Tactile Graphics with a Voice: Using QR Codes to Access Text in Tactile Graphics

Catherine M. Baker, Lauren R. Milne, Jeffrey Scofield, Cynthia L. Bennett, Richard E. Ladner


University of Washington


Textbook figures are often converted into a tactile format for access by blind students. These figures are not truly accessible unless the text within the figures is also made accessible. A common solution to access text in a tactile image is to use embossed Braille. We have developed an alternative to Braille that uses QR codes for students who want tactile graphics, but prefer the text in figures be spoken, rather than in Braille. Tactile Graphics with a Voice (TGV) allows text within tactile graphics to be accessible by using a talking QR code reader app on a smartphone. To evaluate TGV, we performed a longitudinal study where ten blind and low vision participants were asked to complete tasks using three alternative picture taking guidance techniques: 1) no guidance, 2) verbal guidance, and 3) finger pointing guidance. Our results show that TGV is an effective way to access text in tactile graphics, especially for those blind users who are not fluent in Braille. In addition, guidance preferences varied with each of the guidance techniques being preferred by at least one participant.

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