The Innovative Use of Vector-based Tactile Graphics Design Software to Automate the Production of Raised-line Tactile Graphics in Accordance with BANA’s Newly Adopted Guidelines and Standards for Tactile Graphics, 2010.

By Aquinas Benedict Pather

Mr. Pather is a tactile graphics design specialist/Braille transcriber and the T-Base Communications representative to the Braille Authority of North America’s Tactile Graphics Technical Committee.

Abstract

User-friendly design tools that greatly simplify tactile graphics creation are now readily available to the general public, and are no longer privy to the seasoned graphics artist alone. This article highlights some of the general principles of tactile graphic design, but is primarily geared toward producers and transcribers of tactile graphics who use vector graphics software to design material for microcapsule (swell) paper, thermographic (granulated) ink, computer-embossed graphics, or collage (cut-and-paste) tactile master planning. The best practices that are expounded in the BANA/CBA Guidelines and Standards for Tactile Graphics, 2010, are fully incorporated into these software add-ons or macros. The article demonstrates how the innovative features of these tactile graphics macros are used to create a wide variety of commonly occurring shapes, symbols, and graphs that can be customized with speed and accuracy. Raised-line graphics can now be produced with consistency regardless of the designer because they are drawn automatically by the software.

Keywords

Raised-line tactile, tactile macros, guidelines and standards for tactile graphics, vector graphics

Definition

In this article, raised-line tactile graphics refers to any tangible component of a tactile diagram. Raised-line tactile graphics may consist of linear, areal, or simple point symbols. They are not confined to lines or linear features only, as the title implies.

 

Tactile Page Layout

BANA/CBA Guidelines and Standards for Tactile Graphics, 2010 has a section dedicated to braille formats, which is specifically related to illustrative material that will be rendered as a tactile to be explored by touch rather than simply being described by the transcriber. Tactilists, who are not certified braillists, would benefit from this section because it gives guidance on placement of the text that surrounds a tactile graphic. Titles, headings, figure numbers, captions, labels, transcribers’ notes, and keys that usually accompany an illustration have standardized formatting preferences that should be followed.

Unit 5 of the Tactile Graphics Guidelines stipulates where, how, and in what order the elements of a tactile graphic should be placed and formatted for optimum readability. The examples in this article attempt to incorporate all of these elements. 

Diagram Placement and Layout

A simple hypothetical print diagram, as in Graphic 1, with labels, a figure number, and a caption is used to illustrate the various format guidelines regarding the placement of the different elements of a tactile diagram, as displayed in Graphic 2. The specific guideline sections that were implemented to create the tactile diagram are listed below. Starting from the first braille line down to the end of the graphic, they are:

  • Section 5.2 Order of Elements in a Tactile Graphic: The Figure number and caption are placed before the tactile graphics
  • Section 5.5 Illustration Captions: Caption brailled in cell 7 with carryovers in cell 5
  • Section 5.7 Keys and Legends: The key starts in Cell 7 with an opening transcriber’s note symbol
  • Section 5.8.3 Placement of Keys
  • Section 5.9 Symbol Placement and Measurements in Keys: Symbol size and placement
  • Section 2.7: Diagram position
  • Section 2.7 and Section 5.3.5 Blank Lines in Tactile Graphics

The above list is an indication that besides the readability of a Tactile Graphic, a tactilist or braille transcriber should be aware of the various recommended guidelines regarding the placement of the tactile that is displayed on a typical braille page. Software programming that incorporates these formatting preferences will allow the tactile graphics designer to focus more on the readability of the image. As will be shown later, program add-ons like Tactile Macros have been developed for this purpose.

Templates

Under section 3.4 Planning Size and Layout the guidelines recommend the use of templates. Templates are files that are preset with preferences and standardized settings that serve as a starting point for new projects. Formats and other graphic elements are readily available in the template and do not have to be recreated thus reducing the design time considerably.

Examples of templates using CorelDraw® and Microsoft® Word for producing raised-line tactile graphics are shown below:

  • Microcapsule paper (swell touch paper); See Graphic 3.
  • Swell touch paper using MS Word 2010; See Graphic 4.
  • Tiger embossed graphics using CorelDraw X4; See Graphic 5.
  • Thermographic ink using CorelDraw X4; See Graphic 6.
  • Thermographic ink using MS Word 2010; See Graphic 7.

Preferences and standard settings that are preset in the templates are: paper size, page orientation, page margins, font type, font size, line and paragraph spacing, measurement units, and many more.

Vector Graphics & Automated Tactile Design

Vector Graphics versus Rasterized Graphics

Curves and shapes are used in vector graphics software to represent images that are based on mathematical expressions. Raster or bitmap images such as JPEGs, GIFs, and BMPs are made up of a grid of pixels. Vector graphics are scalable without the loss of quality to produce clearer images and generally use less memory.

Raised-lines vector graphics are produced with commercial software graphics suites such as: CorelDraw®, Adobe Illustrator®, and Microsoft Word® to name a few. There are also free or open source vector graphics software programs, most commonly Inkscape, Aviary's Raven, Google Docs Drawing, DrawPlus SE, OpenOffice.org Draw, and Karbon--among several others. Tactile graphics designers, who are knowledgeable in the computer graphics field, would very likely be familiar with these commercial or open source software programs. There are also raster-based graphics programs such as QuickTac that produce graphics, which can be imported directly into a braille document.

Macros

Macros allow for the automation of frequently used commands or repetitive sequences of keystrokes and mouse clicks. This greatly speeds up the design time and ensures accuracy as well as consistency. Most graphics software programs allow users to create customizable apps or macros to suit their needs. When using CorelDraw®, for example, there is no need for any programming experience to create macros. With computer programming experience, modifying and editing macros can be simple using the Visual Basic for Applications editor (VBA).

Tactile Macros

The macros discussed in this article, named Tactile Macros, were created by Debra Graham, a computer programmer who has volunteered as a tactile graphics designer for many years. The many features that the macros have today are as a result of the input and support of the original group of tactile macro users. New ideas for add-ons are constantly being tested and updated as more time-saving innovations are included. The macros are freely available to anyone who joins the Google Groups forum at: https://groups.google.com/forum/?hl=en&fromgroups#!forum/tactile-macros.

Some of the many functions that are most commonly used in the latest version of the Tactile Macros for CorelDraw® are: setting braille code preferences (e.g., Nemeth Code for lower numbers or Literary Code for upper numbers), adding dead zones (i.e., white space) with the recommended thickness around diagrams and braille with a single click of the mouse, and adding pages with both braille and print page number placeholders.

There is also a function to quickly fix braille font problems that are accidently introduced or are overlooked. For example, with one click edits can be made such as correcting braille font type, rectifying braille distortions and font size, exposing accidentally hidden text, etc. However, this is not a translation program and therefore braille contractions and symbols are not interpreted for correction by the Tactile Macros program.

Other functions include the ability to quickly draw and/or edit mathematic graphics in accordance with BANA standards by merely entering the parameters specific to the graphic. Some of the diagrams that can be quickly drawn with the macros are:

The Tactile Macros have expanded considerably over the years and now also include many shortcuts, such as adding geometric symbols to figures, angle signs (acute or right angled), hatch marks for equal sides, chevrons for parallel sides, etc. Shortcuts also include the ability to add repetitive braille text such as keys or legends and commonly used transcriber’s notes. With only a few mouse clicks the macros allow the user to quickly edit graphic features, such as adding standardized textures for common features like water or inserting arrowheads that are based on the styles recommended by the guidelines.

The main menu of the Tactile Macros has four tabs: Styles, QDraw, Braille, and Prelims. These tabs are used specifically for the following attributes and are demonstrated in Graphics 8 and 9.

Styles: For applying standardized features (See Graphic 8)
QDraw: For quickly drawing common graphics (See Graphic 9)
Braille: For applying and correcting braille text (See Graphic 9)
Prelims: For setting design preferences etc. (See Graphic 9)

These macro tools are very helpful when you need to create several graphics that are all similar, whether it is a series of line graphs, a set of analogue clocks, or a number of pie charts. The next five sections demonstrate how the Tactile Macros are used for these purposes.

Drawing a Line Graph

The print example of a line graph shown in Graphic 10 is used to illustrate how the Tactile Macros process can quickly draw a line graph without compromising the BANA Guidelines and Standards for Tactile Graphics, 2010. The tedious editing of these types of graphs is greatly reduced because the Tactile Macro can also be used to edit any of the graphic elements that may have been accidently moved or distorted.

Drawing time is minimized because the designer only has to fill in the line graph properties in order for it to be drawn. The dialogue box in Graphic 11 shows items to be filled in or checked off for this particular print line graph. The graph with a sample plotted curve and placeholders for the braille labels is drawn as shown in Graphic 12. The designer now just has to correctly plot the curves and points. The Dot Size tool, shown in Graphic 13, is available to make sure the plotted points are the optimal size and have the required white space for tactual clarity.

This macro ensures that the following section of the guidelines is adhered to:
Section 3.4.3.11 Point Symbols. For discrimination between two or more different-shaped symbols, the minimum diameter must be at least 1/4 inch (6 millimeters). The space between a point symbol and any other component must be a minimum of 1/8 inch (3 millimeters).

The final step to complete the line graph is to insert braille labels and surrounding text. See Graphic 14 for the tactile example.

Drawing a Bar Graph

Bar Graphs are commonly used in mathematics and other technical subjects. The print example of a bar graph for this illustration is shown in Graphic 15. Drawing bar graphs using the Tactile Macros is shown in Graphics 16 to 19. The tactile designer’s first steps are to note the values for each bar, draw a rectangle to constrain the size of the diagram, and click the Bar Graph tab to choose the orientation of the bars (horizontal or vertical). The values of each bar of the bar graph (6, 3, 2, 2.5, and 2) are displayed in the Bar Graph dialogue boxes in Graphic 16. Additional graph axis information is used to further customize the diagram as shown in Graphic 17. Once all the data has been filled in, the final bar graph, Graphic 18, will be drawn to fit in the rectangle that was created at the beginning of the process. The braille placeholders are then substituted with the actual labels; see Graphic 19 for the final tactile example.

Drawing a Pie or Circle Graph

A common pie chart, Graphic 20, is used to show how the Tactile Macros quickly creates a pie chart. The first step is to draw a circle, then on the QDraw tab choose Pie Chart and fill in the values in the dialogue box for each sector (Graphic 21). Once OK has been clicked, the pie chart will quickly be drawn as presented in Graphic 22 and the final step is adding the missing labels.  See Graphic 23 for the completed tactile example of a pie chart.

Drawing a Spinner

Section 6.2 Spinners of the guidelines requires that specific properties be shown in a tactile graphic of a spinner. For instance, numbers should retain numeric indicators, segments must be large enough to read, the spinner and segment lines must be distinct, and labels should be placed outside the circle of the spinner, to name a few properties. It is also important to note when creating a spinner that the pointer is shown with an arrowhead and that it does not include a tail. 

The Tactile Macros add-on incorporates all of these specifications. When creating the tactile of the spinner shown in Graphic 24, click on the QDraw tab, choose Spinner and fill in the next dialogue box as followed in Graphic 25. The following step in creating a spinner is choosing the specific colours of each segment as demonstrated in Graphic 26.

The Macro will then draw the spinner with placeholders for the names of the colours that designers can manually replace if needed. For the final tactile representation of a spinner see Graphic 27.

Drawing Clocks

Section 6.1 Clocks of the guidelines concerns the tactile representation of analogue clocks. Tactile Macros is able to quickly render any print analogue clock as a tactile graphic observing all the size and placement restrictions that the guidelines require. The complete process is demonstrated in Graphics 28 to 30.

The print image of a clock, Graphic 28, which often appears in lower grade mathematics textbooks, can simply be created by entering the actual time in the QDraw dialogue box displayed in Graphic 29, which then provides the end result of the tactile clock shown in Graphic 30.

Conclusion

Computer generated raised-line tactile graphics have become more commonly used because they are faster and less expensive to produce than the cut-and-paste graphics for thermoform production. Despite the limitations of microcapsule paper, thermographic ink, and computer embossed graphics, they have become the favoured production methods by many braille production centres. Since the newly published BANA/CBA Guidelines and Standards for Tactile Graphics, 2010, is available in both hardcopy print and online, software programmers now have sound reference material on which to base their designs. The timely completion of transcription projects containing tactile graphics will be greatly facilitated by the use of innovative computer design tools. It is hoped that this article will encourage more programmers to share their expertise to improve tactile graphics design techniques. Such improvements would benefit the tactile reader in general and more specifically student textbooks with tactile graphics, which usually have very tight turnaround times.

References

The Braille Authority of North America. (2011). BANA/CBA Guidelines and Standards for Tactile Graphics, 2010. Retrieved from www.brailleauthority.org

Graham, D. (2013).Tactile MacrosV11. [Online forum entry.] Retrieved from https://groups.google.com/forum/?hl=en&fromgroups#!forum/tactile-macros

Graphic 1: Print Example

A picture of a shaded regular hexagon with one side measuring 6m the vertex on the right has a picture of a Pot of Gold. The text below the picture is : Figure 4, Caption ---- Figure 5


Graphic 2: Tactile Example

Picture showing the format and layout of a tactile graphic.

Note Text of Graphic 2: Picture showing the format and layout of a tactile graphic.
The labelled items are:
Caption/Figure # starts in cell 7
Print Page Number
Key starts in cell 7 with opening TN symbol
BLANK LINE
Legend symbol size: 1 by 1.5 inches centered between cells 2 and 3
Key explanation starts in cell 6
BLANK LINE
Diagram Area; Diagram starts in cell 3
BLANK LINE
Blank line vertical space
New tactile starts after one blank line
Braille page number (circled in red)

 

Graphic 3: Template for Microcapsule Paper (Swell Touch paper)

Picture of a Sample Template for Microcapsule paper graphics with the following items labelled: Sample Template: Running head, Print page number, 25 braille lines for 11X11.5 in. braille page, Braille font Swell Braille 24 pt (24pt Swell Braille font (line spacing expanded to 111%) allows 25 rows down and 40 cells across), Braille page number

Source: BANA Guidelines and Standards for Tactile Graphics, 2010


Graphic 4: Template for Swell Touch Paper Using Microsoft Word 2010

Template for Swell Touch graphics using MS Word

Note Text of Graphic 4: Template for Swell Touch graphics using MS Word with the following specifications:
Page Settings for tactile graphics
1. Paper Size:
Width 11.5” Length 11”
2. Margins:
Top 0.5” – Left .625” – Bottom 0.5” – Right 0.625”
Gutter 0” – Gutter position Left
3. Font:
 Swell Braille.ttf – 24pt
Spacing:
Before 0pt
After 0pt
Line spacing: Exactly  At 28pt
4. Number of Braille lines 25
5. Number of Braille Cells 40
Note:
Line numbers should be turned off otherwise they will print on the final tactile. To turn off Line numbers; Go to Page Layout, Line Numbers and choose None
Cell numbers at the top and bottom of the page including this textbox should be removed from file document. However, they are set as Hidden text, and will not print
These setting are used in this document and may be used as a template for tactile graphics for MICROCAPSULE PAPER

 

Graphic 5: Template for Tiger Graphics Using CorelDraw

Template for Tiger Graphics 11X11.5 inch paper showing: Binding edge marker, Braille size for alignment, Braille cells for alignment, Running head and Braille font Braille29 at 29 points

 

Graphic 6: Template for Thermographic Ink Using CorelDraw X4

Template for Thermographic Ink graphics using CorelDraw showing the following labels: Braille.ttf 25pt, Paragraph spacing 108%, 40 Cells and 25 Lines

 

Graphic 7: Template for Thermographic Ink Using Microsoft Word 2010

Screen shot: Template for Thermographic Ink graphics using MS Word showing important specifications such as Paper size, Margins, Gutter, Font, Font spacing, Line spacing etc.

Note Text of Graphic 7: Template for Thermographic Ink graphics using MS Word showing the following specifications:
Page Settings for tactile graphics
1. Paper Size:
Width 11.5” Length 11”
2. Margins:
Top 0.5” – Left .625” – Bottom 0.5” – Right 0.625”
Gutter 0” – Gutter position Left
3. Font:
Braille.ttf – 25pt
Spacing:
Before 0pt
After 0pt
Line spacing: Exactly  At 28pt
Number of Braille lines 25
Number of Braille Cells 40

Note:
Line numbers should be turned off otherwise they will print on the final tactile. To turn off Line numbers; Go to Page Layout, Line Numbers and choose None
Cell numbers at the top and bottom of the page including this textbox should be removed from file document. However, they are set as Hidden text, and will not print

These setting are used in this document and may be used as a template for tactile graphics for THERMOGRAPHIC INK

 

Graphic 8: Styles tab on Tactile Macros Main Menu

Screenshot of Tactile Macros Main Menu with the Styles tab active showing various options

Source: Tactile Macros V11

 

Graphic 9: QDraw, Braille and Prelims tabs

Three screen shots of the Tactile Macros V 11 Main Menu showing QDraw tab, Braille tab and Prelims tabs and the options available for each tab

Source: Tactile Macros V11

 

Graphic 10: Macro-Generated Line Graph (Print Example)

Print Example of line graph showing "Population Growth in City" for the years from 1920 to 2000 with the question: 3. What can you say about the following diagram?

 

Graphic 11: Fill in the graph properties in the next window

Screen shot: Line Grid dialogue box showing the items checked or filled in that correspond to the parameters of the print line graph, and the appropriate formatting preferences for the tactile version.

Source: Tactile Macros V11

Note Text of Graphic 11: Macro dialogue box with the following items checked or filled in:
Line Grid
1. Choose the type of graph (BANA rule for Numeric Indicator)
2. Enter the number grid lines; (13)
3. Placement of axis lines; Draw X axis, checked and Draw Y axis, checked
4. Placement of arrowheads; Draw Top Arrowhead on Y axis, checked
5. Placement of tick marks; Tick every (1) gridlines
6. Tick mark values:
On X Axis; Value at origin (1920), Increment of each Tick (5), Label every (4) ticks
On Y Axis; Value at origin (0), Increment of each Tick (5), Label every (1) ticks
7. Grid adjustment and size; Equal spacing horizontally and vertically, checked
8. Tick style; Straddle axis, checked
9. A sample plotted line drawn to BANA standards; Checked
10. Save these settings for similar graphs to avoid repetition; Checked
11. Click OK to draw the graph

 

Graphic 12: Line graph drawn with sample plotted curve and placeholders for the braille labels.

Sample line graph that has been drawn by the Tactile Macro showing place holder for axis labels and a sample plotted line placed in accordance with the Tactile Graphics Guidelines and Standards

Source: Tactile Macros V11

 

Graphic 13: “Dot Size” tool used to place correct size plotted points on the line graph

Picture of macro generated line graph with macro dialogue box with Dot Size option circled and arrow pointing to plotted point on the line graph

Source: Tactile Macros V11

 

Graphic 14: Braille Labels – Tactile Example

Completed, Macro-drawn line graph with surrounding braille text

Source: Tactile Macros V11

 

Graphic 15: Drawing a Bar Graph – Print Example

Completed, Macro-drawn line graph with surrounding braille text

 

Graphic 16: Bar Graph Values inserted in required fields

Screen shot: Bar graph macro dialogue box showing the necessary fields to be filled in.  “Amounts” rather than “Percentages” is chosen, the Value amounts from 1 to 5 are filled in

Source: Tactile Macros V11

Note Text of Graphic 16: Screen shot: Bar graph dialogue box with three areas labeled namely: Choose Amounts, Fill in Values 1-5 and Click OK. The Values chosen are Amounts and Filled in as follows:
Value 1: 6
Value 2: 3
Value 3: 2
Value 4: 2.5
Value 5:2

 

Graphic 17: Bar Graph Type and Properties are entered

Screen shot of Bar Graph dialogue box with the following items highlighted: Fill in the vertical bars; Choose number of ticks; Uncheck Hide Grid Lines; Value at first tick; Increment for each tick; Label every tick; OK

Source: Tactile Macros V11

 

Graphic 18: Tactile example of Bar graph drawn by Tactile Macros

Tactile Example of Macro generated Bar Graph within a rectangular box to constrain its size

Source: Tactile Macros V11

 

Graphic 19: Tactile example of Bar graph with braille labels added

Tactile Bar Graph with placeholders replaced by actual braille labels

Source: Tactile Macros V11

 

Graphic 20: Pie or Circle Graph - Print Example

Pie Chart shown in 3D entitled "The Pie Chart" with the following segments; Team A 11%, Team B 17%, Team C 12%, Team D 27%, Team E 21%, Other 12%

Note Text of Graphic 20: Print example of a Pie Chart shown in 3D and entitled "The Pie Chart" with the following segments (clockwise starting at twelve o'clock):
Team E 21%
Other 12%
Team A 11%
Team B 17%
Team C 12%
Team D 27%

 

Graphic 21: Pie Chart Percentages entered in Value fields

Screen shot: Macro Pie Chart dialogue box for pie chart data entry. Filled in percentages correspond to those in the print graph with the first value 21% (starting at 12 o’ clock and continuing clockwise) and ending with 27%

Source: Tactile Macros V11

Note Text of Graphic 21: Screen shot of macro Pie Chart dialogue box for percentages of the pie chart data with entries (values) filled in as follows:
Value 1: 21
Value 2: 12
Value 3: 11
Value 4: 17
Value 5: 12
Value 6: 27

Graphic 22: Pie Chart Tactile Example with braille labels

Tactile Example of Pie Chart with simulated braille labels

Source: Tactile Macros V11

 

Graphic 23: Pie Chart with Title and labels completed

Tactile graphic of macro-drawn pie chart with the braille title and labels highlighted

Source: Tactile Macros V11

 

Graphic 24: Print example of Spinner

Print example of a spinner with eight coloured sectors. From 12 o'clock going clockwise, the colours are: white, red, blue, black, white, blue, red, green.

 

Graphic 25: Spinner Dialogue Box

Screen shot: Spinner macro dialogue box for spinner data. Six items highlighted are; Number of Segments—8, Textures—Use colour palette, Textures—Change colours, Labels—Labels, Pointer—Arrow, and OK

Source: Tactile Macros V11

Note Text of Graphic 25: Screen shot of Spinner macro dialogue box for spinner data. Six items highlighted are:
1. Number of Segments (8)
2. Textures; Use colour palette
3. Textures; Change colours
4. Labels; Labels
5. Pointer Arrow
6. OK


Graphic 26: Change Colours on Spinner; Form filled in to match the colours on print Spinner

Two screen shots of Macro dialogue box for Spinner "Change Colours". Arrows show the changes that were made as follows: Beige changed to White, Black changed to Red, Blue unchanged, Brown changed to Black, Green changed to White, Grey changed to Blue, Light Blue changed to Red, and Light Green changed to Green.

Source: Tactile Macros V11
 

Graphic 27: Tactile Example of Spinner drawn by Tactile Macro

Tactile spinner with simulated braille labels staring from one o’ clock and proceeding clockwise the labels are: white, red, blue, black, white, blue, red and green

Source: Tactile Macros V11

 

Graphic 28: Clock Print Example

Picture of an analogue clock showing the time at 6:26

 

Graphic 29: Clock Tactile Macro

Screen shot of Clock macro dialogue box highlighting the following: Choose "Hours and Minutes marked"; Fill in time "6:26"; Click "OK"

Source: Tactile Macros V11

 

Graphic 30: Clock Tactile Example

Picture of a tactile analogue clock showing the time of 6:26

Source: Tactile Macros V11


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