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Collaborating With Users to Develop Accessible Designs

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3D printed tactile representation of a visual design

"Affordability imposed . . . constraints. For example, using the inexpensive [3d] printer, it was hard to actually make something legible in braille," says Crystal Lee.

Credit: Alan Lundgard

Academic researchers and others have long struggled with making data visualizations accessible to people who are blind. One technological approach has been 3D printing tactile representations of data, in the form of raised bar graphs and line charts. But, often, the intended users have little say in the actual design process, and the end result isn't as effective as planned.

A team of MIT researchers is working to make 3D-printed tactile representations of data more effective. In a collaborative study of accessible design with the Perkins School for the Blind, they generated a list of "sociotechnical" considerations to guide researchers in similar work.

The researchers describe their work in "Sociotechnical Considerations for Accessible Visualization Design," published in the journal IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics. Co-authors Alan LundgardCrystal Lee, and Arvind Satyanarayan discuss the case study and their findings in an interview.

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