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Saturday, June 10 • 1:30pm - 3:00pm
The Nonvisual Arts: A Workshop Exploring Tactile Design for Accessibility

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It is estimated by the World Health Organization that over 2.2 billion people worldwide identify as Blind or Low Vision (BLV) [1]. BLV people encounter access barriers in The Arts, where visual artifacts [2] and their design methodologies are inaccessible to BLV artists and designers who learn and create through touch. Images and artworks must be made accessible in order for the arts to be equitable. One common approach to art accessibility is using image descriptions—or its technical term, alternative text [3]. While image descriptions offer textual information, tactile graphics allow for tactile exploration through 2.5D image transcription [4]. The transcription process is nontrivial in that it is typically facilitated by subject matter experts, excluding designers and artists who could benefit from learning tactile design and its production methods [5]. To address these challenges, we pursue the goal of actively training more people to consider nonvisual design and learn the techniques, challenging ableism in The Arts. Thus, we present our workshop that was designed in the spirit of learning by doing (“I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.” —Xunzi (340 - 245 BC). The goal of this workshop is for attendees to gain a deeper understanding of the methods of tactile graphic design, experience with hands-on design activities using Sensational Blackboards [6] and microcapsule paper and fusers, and an original piece of tactile art.

Intended participants for this 90-minute workshop are designers and artists who wish to learn about accessibility and tactile design through hands-on activities. The designers and facilitators of the workshop will be Lauren Race—Accessibility Researcher at New York University and Staff Accessibility Designer at Twitter, Chancey Fleet—Assistive Tech Coordinator at the New York Public Library's Andrew Heiskell Braille & Talking Book Library, and Amy Hurst—Associate Professor at New York University and Director of the NYU Ability Project. All materials will be provided by the facilitators. The first 30 minutes will be dedicated to reviewing the best cases in which to make a tactile graphic and the various methods available to designers. We will then detail four tactile design standards (1. Cut off the upper right-hand corner for page orientation; 2. One graphic per page; 3) Hollow is more discernible than solid; 4) Leave about a .25 inch between elements) for producing discernible tactile graphics and encourage participants to consider them throughout the exercises. The remaining 60 minutes will be reserved for gaining hands-on experience with two accessible tactile graphic production methods: 1) Sensational Blackboards; 2) Microcapsule printing. First, we will use Sensational Blackboards for nonvisual figure drawing, finding the “line of action” and hip and shoulder lines using wooden, poseable mannequins. Attendees will swap drawings with a partner and verbally describe their final piece as their partner explores it tactually. Next, we will move on to microcapsule printing, distributing special microcapsule paper and Sharpies. Students will hand-draw a subject matter of their choosing that benefits from tactile transcription. We will then invite attendees to feed their sheet of microcapsule paper through a microcapsule fuser. All the areas with black ink, containing carbon, will puff up creating an instant tactile graphic. We will invite attendees to take home their final pieces and end on encouraging designers and artists to include other sensory modalities in their work.

We presented our workshop, where attendees will gain a deeper understanding of the nonvisual arts: tactile design methods and standards, hands-on experience with production techniques, and the opportunity to create an original piece of tactile art. We hope that—by learning about the relationship between disability and sensory modalities beyond vision—attendees will begin to incorporate multisensory design into their work, removing access barriers in the arts.

World Health Organization. Blindness and vision impairment. Retrieved September 21, 2022 from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/blindness-and-visual-impairment
Handa, Kozue, Hitoshi Dairoku, and Yoshiko Toriyama. “Investigation of Priority Needs in Terms of Museum Service Accessibility for Visually Impaired Visitors.” British Journal of Visual Impairment 28, no. 3 (September 2010): 221–34. https://doi.org/10.1177/0264619610374680.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. Success Criterion 1.1.1 Non-text Content. Retrieved October 5, 2022 from https://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG21/#non-text-content
Polly Edman. 1992. Tactile Graphics. American Foundation for the Blind.
Lauren Race, Chancey Fleet, Joshua A. Miele, Tom Igoe, and Amy Hurst. 2019. Designing Tactile Schematics: Improving Electronic Circuit Accessibility. In The 21st International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers and Accessibility (ASSETS '19). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 581–583. https://doi.org/10.1145/3308561.3354610
Sensational Books!. Sensational products. Retrieved October 5, 2022 from http://www.sensationalbooks.com/products.html


Chancey Fleet

Assistive Technology Coordinator, New York Public Library's Andrew Heiskell Braille & Talking Book Library
avatar for Lauren Race

Lauren Race

Accessibility Researcher & Designer, New York University
Lauren Race is an accessibility researcher and fellow at the NYU Ability Project, an interdisciplinary research space dedicated to the intersection of technology and accessibility. Her research focuses on designing and evaluating accessible and inclusive educational tools for learners... Read More →

Amy Hurst

New York University, United States of America

Saturday June 10, 2023 1:30pm - 3:00pm EDT
PS 406 (Design Center)