Tactile graphics allow the visually impaired to perceive two-dimensional imagery, which is an essential part of experiencing the world and learning several subjects such as science and geography. In the developed world, such graphics are available to blind students from an early age, and students grow up familiar with tactile representations of images. The production of tactile graphics, however, requires extensive manual labor by sighted people, or costly graphical braille printers. Thus, blind students in developing regions often grow up without any exposure to these learning aids and as a consequence are often prevented from studying the sciences.
In this work, we explore the potential of enhancing access to tactile graphics in the developing world through a software tool that can convert images to a form that can be printed as tactile images using lower-cost braille text printers. We investigate the effectiveness of this tool in producing different types of tactile graphics, and also explore the impact of these graphics on students and visually impaired teachers at a school for the blind in India. We find that our subjects are highly enthusiastic about tactile graphics, are quickly able to understand them, and learn how to write the alphabet using them.