How does it feel? Tactile interpretations of visual symbols

CHAMBERLAIN, Paul and DIENG, Patricia (2013). How does it feel? Tactile interpretations of visual symbols. In: NG, Annie W Y and CHAN, Alan H.S., (eds.) Signs and symbols for workplace and public use. Hauppauge, New York, Nova Science Publishers, 147-162.

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Visual signs and symbols prompt and guide us through the world we inhabit. Signs and symbols can generally be described as pictographs, literal pictorial representations of the real world, and ideographs that are abstracted ideas of that world. While simple pictographs can relate to particular objects implications for meaning can become extremely complex when they become abstracted as ideographs or combined.

Tactile symbols are textured or profiled representations of these signs and symbols provided for blind people who can explore and interpret them through touch. However direct translations of the visual to small scale tactile symbols can present difficulties when interpreting through fingertips.

The authors recently explored how graphic and architectural iconography used in the design of signs and symbols and for plans/maps for sighted people, can be interpreted and understood by blind and partially sighted people through tactile translation. The rationale being that people with sight will often draw plans and maps and that these could be used as a communicative link between sighted and non-sighted. As part of a study in collaboration with Sheffield Royal Society for the Blind, the authors created tactile translations from a set of existing architectural symbols (total 42) tested and modified accordingly with blind people. The study showed a significant reduction in the use of pictographs (55% in the existing set compared to 7% in the modified set) compared with ideographs.

This finding partly due to the problems of the scale of the tactile translations and the fact that blind people may not have the experience of visual associations of the pictographs.

The blind and partially sighted population is approximately 285 million world wide (WBU 2011). This number will increase in the near future due to the increasing proportion of older people and age related disabilities, who will be encouraged to be independent. It is predicted that by 2050, the number of people with sight loss in the UK will double to nearly 4 million (RNIB 2012). The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) is placing demands on the public sector and industry to make buildings and facilities accessible, usable and safe for disabled people, and there is clearly a gap in a provision for the visually impaired. The research has involved the UK Universities Safety and Health Association (USHA) and considered how tactile symbols could support the Personal Escape and Evacuation Programme (PEEP).

Item Type: Book Section
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Cultural Communication and Computing Research Institute > Art and Design Research Centre
Page Range: 147-162
Depositing User: Paul Chamberlain
Date Deposited: 16 Apr 2013 13:47
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 19:45

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