RaisedPixels: Accessible graphics with touch and haptic for iPad

How do you read an infographic when you’re blind? How do you read a map, a diagram or a floor plan when you can’t see?

Making graphics and diagrams accessible for the blind, is something I have been working on for the past 2 years.

My cofounder at RaisedPixels has laid the foundation with a research project as part of his PhD at Monash University in Australia. We are now ready to release a technology that allows blind users to see 2D graphics.

Touch and haptic makes graphics accessible

Our approach to making graphics accessible is based on the touch capabilities of iPad and iPhone. We have created an app that lets blind users explore graphics by moving their finger over the screen and getting feedback about the shape they are touching. A simple haptic feedback device for the user is in development and we can’t wait to add this to the app to make the experience more immersive for blind users.

Blind iPad user touches accessible floor plan.

Making graphics accessible

The RaisedPixels graphics are specifically created to be accessible. There is a simple online authoring tool that allows content creators to transcribe any graphic into a RaisedPixels graphic. A graphics creator can draw simple shapes, add sound and Voice Over text to any shape. (please contact us via twitter @raisedpixels if you are interested in using the authoring tool for free to create RaisedPixels graphics)

Take for example a map of the world’s continents

With RaisedPixels a blind user can explore where continents are located on the world map, how large the continents are and how they are placed in relation to each other. These are things that a user with vision will easily pick up by looking at a map.

RaisedPixels accessible graphics of simple word map

Now a blind user can access the same information on their iPad and understand how, for example, Oceania and Asia are spatially positioned. In the past this spacial information was only available through tactile maps, those are expensive and not easily available to blind users. With RaisedPixels we can now provide this information digitally, at low cost, and instantly.

Middle Earth

Assuming that Lord of the Ring is also popular with blind users we set out to create an accessible map of Middle Earth. Surprisingly, this was a bigger challenge than we thought.

It took us almost 3 weeks to come up with an accessible version we are happy with.

Thanks

Many thanks goes to the blind testers in Melbourne and around the world and we happy to have the app now available for download from the Apple AppStore. If you know anyone who is blind please let them know.

Lets use everyday technology to make this world more accessible for anyone.

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