Jennifer L. Tennison, Spondita Goswami, Jesse R. Hairston, P. Merlin Drews, Derrick W. Smith, Nicholas A. Giudice, Andreas Stefik, Jenna L. Gorlewicz

Bridging the Gap of Graphical Information Accessibility in Education With Multimodal Touchscreens Among Students With Blindness and Low Vision

  • Rehabilitation
  • Ophthalmology

Introduction: Informational graphics and data representations (e.g., charts and figures) are critical for accessing educational content. Novel technologies, such as the multimodal touchscreen which displays audio, haptic, and visual information, are promising for being platforms of diverse means to access digital content. This work evaluated educational graphics rendered on a touchscreen compared to the current standard for accessing graphical content. Method: Three bar charts and geometry figures were evaluated on student ( N = 20) ability to orient to and extract information from the touchscreen and print. Participants explored the graphics and then were administered a set of questions (11–12 depending on graphic group). In addition, participants’ attitudes using the mediums were assessed. Results: Participants performed statistically significantly better on questions assessing information orientation using the touchscreen than print for both bar chart and geometry figures. No statistically significant difference in information extraction ability was found between mediums on either graphic type. Participants responded significantly more favorably to the touchscreen than the print graphics, indicating them as more helpful, interesting, fun, and less confusing. Discussion: Accessing and orienting to information was highly successful by participants using the touchscreen, and was the preferred means of accessing graphical information when compared to the print image for both geometry figures and bar charts. This study highlights challenges in presenting graphics both on touchscreens and in print. Implications for Practitioners: This study offers preliminary support for the use of multimodal, touchscreen tablets as educational tools. Student ability using touchscreen-based graphics seems to be comparable to traditional types of graphics (large print and embossed, tactile graphics), although further investigation may be necessary for tactile graphic users. In summary, educators of students with blindness and visual impairments should consider ways to utilize new technologies, such as touchscreens, to provide more diverse access to graphical information.

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