Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Bringing Pictures and Books to Life for the Blind

Last summer, I worked as an intern for ViewPlus Technologies. They specialize in braille embossers that create high resolution tactile graphics. Working there got me interested in the world of tactile graphics, and how programs around the world use them. I recently came across two programs that specialize in bringing pictures and books to life for the blind.

The first is called Living Paintings, which is an organization in the U.K. They have designed a touch and sound system that brings pictures to life. The packs they distribute use thermoform representations of the graphics, an audio recording that describes the graphics, and color versions of the pictures so that the packs can be shared with sighted peers. Their catalog offers something for everyone. For children, the packs range from children’s books which have been translated into braille and have tactile representations of the illustrations, to art history which provides a child with tactile versions of paintings accompanied by an audio description of the art and information about the artist. For adults, the packs explore the world of art, and are grouped into topics such as works of art from specific galleries. The packs can be borrowed for free by anyone with a visual impairment in Britain or Ireland. Here is a link to their website: http://www.livingpaintings.org/

The second program is the Feelix Library in Australia. This organization brings books to life for blind and visually impaired children ages 0 to 6. The library includes over 450 titles, and again is a free service to anyone that Vision Australia serves. Instead of only translating the book’s text into braille, Feelix kits contain the original book annotated with braille, an audio version of the book, some tactual aids to better help the child enter the world of the book, and a handbook of tactile pictures so that they can tell the story themselves. Here is a link to their website. http://www.visionaustralia.org.au/info.aspx?page=1063

These are just two examples of how pictures can be brought to life for people with vision loss. I really hope and wish that one day we’ll have similar programs here in the states.  If any of my readers know of programs like this in the U.S., please let me know. If you’ve used either Living Paintings or the Feelix Library, I would love to hear about what your experience was like.

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