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Dr. J. M. Kennedy
Dr. Kennedy's research on the topic of tactile pictures for the blind began sometime in the '70s. He has published articles about his reasearch in such journals as the American Scientist and the International Journal of Rehabilitation Research. Dr. Kennedy is with the psychology department of the University of Toronto, Scarborough Campus.
Myth: Touch is a sense of immediate contact, and therefore, one will have trouble getting the impression of a large form using the sense of touch.
Fact: It takes time to explore shapes with vision. It takes time to explore
shapes with touch. If you take the time you can discover, equally well with
either touch or vision, the shape of a table, the location of the table in the
room, the room's location on a corridor, how the corridor fits into the
building, how the building is sited on the street, and how the street has hills
Myth: Touch cannot be used to get information about three-dimensional objects from a two dimensional representation.
Fact: The sense of touch is quite adequate for the task of discerning, from a
two-dimensional tactile picture, the shapes of large objects, what is in front,
what is in back, what part of an object overlaps another, and what direction
things lie in. We use indicators of these concepts in pictures for the sighted,
and we can use many of those same indicators in pictures for the blind. Blind
people will often, as they draw their own tactile pictures, make up indicators
to express these three-dimensional features.
Myth: If you change the scale of an object, it trips up the sense of touch.
Fact: Change of scale can be dealt with by touch just as it is with vision.
The basic shape we are trying to understand stays the same no matter what the
scale. A big dog and a little dog are the same as far as shape and touch are
concerned. (Note: The size cannot be reduced for touch as much as it can be
reduced for vision and still be recognizable. However, as long as this lower
limit of size is not exceeded, a change of scale is no problem for recognition
of shapes by touch.)
Myth: Lines and line drawings cannot stand for corners and edges with touch the way they can with vision when the sighted look at outline drawings.
Fact: Both blind people and sighted people have the same intuitive, untaught
sense that a line is a perfectly good substitute for the edges and corners of
three-dimensional objects. Blind children make tactile line drawings this way
without being taught and so do blind adults when they are asked to make tactile
drawings for the first time in their lives. (In our research we used a
convenient raised-line drawing kit available from a Swedish organization for the
blind. It makes a raised-line drawing when you write on it with a ball point
For our research we tested blind children and adults in Maryland, New York, Massachusetts, and Arizona in the United States; Ontario and Alberta in Canada; and Haiti in the Caribbean. In every place we asked blind people to make raised-line drawings, we found that not only could they do so but that their drawings had the same form as drawings made by sighted children.
We asked blind people to draw familiar objects such as tables, chairs, and glasses. Many of them were so enthused that they independently volunteered drawings of dogs, people, birds, etc. These drawings are often recognizable to sighted people and to other blind people.
In conclusion, we found that blind people learn to use drawing materials quickly, and often with a few minutes practice they made better and more sophisticated drawings than they did on their first attempt. They were able to make reasonable drawings at first go, and they improved quite rapidly under their own initiative without having to be taught anything by us.
in Future Reflections