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HE Case Studies

Case Studies from blind and partially sighted students using tactile graphics in Higher Education

The following case studies were collected from graduates of Mathematics and Accounting, Psychology and Computer Science. These are primarily designed to provide information for lecturers and support staff, but also make interesting reading for anyone, as evidence for the importance of tactile images in these courses.

Mathematics and Accounting Graduate

• I am a graduate and have been blind from the age of 2 years. I use Braille and started to use tactile graphics when I was about 9 years old.

• I studied mathematics and accounting, therefore many of the tactile graphics I used could be reused by other doing the same or similar subjects.

• If there were certain tactile graphics I needed usually I discussed this with my university disability officers who then spoke to my lecturers. However I think my lecturers would benefit from training in the uses and development of tactile graphics, as they often have little understanding in how to incorporate them into their lectures.

• Generally I think although they can be difficult to produce, when tactile graphics are simple they are very useful. I do not have much difficulty with converting the image obtained in a tactile graphic into a realistic concept, although this often depends on the information that is being presented in the graphic. Sometimes I find perspectives difficult to understand, so I generally prefer two-dimensional to three-dimensional tactile graphics. However if a three-dimensional image is necessary, I personally would prefer them to be split up in to several two-dimensional images.

• Having tactile graphics in my lectures increased my attention to the concept being taught, and I have never felt swamped by too many diagrams- as far as I’m concerned the more, the better.

• They have aided my understanding about certain concepts that I do not think would have been as complete without tactile graphics.

Psychology Graduate

• I have studied at the higher education level several times, as I have a degree in psychology, an MSc and I am currently studying for a postgraduate degree.

• I became significantly blind at the age of six and learnt to read Braille at the age of seven. At school I started to use tactile graphics when I was about nine years old. This was a special school for people with disabilities; however I received no training in tactile graphic reading skills and due to this I often still have difficulty understanding tactile graphics.

• Whilst at university I found the provision of tactile graphic was often quite sporadic, as some modules were provided for more than others, which mainly depended on how quickly lecturers responded to requests for their graphical materials. Because of this my tactile graphics were rarely available in time for lectures on the topic of the diagram.

• When providing tactile graphics for blind and partially sighted students it is very important to be selective in order to get the balance right between providing too many and too few diagrams. Rather than lecturers with little experience of tactile graphics being responsible for this, I believe that the student and other people that are knowledgeable about tactile graphics should make these decisions. For most of the modules that I studied at the undergraduate level I think about half a dozen diagrams was adequate, although I did required more diagrams for more complex modules. I have found that with tactile graphics, my understanding of the subject area is improved especially if a text description is also provided. I find I can usually relate the tactile graphics to reality quite easily but three-dimensional concepts can be very difficult

• Overall tactile graphics are very useful in higher education, especially when a text description was also provided. However I felt that I was provided with too few diagrams during my psychology course, although the quality of those I had was generally good.

Computer Sciences Graduate

• I am a recent graduate of computer sciences. I became significantly visually impaired at the age of ten and learnt Braille at the age of eleven. I started using tactile graphics when I was fifteen years old and attended a special school for people with disabilities, where I used tactile graphics for geography, physics and chemistry. I received a small amount of training in using tactile graphics at this school.

• My opinion toward the uses of tactile graphics in Higher Education is that they are important and helpful if they demonstrate something key to the course. I have found that diagrams are not always essential just because a fully sighted person understands the concept through them.

• During my time at university tactile graphic provision was reasonable, although I would have preferred to have more for certain modules. Fortunately though, the majority of the tactile graphics I used were available the lectures on the topic they were demonstrating, which enabled me to look through the tactile graphics before and after my lectures.

If you are a blind or partially sighted student or graduate we would like to hear about your experiences of tactile graphics in higher education. Please contact us with your story.


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