible without any additional editing. However understanding by users with print disabilities can usually be enhanced by small additions by a sighted editor. The presentation includes demonstration of how to improve readability of scientific text and how to add information to various objects so that they will be more accessible by IVEO audio/touch reading.

Conversion and editing of typical scientific graphics takes only a few minutes. The resulting IVEO SVG file may be e-mailed to the end-user. Tactile copy may be provided to the end user or made by any end user herself if she has access to a ViewPlus embosser. Embossing by the end user has the great advantage that the user can emboss not only the full graphic but any portion that she may want to zoom. IVEO Viewer provides several convenient zoom capabilities that are easily usable by people who are blind or have other severe print disabilities. These end user viewing/embossing capabilities will be demonstrated.

The development of IVEO Creator was supported in part by a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Science Foundation. Development of the IVEO Viewer, ViewPlus Emprint SpotDot Haptic color printer, and the Pro Ink Attachment were supported in part by SBIR grants from the National Institutes of Health.

[1] Gardner et al 2005, “ViewPlus Emprint, Ink Pro, Formatter, and Designer: Seeing and Feeling is Believing!” John A. Gardner, Christian Herden, Gaby Herden, Arthur Neeley, Carl Dreyer, Holly Stowell, Vladimir Bulatov, Galina Bulatova, Leon Ungier, and Yuemei Sun, Proceedings of the 2005 CSUN International Conference on Technology and People with Disabilities, Los Angeles, CA, 16-19 March, 2005
[2] Parkes D (1988, “Nomad: an Audio-Tactile Tool for the Acquisition, Use and Management of Spatially Distributed Information by Partially Sighted and Blind Persons”, eds Tatham AF and Dodds AG, Proceedings of the Second International Symposium on Maps and Graphics for Visually Handicapped People, King’s College, University of London, pp. 24-29
[3] Parkes 1991, “Nomad: Enabling Access to Graphics and Text Based Information for Blind, Visually Impaired and Other Disability Groups”, Conference Proceedings, Vol. 5. World congress on Technology 1991, Arlington, Virginia, pp. 690-714

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