Tactile Picture Recognition by Early Blind Children: The Effect of Illustration Technique

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Abstract

This study investigated factors that influenced haptic recognition of tactile pictures by early blind children. Such a research is motivated by the difficulty to identify tactile pictures, that is, two-dimensional representations of objects, while it is the most common way to depict the surrounding world to blind people. Thus, it is of great interest to better understand whether an appropriate representative technique can make objects’ identification more effective and to what extent a technique is uniformly suitable for all blind individuals. Our objective was to examine the effects of three techniques used to illustrate pictures (raised lines, thermoforming, and textures), and to find out if their effect depended on participants’ level of use of tactile pictures. Twenty-three early blind children (half with a regular or moderate level of use of tactile pictures, and half with either no use or infrequent use) were asked to identify 24 pictures of eight objects designed as the pictures currently used in the tactile books and illustrated using these three techniques. Results showed better recognition of textured pictures than of thermoformed and raised line pictures. Participants with regular or moderate use performed better than participants with no or infrequent use. Finally, the effect of illustration technique on picture recognition did not depend on prior use of tactile pictures. To conclude, early and frequent use of tactile material develops haptic proficiency and textures have a facilitating effect on picture recognition whatever the user level. Practical implications for the design of tactile pictures are discussed in the conclusion.

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