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Tactile graphics and braille embosser for network and personal use

A producer of braille materials for scientists, engineers, and mathematicians who are blind and the coordinator for a state textbook and media center for the visually impaired ask: Please describe what you like about the TIGER and your experiences with it. Also, could you provide some supportive information about its uses in making graphics and efficiencies it provides.

Susan replies: When John and Carolyn Gardner visited TSBVI in April 2000, I arranged an Open House for TSBVI students and faculty, as well as any of those interested in the general Austin area. I had heard from sighted transcribers that they didn't like the dots. Although I was more interested in using the TIGER for graphics rather than regular text, I still asked each braille reader to evaluate the quality of the dots. Some swore they couldn't tell the difference; others said they liked them better. No one disliked them. Not satisfied, I brought out some of those regular plump dots (we've all grown to know and love) found in our standard textbooks and made sure they compared. They didn't change their minds. The TIGER dots have more space between dots since they are not as "plump" (sorry for my non-technical description), and this seemed to allow for better tactual discrimination, especially for diabetics. So, I decided that the beauty of the dots should not depend on the eye of the beholder but rather the fingertips.

I personally like using the TIGER in conjunction with John's AGC (Accessible Graphing Calculator) which is now available from ViewPlus Technologies, Inc. During the summers of 2000, 2001, and 2002 my students and I just worked that TIGER to death graphing linear, quadratic, and trig functions with grid lines and without, with 50 dots to 1000 dots, with and without a smooth line, etc. My right half and team teacher during the summers of 2000 and 2001 (Gloria Bennett) taught them how to use Excel with JAWS, and they produced their own spreadsheets on the TIGER as well. With a little tweaking, we were able to print the spreadsheets just as they would appear to the print reader, even if they were two feet long. We've also had several requests for the Periodic Table done on continuous paper and several maps of the United States and individual states. In addition, Gloria has done quite a few word-find mazes for elementary teachers. I have continued to use the TIGER with my comprehensive program students as well as the students who come for our short courses in special programs. They all find the TIGER graphics superior to other embossers' graphics.

Gloria and I like the fact that curves are curvy instead of flat on top. Circles look like circles. This is the only embosser that can produce such quality in computerized tactile graphics. In addition, you can emboss directly from a Word or Excel file. Moreover, the TIGER can print on any media, including paper which is 17 inches wide and up to 50 inches long. Finally, the TIGER uses either TIGER or regular braille fonts.

However, the number one thing people keep asking me about is a quality talking graphing calculator. John's AGC comes the closest I've seen, although of course it is not stand-alone. With the TIGER, it's awesome!

To learn more about the TIGER and the AGC, contact:

ViewPlus Technologies, Inc.
1853 SW Airport Avenue
Corvallis, Oregon 97333
Phone: 541.754.4002
Fax: 541.738.6505

I recommend the following types of graphics:

Graphs made by using the Tactile Graphics Kit from APH. Region IV Education Service Center in Houston, TX has this down to an art (713-744-8144). Requires an artist, but well worth the effort for textbooks and standardized tests.

Graphs made using a stereo copying system and "capsule" paper; easy for mere mortals (I am no artist.) and quick.

"Capsule paper is a special paper onto which hundreds of millions of thermally-foamed microcapsules have been uniformly coated. These thermally-foamed microcapsules have been developed for the purpose of stereo printing. While moving through the stereo copier, the capsule paper is irradiated with light energy and black portions of the copy absorb the energy and swell outward to form a stereo (raised line) copy." - taken from the description of "Matsumoto's Stereo Copying System for the blind."

We use different types of "capsule" paper at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired to make raised-line graphics. We have a Matsumoto's stereo copier from JP Trading because it was the first on the market. However, several other companies have since developed their own copiers and paper at a considerably lower price. The various "capsule" papers may be used interchangeably with different copiers; however, there is some variablity in feel, durability, flexibility, cost, etc. Below is a list of htree sources of which I am aware and each company's specific name for their copier and paper:

  • American Thermoform Corporation
    1758 Brackett Street
    La Verne, CA 91750
    Phone: 800-331-3676 or 909-593-6711 FAX: 909-593-8001
    Swell-Form Graphics Machine, Swell-Touch Paper.
  • HumanWare, Inc.
    6245 King Road
    Loomis, CA 95650
    Phone: 800-722-3393, FAX: 916-652-7296
    Pictures in a Flash (PIAF), "capsule" paper.
  • Repro-Tronics Inc.
    75 Carver Ave.
    Westwood, NJ 07675
    Phone: 800-948-8453, FAX: 201-722-1881
    Tactile Image Enhancer, thermo paper, flexi-paper, and other tactile image enhancement products.

See "Tactile Graphics, An Overview and Resource Guide" by John A. Gardner for more details on no tech, low tech, high tech, and star trek graphics.

Raised line graph paper is available from APH (American Printing House for the Blind, Inc., 1839 Frankfort Avenue, P.O. Box 6085, Louisville, Kentucky 40206-0085. Phone: 1-800-223-1839). If you had my packet, you could look at the APH Graph Sheets flyer. They have various sizes ranging in price at $10 per package of 50. You can get sheets measuring 8 1/2 x 11 inches or 11 1/2 x 11 inches. The squares range from 1/2 inch squares to 1-inch squares. Coordinate axes are represented as solid lines. The grid pattern consists of horizontal and vertical lines of small braille dots. I use their graph boards, so they may be better at advising you as to what will best suit your needs. Their graph boards (Graphic Aid for Mathematics) cost $110, so making your own board should be quite cost effective.

The Graphic Aid For Mathematics is excellent for graphing algebraic equations, but can be used in geometry, trig, etc. It consists of a cork composition board mounted with a rubber mat which has been embossed with a grid of 1/2 inch squares. My students use two rubber bands held down by thumbtacks for the x- and y- axes. Then points are plotted with push pins at the appropriate coordinates. Points are connected with rubber bands (for lines) or flat spring wires (for circles, ellipses, and arcs). Sighted math teachers can even interpret the student-made graphs correctly. You can also make your own rubber graph board by affixing a piece of raised line graph paper (also from APH) to a cork board and proceeding as outlined above.

Students may also wish to use a drawing board with rubber mat or old Sewell Raised Drawing Kit Board, Braille Compass from Howe Press, straight edge, plastic triangles, tracing wheel from the homemaking department, and a braille/print protractor* available from APH. Students can do all their own geometry constructions using these tools. Again, sighted math teachers can interpret these correctly.

*The Braille/Print Protractor is finally a reality. We decided this was a nicer name than "Adapted Goniometer." It comes complete with a teacher's guide written by me - furnished in both print and braille. The price is only $7.50 - quite a bargain for this little gem!

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