Proofreading the Tactile Graphic: the Important Last Step

By Allison Robyn O’Day

Ms. O’Day is a certified Braille proofreader at the Minnesota State Services for the Blind in St. Paul, Minnesota, and a Literary Braille Instructor for the National Federation of the Blind.


Tactile graphic illustrations in Braille texts are equally as important to the Braille reader as print diagrams are to the sighted student. To ensure that the correct meaning of the print illustration is portrayed in the tactile graphic, the tactile graphic should be proofread by a certified Braille proofreader.


Tactile graphics; tactile drawings; proofreading; certified Braille proofreader; best practices; key; area, line, and point symbols; vacuum-forming



A well-planned, carefully constructed tactile graphic can be an important learning tool for the Braille reader, but if not proofread by a Braille reader, the intended information in the illustration can be lost or misinterpreted.

The importance of proofreading tactile drawings is equally as important as the proofreading of any text, be it transcribed in the Nemeth, chemistry, music, or literary Braille codes. As is true with proofreading any text transcribed in any of the codes previously mentioned, it is considered best practice to have a certified proofreader, working in conjunction with a copy holder, proofread all tactile drawings BY TOUCH.

Tactile graphics should undergo two proofreadings. The first should be done by the tactile graphic’s creator to make certain that the information portrayed in the print illustration is conveyed in the tactile representation. The second proofreading should be done by a certified Braille proofreader to guarantee that the tactile graphic is tactually discernible and understandable.

It is important that the proofreader be knowledgeable on the subject matter being portrayed in the tactile graphic to ensure that no erroneous information is added nor any pertinent information deleted from the tactile graphic.

What follows is a partial list of items with explanations that should be checked when proofreading a tactile graphic. The information is taken from the Guidelines and Standards for Tactile Graphics, 2010, Unit 10.

  • The key, transcriber’s notes, title, and the tactile graphic should be consistent with the rules of the code in which the text is transcribed, and should conform with the rules outlined in the Guidelines and Standards for Tactile Graphics.

If a text is transcribed in the Nemeth Code, then the key, transcriber’s note, and title must all conform to the rules of the Nemeth code.

  • If a series of tactile graphics contains the same identified place or object, then the same tactile area, line or point symbol, or key listing, should be consistently used throughout the volume.

In transcriptions that contain numerous maps, the use of “ao” for Atlantic Ocean, or the line used to designate the equator, should be consistent throughout the text.

  • Letter or number keys used in the transcriber’s note must match those used on the tactile graphic.

Many times the letter combination used on the key is different from that used on the tactile graphic. For example, “ar” is chosen as the letter combination representing artery in the key, but is labeled as “at” on the drawing. In most instances, it is easier to correct the key than the tactile graphic.

  • For diagrams that require the use of several textured area, line, or point symbols, the textures must be discernible by touch and tactually distinct from each other.

Many line and area textures appear to be visually different, but do not have a significant tactual difference from each other, making it difficult for the Braille reader to follow lines in a line graph, or distinguish different areas on a map. 

  • The textures used to represent a key item should be matched exactly in orientation, pattern, and size to those used on the tactile diagram.

The density of dots and orientation of vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines should be the same in both the key and drawing.

  • Items to be measured using a ruler, or angles to be measured using a protractor, should be sufficiently spaced and raised above the level of the paper to permit the use of these measurement tools.

If necessary, use a Braille ruler and/or protractor to insure that adequate spacing is allowed. It is recommended that items to be measured be raised at least 1/8 inch above the level of the paper with 1 inch of blank space around the object, and that lines of an angle be at least 3 inches long.

  • Coordinate axes must be appropriately labeled and in a consistent location; the plotted line(s) or shape(s) must be the most dominant texture, with the axes being less dominant, and the grid lines the least dominant.

When proofreading coordinate grids, it is important to make sure that the plotted lines or shapes are appropriately labeled and that the vertices of the lines or shapes match those of the print (i.e. the top left coordinate of a square is at (2, 2), not (1, 2)). In addition, the plotted lines or shapes should be significantly discernible from the axis and grid lines.

  • Transcriber’s notes used to describe a diagram or to indicate a change in format must be written at a level consistent with the grade level of the text being transcribed.

Many times a well-meaning transcriber’s note may contain words unfamiliar to the younger reader, misspelled words, or may not adequately explain a change of format. It is always best practice to have someone other than the writer of the transcriber’s note read the note for content and clarity. 

  • Make certain that special symbols used in the transcription of a volume are listed on the special symbols page at the beginning of the Braille volume.

Braille symbols used in the preparation of mathematical and scientific diagrams, such as number lines or the two-letter symbols used to represent coinage, must be listed on the special symbols page.

  • When a key and its corresponding tactile graphic are on separate pages, the key should be on a facing page.

It is much easier for the Braille reader to gather information about a tactile graphic if the key is on a facing (left-hand) page. When volumes are transcribed in single-sided Braille, collating processes will need to be altered to facilitate the insertion of facing pages.

  • When preparing tactile graphics masters for vacuum-form production, the vacuum-formed copy should always be the copy that is proofread.

Tactile masters should be checked to make sure that all pertinent information is contained on the tactile drawing, but the vacuum-formed copy is what should be proofread by touch. Many textures “feel” different when vacuum-formed, so the intended meaning portrayed on the master copy may not be adequately displayed after vacuum forming. The outer edges of the vacuum-form copy should also be checked to ensure the clarity of the Braille text and textured areas. It is also recommended that each copy of a tactile master be checked to insure that textures have not fallen off or been altered during storage.


Joint Braille Authority of North America/Canadian Braille Authority Tactile Graphics Committee. (2011). Unit 10: Quality Control. In Guidelines and Standards for Tactile Graphics, 2010, Web Version - February 2012. Retrieved from

The Journal of Blindness Innovation and Research is copyright (c) 2014 to the National Federation of the Blind.