2006 Conference General Sessions




Steven Landau
Touch Graphics, Inc.
New York NY 10018
Day Phone: 212—375—6341

Email: sl@touchgraphics.com

Presenter #2
Helene Holman
Exceptional Teaching, Inc.
5673 W. Las Positas Blvd., Ste. 207  
Pleasanton CA 94588


Presenter #3

Stephanie Herlich

Castro Valley School District

3839 Stratford Court

Pleasanton CA 94588



New digital technologies are leading to significant increases in the number of books produced that are accessible to readers who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled. The emerging DAISY/NISO specification is quickly becoming the international standard for digital talking books; hundreds of thousands of titles will be converted to DAISY format over the coming decade (National Library Service, 2004). However, none of these are expected to include diagrams, illustrations, figures or graphics of any kind. This limits the types of books that can be effectively converted to digital talking format. Books that require access to graphics are especially important in early childhood (Larsen & Jorgensen, 1989) education, technical training and advanced studies in math and the sciences, so attention should be paid to developing good, practical strategies for adding to the next generation of digital talking books.

Touch Graphics, Inc. has designed, implemented and tested the world’s first illustrated Digital Talking Book (IDTB), under funding from the National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NJDRR). The CSIJN presentation will include a discussion of this work, and the first public demonstration of a new version of Touch the Sun (Once, 2005), a NASA-funded book written by Noreen Once, that was originally executed in traditional Braille book format. The new IDTB version of Touch the Sun consists of a set of 12 tactile overlay sheets designed for use with the Talking Tactile Tablet (TTT), and a program on CD ROM.

The sheets include illustrations in raised-line and textured format and a collection of control buttons and data entry tools. A reader places individual sheets on the TTT device, and then presses on parts of the images to hear appropriate, recorded human- voice descriptions of what they are touching. They also use a Main Menu of options, which includes an Index that allows them to scroll through a list of all of the graphical elements contained on a particular sheet, and then choose one to have their finger led to it. They can also place and go to bookmarks, perform text-based searches, and change settings such as speech rate and touch sensitivity.


The presentation will include results of preliminary user testing. Here, ten braille-literate participants were asked to use both the new Illustrated Digital Talking Book version, and then the original braille version of Touch the Sun. Afterward, both groups received the same content examination and picture identification test, to measure relative differences in comprehension, retention and reader satisfaction between the two versions.


One of the system’s developers interacting with the TTT

Based on successful outcomes in this preliminary research, the Company hopes to be awarded follow-on finding, for the purpose of developing a proposal for a modular extension to the official DAISY/NISO Specification (DAISY, 2005), to ensure that tools for including interactive talking tactile graphics in digital talking books are incorporated in the emerging standard. For the purpose of carrying out this complex task, Touch Graphics is teaming up with the Benetech Initiative, an associate member of the DAISY consortium, and the developers of Bookshare.org, a widely used service for producing and distributing DAISY-formatted digital talking books. The long term ambition of this team is to ensure that many categories of books not currently considered appropriate for conversion to accessible format will be produced and made available to visually impaired




Larsen, S. & Jorgensen, N. (1989). Talking books for preschool children. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness. AFB Press.

Grice, Noreen. Touch the Sun: A NASA Braille Book. The Joseph Henry Press, Washington. 2005.

Kerscher, G. (2005). DAISY/NISO Z39.86 Modular Extension Guidelines.
http ://www.daisy.org/download/securedownld.asp?dir=dl&fn=modular extensions guide lines v6.html. The DAISY Consortium.

National Library Service (2004). NLS: That all may read. Current Strategic Business
Plan: Implementation of Digital Systems, Executive Summary
http ://www. loc.gov/nls/businessplan/executivesummary.html




The SAL System for teaching Braille literacy allows students to practice skills introduced by a teacher of the visually impaired. Students work at an individual pace, as they interact

with a virtual instructor in carrying out increasingly more challenging tasks and drills. Now, Exceptional Teaching, Inc. has teamed with Touch Graphics, Inc. to create a new version of the system that is designed to run on the Talking Tactile Tablet (TTT). In contrast to the original, stand-alone SAL unit, the TTT is a computer peripheral device, so it is dramatically less expensive and has the advantage of being able to be used with a whole collection of other, existing and future applications, such as the National Geographic Talking Tactile Atlas of the World, the TTT Authoring Tool and TTT Crossword Puzzles and TTT Match Game. Also, new features have been added to the SAL courseware in this latest configuration; these improve the system’s overall power, effectiveness and ease of use for both teachers and students.

The main concepts and the pedagogical approach in the new system replicates the original SAL Courseware: the student places one of a large number of embossed paper sheets on the TTT device, and then follows instructions for carrying out activities, For example, one activity requires the student to press their finger on any line of Braille on a sheet that begins and ends with the letter “g”. As the student works, the virtual instructor announces, “right”, “way to go”, “good job”, or in the event that he or she makes a mistake, “no”, “that’s not right”, “try again”, etc. Upon completing a sheet, the student presses the circle button, and gets instant feedback on the total number of correct responses and amount of time taken to complete the activity. In other activities, students are asked to read a short story and then answer a series of multiple choice questions to demonstrate comprehension. As in the letter identification exercises, the system provides immediate feedback to the student regarding their performance, thereby enhancing his or her feeling of progress and independence.

One important new tool that has been added in SAL2 focuses on improving teachers’ ability to review student performance and progress. To use this feature, the teacher logs in as “teacher”, and then is asked to select one of the SAL2 users who have worked on that computer. Once the student is selected, a summary report is displayed (and spoken aloud), in which the teacher is first given an overview report, which includes total number of activities worked on, most recent date worked, total number of hours and minutes worked, and the student’s average percentage of correct responses. For finer grain reports, the teacher is asked to select a SAL2 title and lesson, to find out results for any activity on which the student has worked. It is also easy for the teacher to request a printed report for any student, and this can be saved to that student’s records for the purpose of an Individual Education Plan (IEP), determining grades or sending reports to parents.

Another important innovation that is embodied in SAL2 is a Main Menu that provides a range of powerful functions and tools. A program logic flow diagram, illustrating the entire Main Menu structure and features, appears below as figure 2. A “Library” option permits the student to view a list of all SALZ materials loaded on the computer, and to find the sheet number for any activity; once an activity has been selected, the student is coached to remove the current sheet and replace it with the desired new one. Other features in the Main Menu include tools for creating and retrieving bookmarks, and a full range of user settings, including speech rate, volume, voice and touch sensitivity of the TTT.

So far, the two companies have completed work on the Mangold Braille Reading Program for Young Readers Ages 5-12. Readiness for Reading and Learning Braille Letters. Next they will offer the Mangold Braille Reading Program for Teens and Adults: Introduction to Braille and Learning the Braille Alphabet. Materials are available for purchase from both companies.

The presentation will include a discussion of findings from user test Stephanie Herlich, a Teacher of the Visually impaired will discuss her experiences in testing the SAL2 with her class of eight visually impaired elementary school students. The session will end with a demonstration of the system.

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