Blog Date: 
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Clara Van Gerven

When we started planning the first-ever Tactile Graphics Conference here at the NFB HQ we thought it would be more of a meeting than a full-fledged conference. We put out a call for proposals, and when we got more than we could really fit in our plans, we expanded the plan. The panel sifted through the proposals, and we managed to put it all into a conference schedule. Then we opened registration, hoping fervently that, having built this, attendees would come. A few people signed up. Then some more signed up. More followed. Before we knew it, we had once again outgrown our britches and had to scale up again.

One hundred and twenty people from fourteen countries. Clearly I wasn’t the only one to think that tactile graphics are an important tool in getting blind people a better education and better jobs. The Friday and Saturday of the conference were full of introductions and plans for future co-operations. For those of you who couldn’t attend the event, keep an eye on the Journal of Blindness Innovation and Research for papers on the topic of tactile graphics --all of our presenters have been offered a slot there to share some of their insights and findings. The submission deadline is May 13, and we will publish after that.

Meanwhile, some of the highlights of the event included keynote speaker Dr. Sarah Morley Wilkins talking about some of the work being done at the RNIB, including, a new repository of accessible learning materials, including images. While some of these materials are, for the moment, copyright restricted, other information is freely available to anyone signing up for the site. One especially useful part of the site that is available to all is the training section, which lays out the basics for accessibility for a number of formats.

Another very popular session was MakerBot’s Nate Leichter’s talk about innovative uses of 3D printing. Here, too, there is an online resource worth pointing to-- Thingiverse is a collection of freely downloadable (and modifiable) 3D models run by MakerBot, and populated by its users.

There were, really, too many great talks to list here, and not many that fit in a nutshell very well. I will point out one more great collection of images--APH’s Tactile Graphics Image Library. That site contains a number of 2D tactile images related to science, math, art, and other topics. With that, I pass the torch to JBIR, where the presenters, as authors, can present their material in full.