Access to diagrams has been one key challenge in providing education to visually impaired; especially in subjects like science, mathematics, geography, economics etc. Set up as part of the ASSISTECH group, the Centre of Excellence in Tactile Graphics (COETG) aims at empowering the persons with visual impairment by providing access to figures and diagrams in a meaningful and comprehensible tactile form.

The centre has developed technology for producing high-quality yet very affordable tactile diagrams using 3-D printing for mold making and thermoforming for actual production of tactile diagrams. ASSISTECH is also working on using the latest image processing and machine learning techniques for automating production of tactile diagrams meeting applicable International guidelines.

image showing different technlogies for creating tactile diagrams

What are Tactile Diagrams ?

Images and diagrams that are normally used by sighted people for understanding concepts or conveying information are useless for visually impaired people. Tactile Graphics are images that consist of raised lines and textures that can be used by people with visual impairment to understand some graphical information using their sense of touch.

As per the estimate of WHO there are 38 million visually impaired people of which 90% of them live in the developing world. India has more than 5 million visually impaired people as per 2011 census (largest for any country). Currently many of the visually impaired students are unable to pursue subjects like sciences beyond the 8th standard partly because of lack of good diagrams explaining concepts. Books for visually impaired people are normally completely in Braille text with no accompanying graphical images. Introduction of low-cost Tactile Graphics will create a noticeable improvement in the quality of education of visually impaired people.