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Designing of the Tactile Book for visually

impaired children: a pilot study

Márcio J. S. Guimarães1 | Fausto Orsi Medola2 | Mônica Moura3 | Cassia L. C. Domiciano4


This study aims at an experience of adapting the graphic design of a children's book for
children with visual impairments, establishing a relationship with the analysis of
research aimed at the development of tactile teaching and signaling products. The
method consisted of a systematic analysis of guidelines and requirements, graphic
design using methodology adapted to inclusive products and the graphic production of
books and boards as instruments of assistive technology. As a result, we will present an
account of the design and production process developed in academic scope and the
guidelines raised through use analysis.

Keywords: Design, Assistive Technology, Tactile Children’s Book, Visual Impairment


A school oriented towards inclusive education is a safe way for children with visual
impairments to have adequate tools and means for cognitive and social development.
Inclusive education is an action based on the conception of human rights that aims to
provide students, regardless of their conditions, the same opportunities in the process
of teaching and learning5. Therefore, the acquisition and use of pedagogical tools
adapted to the students’ needs becomes necessary. From this perspective, we have
chosen as the object of study the challenge of designing and producing inclusive books
for children with visual impairments.

The choice for this issue was based on an imminent need: in data released by the
Brazilian Council of Ophthalmology and the Brazilian Institute of Geography and
Statistics - Census in its last survey on disability in Brazil, the number of citizens
diagnosed with blindness surpassed half a million people. Of this total, about 33
thousand are children6. Faced with this reality, it is necessary to take preventive actions

Doutorando em Design, FAAC – UNESP - Bauru,
Professor Doutor, FAAC – UNESP – Bauru,
Professora Doutora, FAAC – UNESP – Bauru,
Professora Doutora, FAAC – UNESP – Bauru,
BRUNO, 2006, p.18.
CBO, 2012; IBGE, 2010,
regarding the monitoring and control of diseases related to the vision and, also, the
implementation of public policies aimed to promote the quality of life for those with
visual disabilities, allowing their access to the basic rights, above all, to education, which
requires adaptability to its own communication systems. In this context, Design as
scientific and projective area integrating transdisciplinary knowledge, is effective in the
construction of strategies and evaluation criteria that allow the development of projects
that meet the needs of accessibility, inclusion and learning of the population with visual
Aware of the real importance of promoting academic design activities aimed at
inclusion, we designed, together with bachelor students of Design, the study and
elaboration of graphic projects that would make it possible for the visually impaired child
to have the experience of reading children's books with all the visual richness
characteristic of them. We initially sought to understand the physiological process of
vision, and the related cognitive aspects and its detriment or absence: the blind person's
"visual experience" happens through haptic experience (active touch, deep of aspects
of texture and temperature common to the visually impaired) that allows the
recognition and memorization of things, of images7. The blind person perceives as
totality only the objects that fit in the palm of his hand, which becomes the limit of his
tactile perception.
This work is reports an experience of adapting the graphic design of a literature’s
book for children with visual impairments. The blind person is one who does not have
enough vision to learn to read printed and therefore needs to use other meanings in his
reading and learning process. Among people classified as blind there are those who
cannot see anything and those who may have little perception of light, being able to
perceive and distinguish light and dark and even delineate forms, aspects useful in their
process of development and learning8.
The person with low vision is one who has restricted visual acuity, needs materials
that have graphic adjustments or the use of assistive technology objects so that he can
make the visualization and reading of a print. Because they use a small visual potential
to explore environments, people with low vision can learn to read and write, but also
use the other senses to aid in cognitive construction9. Commented [MG1]: Incluí as definições de pessoa cega e
pessoa com baixa visão.
They are classified as visually impaired, those people who have low vision or
blindness. Based on guidelines pointed out by researchers and institutions that are
dedicated to the adaptation of graphic materials to the tactile expression, we present
throughout this text the steps adopted for the manufactured adaptation of the book to
make it inclusive, attending children with low vision and total blindness.

Sensory-motor integration and learning

DUARTE, 2011, p. 53.
CBO, 2012, p. 8.
BRUNO, 2006, p 14.
Among children classified as blind there are those who cannot see anything and
those who may have little perception of light, being able to perceive and distinguish light
and dark and even delineate forms, useful aspects in their process of development and
learning. The child with low vision has restricted visual acuity, thus needing materials
that have graphic adjustments or the use of assistive technology objects that promote
or facilitate the visualization and reading. Because they use a small visual potential to
explore environments, children with low vision can learn to read and write, but usually
depend on the other senses to aid in cognitive construction.

The visually impaired child develops meanings and gives meaning to the things
they explore, so the development of products that allow them to use their senses in an
integrated way has much to contribute to their learning. With the stimulation and
coordination of sensorimotor schemes, the child develops the haptic perception, active
perception of the touch integrated to the other senses (hearing, olfactory, and
gustatory), thus improving his/her abilities and interest in the decoding of objects,
events, or situations.

Also, hearing plays an important role in communication, learning, knowledge

acquisition and social participation. The selection of hearing stimuli in learning situations
is very important for the visually impaired child, because excessive noise or loud and
meaningless sounds can disorganize, confuse, and stress the child10. The sense of smell
and taste are receptors and translators of stimuli of a chemical nature. Smell has an
important function of anticipation, signaling and orientation in the environment. The
tactile-synesthetic development allows the child to differentiate between similarities
and differences in objects and to be able to recognize them.

The major limitations that visual impairment imposes on the development and
learning process refer to the control of the environment, organization, and orientation
in space. The child needs help, clues, points of reference and orientation to be able to
move with autonomy in space. Therefore, the education of visually impaired children
requires the use of graphic representations adapted to the tactile perception for the
transmission of concepts, especially when they exceed the limit of the oral description,
requiring the contact with tactile representations that best reproduce the configuration
of objects to which no access is possible. The design applied to the reading of the tactile
image comprises the planning and evaluation of design parameters, production and
usability, through an investigation that identifies the learning barriers as well as the
emotional factors involved in image identification. Consistent education and meaningful
learning should consider the importance of sensory integration, thus enabling a blind
child to develop autonomy and independence.


BRUNO, 2006, p.44
The research initially focused on a survey of the guidelines pointed out by
researchers and specialized institutions that discuss and produce books adapted to the
tactile representation. Next, a systematic analysis guided by the questioning of the
appropriate way of production provided us with the elaboration of guidelines and
requirements on the material adaptation to the production of tactile imagery.
Fig. 01 - Main phases of research
Commented [FM2]: Sugestão: inserir um fluxograma do
estudo, apontando as principais fases da pesquisa e
Survey/ Definition of Project and Evaluation/ Read desenvolvimento de projeto com os estudantes.
systematic analysis requirements prototyping and interpretation

Source: authors' collection

We have searched literature and academic production for research on this topic,
various applications have been found in different areas such as drawing education,
cartography, mathematics, physics, the production of packages and leaflets, the
reproduction of works of the arts and finally, in the production of books. The main
guidelines and requirements on the adaptation of materials to the production of visual
content directed towards the visually impaired11, they are:
Table 01 - Guidelines and Requirements


The tactile Information should be presented at a top right corner beveled at forty SILVA, 2008
five degrees to identify the orientation support.
The indication of spatial orientation should be in the upper left. LOCH, 2008

The information should not be based on the perception of color, can be used MACEDO, 2010
monochrome and high contrast.
The images should be simple, without overlaps and two-dimensional, with closed MACEDO,2010
and defined contours.
Braille title should be on top of support. LOCH, 2008

Subtitles and textual complements must remain adjacent to images. SILVA, 2008

The short caption next to the title (subtitle) should preferably be placed on the right LOCH, 2008
side of the title.
The man as a reference of measurement. SILVA, 2008
Representation of the human figure - eyes, shoulders and chest presented SILVA, 2008
preferably in frontal view. Faces and limbs can be represented in lateral view
provided that one of the members (upper and lower) is ahead.

Verify: Metodologia para adaptação de conteúdo editorial imagético para deficientes visuais (ADAM;
CALOMENO, 2015) | Quadro analítico para auxiliar o desenvolvimento de imagens táteis para objetos de
aprendizagem acessíveis. (ADAM, SPINILLO, 2015) | Desenho infantil e seu ensino a crianças cegas
(DUARTE, 2011) | Cartografia tátil (LOCH, 2008) | Diretrizes para criação de Objetos de aprendizagem
acessíveis (SCUDELARI, 2010) | Imagem táctil: una representación del mundo (SILVA, 2008).
Source: authors' collection

The design and production of books with tactile images adopted these guidelines
and sought to meet the requirements, being tested, evaluated, and improved in the
classroom with the contribution of two university students with visual impairments (one
with low vision, the other with blindness total) and 15 collaborating design students. Commented [FM3]: Aqui é importante uma descrição dos
procedimentos de avaliação desenvolvidos.
The evaluation consisted of reading observation, considering the usability of the
book as object, understanding and assimilation of history, thus comprising identification
and interpretation. In addition, this initial study pointed out which materials and which
characteristics offered better interpretive conditions for tactile reading. The procedures
were observed in two stages: first the reading of the book was requested and then the
participant was asked to tell the story. The preliminary results were satisfactory and
collaborated for a more adequate definition of the materials and graphic production
techniques to be used. Commented [MG4]: Breve descrição dos procedimentos
de avaliação.

Graphic Production

The stories we choose are based on the short stories "The Art of Children" and
"The Function of Art", both taken from Eduardo Galeano's book "The Book of
Embraces"12. These short stories were selected because they are widely explored
visually, both are rich in elements that allow the exploration of sensory stimuli. Each
student selected one of these stories and reinterpreted it in a way, the stories generated
were very interesting, in some cases they expanded, in others they contemplated only
what had been considered the core of their understanding.

The initial stages of designing the book followed the usual stages of graphic design.
Once we chose to produce an inclusive book, it was important that the final results of
the projects be presented as attractive books for visually impaired people and people
with normal vision. The playful approach already used in a recurrent way in the
production of children's books contributed to the appearance of adapted books being
like those found in the market. Commented [MG5]: Inseri este parágrafo.

Having defined the narrative, we elaborated sketches and improvement of the

characters, then we realized the design of the composition of the pages. For the books,
it was defined that 12 pages in format 20 x 20 cm would be suitable for our audience.
After the decisions of the composition of the graphic plot of each book, we move on to
the graphic production phase: selection of materials; definitions of tactile elements; and
a whole test arrangement of craft techniques that would replace industrial processes of
graphic production, such as knife production, varnish applications, hot-stamping and
flocking, as the students would produce the book. This phase was set in a rewarding

GALEANO, 2002.
experience in the practical understanding of concepts already explored theoretically in
the classroom, such as printing techniques, time, and costs of graphic production.

Fig. 02 - Images from the books developed and detailing texture production tests

Source: authors' collection

As a result, the students produced seven books, four auxiliary storyboards (two of
them with illustrations and text printed in ink and Braille, two object-book with toys that
were attached to the board), and one audiobook. The books and boards were produced
obeying the guidelines we identified in the previous researches and studies: the covers Commented [FM6]: Nos métodos, é positivo apresentar
uma tabela com estas diretrizes, ajuda a destacar as
were refilled with a 45º bevel in the upper right, this simple measure serves to guide the principais informações e favorece a compreensão do leitor.
deficient visual as to the correct reading position; Titles and texts were available in offset
Commented [MG7R6]: Inseri.
and braille printing, which was applied in high relief with the aid of a special glue (3D
glue) or in dry relief; Elements that would be repeated during the narrative kept the
same form, avoiding the detriment of the already retained information; The use of
different types of materials - different types of papers, sandpapers, polymers, textiles,
and 3D glue have been explored to better convey the desired synesthetic effects.

Discussion and Results

We have analyzed the students’ projects in accordance with the guidelines and
requirements presented in Table 1,. Drawing on the constructivist theories of Piaget and Commented [FM8]: Apresentada nos métodos
constructivists of Vygotsky13, which deal with teaching and knowledge, associating this
knowledge with studies on blindness and vision-related deficiencies, and knowing what
establishes the current norms of accessibility in Brazil (ABNT 9050)14, we set up a
theoretical framework that guided discussions, decision-making, proposals, and project
design. Our main goal was to create possibilities, through tactile reading, so that the
children's book can be read in its entirety by a visually impaired child.

In later activity, carried out in a specialized school, the elaborated books were read
by children without and with visual deficiencies. We did not impose rules or limitations

PIAGET, 2004; VYGOTSKY, 2001.
ABNT 9050, 1994.
on reading, our only expectation was the recognition of the images, their shapes, and
textures. As a result, when we observe the behavior of users and record their comments
about reading and interpretation, errors, and correctness, we realize that some Commented [MG9]: Adicionei este trecho.
guidelines have been proven on this occasion, they are: Commented [FM10]: Isto foi feito por observação? Ou
entrevista com os professores? Estudantes? Se foi simples
 The drawings were quickly identified in front view; observações, quais ações e comportamentos das crianças
foram considerados? Estes aspectos de avaliação devem
 Dots are more noticeable than dry relief lines; estar descritos nos métodos, conforme eu apontei em um
 Perspective forms are identifiable as to their contour, provided the comentário anterior.
correct position is instructed; Commented [MG11R10]: Incluí no método: observamos
os comportamentos dos usuários e registramos seus
 Schematic drawings are more identifiable than improved designs; comentários acerca da leitura e interpretação, erros e
 Symmetric drawings speed identification; acertos.
 Drawings in lateral view provide delayed or ineffective interpretation;
 Overlaps should be avoided. If they are essential, the general outline of
the form should be kept in evidence;

The stories were understood, the unique particularity between the different
groups is related to the time: as already expected, the identification of the tactile image
requires more time available for the apprehension of the information, however, the
interpretation occurs in a similar way between the groups. In both cases, elements of Commented [FM12]: Como foi realizada esta avaliação
do tempo? O que foi considerado o início e término da
the children's repertoire end up being associated, and the story, when asked to the ones atividade?
who counted it without the aid of the book, was modified, reinterpreted, and

In relation to the communicational function of drawing, the schematic drawings

have a higher communicative performance, as observed by Mèredieu15, which stated
that children's drawing and drawing come from simple forms that combined, generate
the various figures of the vocabulary of the child. By obeying laws that are their own,
these graphics constitute a closed and sufficient communicative system, which is also
pointed out by Duarte16, by naming them as “graphic schemes”, a way of expressing the
child himself, consisting of a repertoire of minimal graphic signs expressing an idea or
thing. These schemes are repeated in the same way in all children's productions,
regardless of age-specific variations, and are easily recognized as being part of
everyone's memories.

Other guidelines will certainly arise with the expansion of the tests with subjects
from different age groups (with different repertoires), however, this initial stage was
important to know the difficulties and limitations of this process, to later develop more
appropriate proposals. In this experiment the reading time was not considered as
analysis variable, leaving the user free to read the book. In future studies, we wish to
identify reading and interpretation time by comparing the time spent reading to people
with visual impairments and people with normal vision. Commented [MG13]: Sobre o tempo de leitura.

DUARTE, 2011.
Future studies should be expanding its work, deepening the study of materials and
graphic production techniques more appropriate to the production of the haptic image
and capable of transmitting sensations that contribute to the interpretation of the
image, and establish contact with specialized institutes, publishers, and producers to
disseminate results.


Children with visual impairment need experiences to build an imaginary repertoire

that helps them create a notion of the object. This type of intervention involves a closer
and continuous investigation that identifies learning barriers as well as emotional
factors by analyzing students' experiences and their degree of participation in the

In this preliminary study we were able to corroborate some guidelines established

by previous researchers studied during the phase of the systematic analysis testing its
effectiveness. From the observations, we understand how the tactile reading is
performed, identifying piece by piece through outlines and distinctions of reliefs and
textures. In addition, we identify new guidelines and requirements related to the
disposition of elements and selection of which elements become essential to reading
comprehension, these experiences will be investigated, and we will evaluate them in
later activities. Commented [MG14]: Incluí este trecho.

The results of this research will be incorporated into the production of didactic-
pedagogical materials developed by the institution responsible for the education of
children with visual impairments. It is also intended to continue the research for the next
years, expanding the analysis of the types of interpretation provided by different
textures and shapes.

The designer, through his activities in the areas of information design, can
contribute by designing and developing appropriate didactic devices for teaching and
learning, providing the interlocutors - educator and student - a more efficient
pedagogical product for the transmission of knowledge.


The authors gratefully acknowledge assistance provided by Department of Design

and Technology – UFMA. The authors would like to thank the students of the subjects
Graphic Design and Materials & Graphic Processes of the Design course of the Federal
University of Maranhão - UFMA, to the students who carried out the initial tests, to the
School of Blind do Maranhão, and to all who were willing to contribute and exchange
information necessary for the preparation of this study.

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imagético para deficientes visuais. In: Revista Brasileira de Design da Informação/ Brazilian
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ADAM, D.; SPINILLO, C. Quadro analítico para auxiliar o desenvolvimento de imagens táteis
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– CIDI, 2015. Anais do 7º Congresso Internacional de Design da Informação. Blucher Design
Proceedings, n.2, v.2, São Paulo: Blucher, 2015.


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