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Sikuli Lab: Practicum Report Abigale Stangl, MS-ICTD candidate, May 2013

Tactile Picture Book Project Workshop for High School Students with Visual Impairments

Alliance for Technology Learning and Society, CU Boulder Masters of Science in Information, Communication Technology for Development



Visual Impairment

Throughout my masters’ work at the University of Colorado, Dr. Revi Sterling and Ruscha Cohen provided invaluable support. I greatly appreciate their dedication to making the ATLAS MSICTD program a community where students are able to grow personally, academically, and professionally. During each step of my process they provided encouragement, critical feedback, and guidance, which has enabled me to identify and pursue my passions. I also want to thank Dr. Tom Yeh for presenting me the opportunity to work with the Sikuli Lab. His support has helped me define my research interests within Human Centered Computing, and his vision for developing solutions for the visually impaired has been inspiring. Lastly, I want to thank my family (Anne Donovan, Arv Donovan, Grace Donovan, Tait Stangl, Eden Brecht, Mark Stangl, Alex Stangl, Terry Snyder, Jane Stangl, and Ralph Stangl) for their unconditional love and friendship.

With the sense of sight we learn about the world around us through observation and making deductions between that which we see and experience and the concepts or symbolic meaning or representations of those experiences. Being able to see gives us tremendous access to learning about the world around us, from the subtitles of expression to the mechanics of how something moves. According to the American Foundation for the Blind, when a child has a visual impairment it is cause for immediate attention; when vision loss goes undetected, children are delayed in developing a wide range of skills.

Section 1: Practicum Description and Identified Need The practicum project, or capstone, of the ATLAS Masters in Science in Information Communication Technology for Development (MS-ICTD) program provides students with an opportunity to apply theoretical and practical information learned throughout their course work to a real-world situation. As I was selecting my practicum project, in the autumn of 2013, I became grounded in the idea of working on a project that considered the needs of the individual as central, and the use and development of technology as a means to ensuring equity, healthy lifestyles, and opportunities for the individual to become a strong community member. I was also interested in gaining experience to become a strong, empathetically driven team member and project leader within a technical domain, all the while pursuing my interests in cognitive, emotional, and physical modalities of perception and universal design. Dr. Tom Yeh, a professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Colorado understood my academic and practical inclinations and presented me with the opportunity to collaborate on several projects as part the Sikuli Lab. Sikuli in Huichol Indian means God’s Eyes, the ability to see and understand. The overarching mission of Lab is to conduct cutting edge research to make computers see better and interact with us more intelligently. The University of Colorado’s Sikuli Lab is based in the computer science department, yet comprises a multidisciplinary collection of faculty, graduate and undergraduate students who explore methods and develop resources in visual automation and visual accessibility. As a student coming from ATLAS, my overarching goal and point of collaboration with the Sikuli lab was to focus on informing and understanding how, through usercentered design and ethnographic practices, technologies can be used to support visually impaired children.


There are many different causes for loss of vision, however some of the more common causes of impairment in children are: • Strabismus: where the eyes look in different directions and do not focus simultaneously on a single point; • Congenital cataracts: where the lens of the eye is cloudy; • Retinopathy of prematurity: which may occur in premature babies when the light-sensitive retina hasn’t developed sufficiently before birth; • Retinitis pigmentosa: a rare inherited disease that slowly destroys the retina; • Coloboma: where a portion of the structure of the eye is missing; • Optic nerve hypoplasia: which is caused by underdeveloped fibers in the optic nerve and which affects depth perception, sensitivity to light, and acuity of vision • Cortical visual impairment (CVI): which is caused by damage to the part of the brain related to vision, not to the eyes themselves. The degree of impairment will depend on the particular eye condition a child has, what aspect of the visual system is affected (e.g., ability to detect light, shape, or color; ability to see things at a distance, up close, or peripherally); and how much correction is possible through glasses, contacts, medicine, or surgery. In North America and most of Europe, legal blindness is defined as visual acuity (vision) of 20/200 (6/60) or less in the better eye with best correction possible. This means that a legally blind individual would have to stand 20 feet (6.1 m) from an object to see it—with corrective lenses—with the same degree of clarity as a normally sighted person could from 200 feet (61 m). Each year, the American Printing House for the Blind polls each U.S. state for data on the number of legally blind children (through age 21) enrolled in elementary and high school. It is reported that 59,193 children within the school system are considered blind and are eligible to receive free reading matter in Braille, large print, or audio format. This number is used to develop a “quota” of federal funds to be spent in each state for material in each alternative format. (NFB, 2013) It is also reported that nearly 490,000 children in the U.S.A experience vision difficulty, and 42,000 children experience sever visual impairment (NICHCY, 2012).While many children with visual impairments can do all the activities and tasks that sighted children take for granted, they often need to learn to do them in a different way or using different tools or materials (AFB, 2013).


Practicum Plan When putting together my practicum plan, Tom and I identified two primary concentrations, each of which focused creating accessibility in technology and supporting people with visual impairments. In addition, I aimed to make a contribution to the capacity of Sikuli Lab. Workshop

The proposal rests on the hypothesis that the advancement of 3D printing technologies will save time, reduce costs, and insure equal access to pre-literacy books; automation will enable parents of children with visual impairments to create their own tactile picture books more effectively. Two central questions frame this proposal; the answers of which are sought to uncover the underlying scientific principles prerequisite for making a computer produce tactile pictures like a trained person.

My first area of concentration was to organize a computer science workshop for high school students with visual impairments. In the fall of 2012, Dr. Tom Yeh, Dr. Alex Repenning, and Clayton Lewis were awarded a Diversity and Excellence Grant from the University of Colorado. They proposed the organization and execution of a two-day workshop in Summer 2013 for mainstream, blind high school students to gain exposure to programming and computer science by designing computer games. Without specific specifications, my tasks were to: • • • •

2. What principles underlie a trained person’s manual process in making a physical model based on the mental decision above? How can we computerize these principles?

Identify students with an interest to collaborate on the project Identify accessible technologies that would enable us to conduct the workshop Develop a curriculum for the workshop Plan the logistical components of the workshop

The desired outcome of the workshop was for blind high schools students to make computer games and learn computational concepts along the way, as a means of demonstrating that the study and application of computer science is accessible to people with visual impairments. A secondary intention of the workshop was to introduce sighted CU students to aspects of accessibility and diversity, hopefully influencing their interests in considering the needs of diverse populations later in their computing careers. Finally, the workshop was intended to provide blind CU students with the opportunity to mentor younger students and solidify their conviction in studying computer science. Tactile Picture Book My second area of concentration was to initiate research on the Tactile Picture Book Project. In the fall of 2012, Dr. Tom Yeh, Dr. Mike Eisenberg, and Dr. Pilyoung Kim (University of Denver) submitted a proposal to the National Science Foundation in partnership with the Anchor Center, titled “HCC: Small: Collaborative Research: Designing and Printing Tactile Picture Books for Visually Impaired Preschoolers at Home”. The premise of this proposal is based on the notion that parent-child book reading is critical for cognitive and social development in early childhood, and tactile picture books are critical resource for children with visual impairments to have equal opportunities in literacy and beyond (Tomasello, 1986).


1. What principles underlie a trained person’s mental process in identifying features from a picture that should be made tactile? How can we computerize these principles?

questions, I was assigned the task: •

As a starting point for answering these large-in-scope

Make initial deductions about the design guidelines for a user interface a parent could use to design and print tactile picture books at home.

Sikuli Lab Meetings and Student Mentoring In 2012, Tom Yeh joined the University of Colorado Department of Computer Science as associate professor. One of his primary goals during his first year was to build up the Sikuli Lab with qualified and motivated graduate and undergraduate students from the computer science department as well as the University at large. Having worked together during the fall 2012 semester, Dr. Yeh identified my interest to gain experience in project management and leadership; he charged me with the task of: recruiting, selecting, and leading a group of undergraduate students to participate in my aforementioned research objectives throughout the semester.


Section 2: Approach and Detailed Scope of Work In order to accomplish the tasks identified in my practicum plan, I engaged in a series of activities to establish structure in my work, provide insight into the needs and successes of visually impaired community, and build the social capital and partnerships to insure longevity to our research.

Partnership Building: Anchor Center When submitting the proposal for the Tactile Picture Books Project, Tom Yeh initiated a partnership with Anchor Center for Blind Children, a one of a kind facility in Denver that services visually impaired infants and preschoolers from across the United States. The aim of this partnership is to support the Anchor community, all the while providing a point of contact between our research group and families with visually impaired children. I volunteered at the Anchor Center throughout my practicum in order to solidify this partnership and learn, first hand, about the needs of children with visual impairments and their families, and more specifically how the Center supports different children’s learning needs, including the use of tactile picture books. Over the course of my practicum I spent nearly 40 hours at the Center getting to know facility and staff, interacting with the students, attending trainings and orientations, and observing the preparation and execution of a variety of teaching programs. In addition, I spent time working with one of the occupational therapy teachers to make improvements to their outside garden space. The horticulture program at the Center is part of an effort to enhance outside activities that expose children to living processes in tangible ways. During my contact hours at the Center I conducted informal interviews with the teachers of the visually impaired and recorded my observations about how children with visual impairments learn to navigate space, become comfortable with different tactile experiences, and establish healthy routines. I also took note of the resources that strengthen emergent literacy skills in toddlers, and how teaching materials are developed to enhance tactile acuity.


This field research directly contributed to the development of a questionnaire (Appendix 2: Questionnaires) that I will distribute to parents and teachers of the visually impaired as a method of gathering data about their familiarity to crafting tactile illustrations and access technologies that support emergent literacy. Relevancy of the questions was validated through conversations with teachers of the visually impaired and tactile graphics specialists at the Anchor Center, and will be reviewed by the Institutional Review Board prior to dissemination during the summer of 2013. The time at the Anchor Center also contributed to my understanding of the broader community that supports people with visual impairments, including that of the American Foundation for the Blind, the National Federation of the Blind, the Colorado Center for the Blind, the Perkins School for the Blind, and multiple TVI’s and tactile graphics specialists.

Sikuli Lab Meetings and Student Mentoring Every Friday throughout the duration of my practicum I led a one hour Sikuli Lab meeting for four undergraduate/graduate students, where we formulated research questions associated with the Workshop and Tactile Picture Book project, discussed each others work, and shared other relevant information about the topics at hand. At the beginning of the semester I met with each student individually to identify their interests, incentives, and desired outcomes. We developed specific research questions for them to pursue accordingly, and then met individually each week to discuss their progress and questions. Bill Casson: Bill, a graduate student in Computer Science, spent much of his time working on the computer science workshop for blind high school students, as he has an undergraduate degree in computer science, is visually impaired himself, and enjoys teaching. Bill investigated the types of computer games/platforms that would accessible to people with visual impairments, helped make connections with the teachers of the visually impaired and other resources in the area, participated in user-testing, and developed Java and Python based tutorials to teach fundamental computational concepts to students with visual impairments. Bill also actively participated in our discussions about Tactile Picture Books, using his first hand experience of living with blindness to answer our questions. Brionna Lopez: Brionna, a graduating senior, participated in the Skiuli Lab as a 3-credit course. Brionna was interested in gaining experience in user interface design and how to communicate computational ideas to novice computer scientists, and had experience in using Agent Sheets, a scale-able game design software package, and user-centered design practices. Because of this experience, Brionna was helped develop and conduct user testing of a variety of tutorials, which were being refined to support the workshop 7

curriculum. In addition, Brionna took on the task of creating a list of the various 3D modeling software packages, analyzing each platform for its functionalities, usability, and accessibility. The aim of this task was to identify the heuristics of different 3D modeling interfaces, which will help inform the design of an interface that supports parents in the automated creation of tactile storybooks. Shane Powers: Shane, a second year Architecture student, joined the Lab as a 1-credit course, with an interest in cognitive science and architecture and was intrigued by how different sensorial perceptions impacts a persons ability to wayfind. His task for the semester was to develop a proposal for a project, which outlined the rationale and methods he would use to explore the design of tactile picture books using 3D printing in order to support the development of mobility, orientation and way finding skills in young children. Working with Shane to develop this concept and write the proposal enabled our research group to reconsider how tactile graphics are represented and the essential purposes of picture books. Jeeeun Kim In addition to overseeing the work of Bill, Brionna, and Shane, I collaborated the Jeeeun Kim as she investigated and tested a variety of 3D printing technologies with the aim of discovering the methods of automation. Meeting weekly, we discussed ways in which graphic images can be translated into 3D graphics and the components necessary to create an interface that enables parents to simply obtain or design 3D object files (STL), compose pages, and print the tactile compositions on one platform. Currently each of these steps are possible, albeit require a user to interact with multiple platforms which is time consuming and cumbersome.

Outreach within the Community Gleaning on information gained at the Anchor Center and conversations with Bill and other students with visual impairments, I reached out to a variety of specialists within the community to learn from their first hand experience in working on issues of access technology, literacy, tactile graphics, and childhood development. During conversations with special education specialists and teachers of the visually impaired I learned of the limitations of resources and the importance of ensuring our research did not further tax their time with the students in need. In conversations with tactile graphics specialists, I learned of the necessity of creating repositories of ready-made graphics and the current lack of automation in the tactile graphics creation processes. In addition, I met with several high school students with visual impairments to learn of their exposure to computer science and how they would like to participate in a workshop.


Background Research In addition to time spending time at the Anchor Center, working with students, and contacting specialists within the community, I researched a variety of subjects, which contributed to my understanding of the needs of individuals with visual impairments, resources currently available, the support systems in place, and the technologies that are currently available to support those impacted by visual impairments. Topics included in this research included: universal design, sensorial perception, childhood development, visual Impairments, access technology, children’s book library science and metadata, etc.

Section 3: Findings and Recommendations Workshop Despite the existence of assistive technology for people with a variety of disabilities, individuals with disabilities experience far less academic and career success than their nondisabled peers, particularly in fields such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) (Burgstahler, 2012). People with disabilities who are also underrepresented minorities and/or females face multiple challenges to pursuing computing careers. Overall, blind students are underrepresented in computer science which is caused by exaggeration of the difficulties that they may face, b) a lack of mentors knowledgeable about assistive technology and c) inaccessible course projects and material (Bigham, 2008). The Diversity and Excellence Grant submitted by Tom Yeh indicated that the use of Agent Sheets could be an appropriate method for teaching computational thinking to blind high school students, and a tool to demystify the difficulty in learning principles of computer science. Agent Sheets, a scalable game design platform, was developed under the premise that computational thinking tools must include a design scaffold for teachers and students to transparently map a problem description into solution (Repenning, 2010). Since 2006, Agentsheets has been introduced into the K-12 classrooms with the intention of teaching students how to make video games using drag and drop programming. As an example of its success in making computational thinking more accessible to minorities, so far over 3,600 middle-school girls have participated in scalable game design, using AgentSheets to make games. More than 60% of them reported an increased interest in computer science after participation. Agent Sheets Assessment Due to the visual nature of Agent Sheets, one of our labs first tasks was to test how accessible the platform was to people with visual impairments using screen readers (Windowiz, JAWZ, NVDA). Brionna Lopez, Bill Casson and I coordinated a usability test to see whether the Frogger tutorial was implementable using a screen reader and written instructions available on the Agent Sheets website. Screen readers convert information on the screen to a linear stream of either 9

synthesized voice or refreshable Braille. If a blind user needs to search for a specific item on the page, they must either listen to the entire linear stream until the goal item is reached or they may skip around in the page using structural elements, such as headings, as a guide. To become proficient, users must learn hundreds of keyboard shortcuts to navigate web page structures and access mouse only controls (Bigham, 2009). After conducting a pre-test survey to record Bill’s previous experience with computer science and screen readers, and downloading a copy of the program from the Agent Sheets website, we walked Bill through the instructions. Immediately, he indicated that there was an invalid certificate prohibiting him from successfully downloading the program without overriding the prompt. Furthermore, using talk aloud protocol, Bill indicated that the way the program automatically saved the application files was problematic for how he liked to navigate through his files. Once the program loaded, it quickly became evident that Agent Sheets was not accessible using a screen reader. As Bill could not navigate around the interface, we deduced that the program was not developed with a Java Access Bridge. An Access Bridge is a technology that exposes the Java Accessibility API in a Microsoft Windows DLL, enabling Java applications and applets that implement the Java Accessibility API to be visible to assistive technologies on Microsoft Windows systems (Oracle, 2012). In layman terms, the Java Access Bridge puts tags onto the controls in the program and provides an order for how the screen reader navigates around the page/window. This usability test revealed that we made some major assumptions, namely that accessibility is universal. When something is claimed accessible, one needs to inquire into who it is being made accessible for, what parameters it adheres to, and for what purposes. That, which makes something accessible for one subset of users, does not entail universal access. Curriculum Development Due to the Agent Sheets usability test findings, and the overall feeling of frustration and isolation Bill expressed due to encountering these familiar challenges in accessing software packages, we entered into a broader discussion about the type of experience we aimed to create for the students, what skills we wanted them to gain, and what computational concepts were important to included in the tutorials and curriculum. When discussing this topic with a teacher of the visually impaired in the Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) and a visually impaired high school student, we learned that regardless of what concepts are taught, our curriculum needs to be adapted to a specific audience, all the while universal such that depending on a students cognitive and sight abilities, the end objective could be accomplished. The term ‘universal design’ means a concept or philosophy for designing and delivering products and services that are usable by people with the widest possible range of functional capabilities, which include products and services that are directly accessible (without requiring assistive technologies) and products and services that are interoperable with assistive technologies (Burgstahler, 2011). During conversations with the TVI’s, I also learned that there are only several students with visual impairments in BVSD; to coordinate a group of students with visually impairments from around the State would be a difficult task given the time/timing, availability of the TVI’s and families. We thus decided to focus the development of the curriculum for students who experience total blindness and who have experience using screen readers to navigate a computer screen. While this decision reduces 10

some of the diversity in experience that we initially intended for, it enables us to better evaluate the accessibility of curriculum. After making this decision and refining the objectives of the workshop, we conducted a literature review to gain insight about methods already used (Bigham, Burgstahler, Connelly, Sanchez, Sigfreid, Stefik). Given the scope of our objective, we decided that the best strategy was to create our own very basic command line interface/ game development environment or find an alternate computer scienceteaching tool that was developed with Java Access Bridge. Bill Casson and Brionna Lopez proceeded to create a series of tutorials using Java, Python, and HTML. Each of these tutorials were tested by a blind student from outside of the Sikuli Lab, which provided insight into which language was the most accessible and how well the tutorial was written. Workshop Execution Rather than putting on the workshop at the University of Colorado, we have opted to partner with the Colorado Center for the Blind to conduct our workshop in collaboration with their pre-established summer program. In turn, we will work with 18 blind high school students, from across the United States, over the course of one day (July 20th). This is a critical decision as it entails working within the existing support structure and enables us to work with a broader audience while focusing on how the curriculum is executed rather than how to set up an appropriate environment. Bill Casson will lead the workshop using a Python-based numbers game tutorial, with the support of several other students and TVI’s. During the workshop we will conduct pre-evaluations of the students familiarity with computational concepts, in addition to following up with questions about their overall experience. Finally, we will lean on suggestions made by Sheryl Burgstahler from UW for how to insure universal design strategies are implemented in a computer science classroom.

Tactile Picture Book Project Accessing tactile picture books for children with visual impairments is often times a difficult task for parents. While a selection of tactile picture books are available for purchase through the National Braille Press, the American Printing House for the Blind, or Seedlings, parents often face a tradeoff between cost and selection. The National Braille Press, for example, only carries nine copies of the Good Night Moon book in tactile format, which costs $30 (NBP, 2013). To massproduce these books, publishers must hire tactile artists to create a master and then refine that master into easily a reproducible tactile-relief material.


If parents are aware of the benefits and want to devote efforts to making a book at home for their child, many considerations need to be made prior to starting the craft process, which often times prohibits parents from making their own books. For example, at the highest level, parents first need to identify whether their aim is to communicate tactile information in meaningful ways, or their aim is to communicate information in ways that can be understood through touch. Luckily, over the last 30 years many efforts have been made to create guidelines to help people understand the best practices for creating tactile graphics. In 1992 Polly Edman published a book simply titled “Tactile Graphics” through the American Foundation for the Blind, which serves as a primer in the field. The American Printing House for the Blind has created the “Guide to Designing Tactile Illustrations for Children’s Books,” which breaks down the different components of picture books and provides suggestions for how to transcribe visual elements into tactile graphics according to children’s needs. Of great importance, in 2010 the Braille Authority of North America published the “Guidelines for Tactile Graphics Transcribing,” a very through guide for what constitutes a tactile graphic, basic design principles, planning and editing steps, and production and duplication methods for images and diagrams and maps. While these great resources are available, many of the guidelines are confusing and require an advanced skill set to master. Even simple activities like identifying the content of the picture book, identify the central themes, characters, events, etc., and identify how a tactile representation will best complement the storyline, can be confusing and time consuming. (In future work, we intend to investigate how parents over come these challenges.) Despite the difficulty in accessing and creating tactile picture books, exposure to picture books is critical in any young child’s development. Before they learn how to read, children enjoy picture books with their parents. Co-reading facilitates joint attention between parents and children to the same object, which significantly contributes to children’s language growth (Tomasello & Farrar 1986). Language skills are acquired through heredity and environment, and by the age of three children have generally developed a significant proficiency in language. In fact, picture books are a collaborative effort between the parent and the child, and help kids experiment with sounds and expand vocabulary (Russel, 1991).


Furthermore, through co-reading, parents and children also engage in conversations that go beyond the text of the story, which provide rich cognitive stimulation to children (Wasik & Bond 2001). Shared emotions and social interactions during co-reading are an important experience for young children and help them to receive socio-emotional support from their parents. For visually impaired preschoolers (ages 3–5), tactile picture books are most effective in providing a level of co-reading experiences similar to those enjoyed by their sighted peers (Raikes et al. 2006).

Functionalities Throughout my endeavor to understand the relevance of tactile picture books, current craft methods, and the potential use of 3D printing technologies, I repetitively came back to the question: What functionality, displayed within an interface, is needed to support and encourage parents to make custom books for their child? To investigate this question I started by considering the goals of the parent—to provide their children with age appropriate, engaging/fun activities that facilitate their cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development. (This goal was formulated through informal conversations with TVI’s and tactile graphics professionals. (This may be amended, as more data is collected from parents). Given the premise that parent-child book reading is critical for cognitive and social development in early childhood and that creating custom tactile picture books is time consuming and laborious, it became evident that the primary functionalities of the interface should support efficiency in the creation of tactile graphics and heighten parents understanding of their child’s learning. The interface should be a one-stop-shop for parents, meaning they are able to select or create a book, render the 3D tactile graphics, and print the book using one interface. Currently, there are 2D graphic interfaces, 3D modeling interfaces, tactile graphics libraries, and stand alone 3D printer software packages—each of which have its own formatting and file types. By creating one interface we can reduce the redundancy of having to learn many different platforms. Furthermore, we can help parents identify and select books appropriate to their child’s needs, test whether the tactile representation of the graphics are accessible to the child given specific characteristics, and produce the tactile picture books or objects in one sitting. Listed below are the functionalities that should be included in the program/ interface:


Human Characteristics data input field and database Upon launching the program, parents will be prompted to fill in information about their child’s age, developmental milestones, interests, preferences, and abilities. In turn, the program will save this information into the system and use it to help parents select books, import appropriate images and 3D objects, and amend the 3D renderings to accommodate the child’s sight abilities and characteristics. To do this, algorithms will be assigned to the characteristics of the child, and to the specific tactile graphics design guidelines. In turn, as parents design or compile objects, the system will indicate whether the 3D graphics selected is appropriate for the child, as well as whether the file is in the correct format to be printed. As a child’s interests or learning milestones change, new characteristics can be added or amended. Book search/selection Included in the interface will be a sophisticated book search option, connected to a library of children’s books similar to that of the International Children’s Digital. Through machine learning, the search field will remember the selections indicated in the initial data input (such as the child’s interests, mobility, cognitive milestones, learning objectives, subject area, comfort with different tactile sensations, etc.), as well as other searches. Books selected for rendering will be assigned specific metadata to support future searches and inquiries about what books are good for tactile transcription. Currently a digital library of 2D and 2.5D tactile graphics is being created by the RNIB, in England, however this resource was only launched in 2013 and does not include any 3D objects or an interface to exchange the files. Image import Included in the interface will be an image upload button for drawings or pictures the parents have on hand and want to model using the 3D Modeling Environment. Image processing selections Once the book is selected, or an image is imported, the interface will provide options for how to render the images. • • •

For images that have been imported, the program will automatically converted from 2D raster graphics into vector graphics from which a parent could extrude and create their own 3D model using tools embedded into the program. To automatically render 2D image into 3D the program would use natural image processing, where unique aspects of the image would be identified and the 3D geometry of the image would be deduced. Another alternative would be for the program to identify the image and suggest the 3D model equivalent, stored in a digital 3D warehouse.

3D Modeling Environment and Modeling Tools While there is plethora of 3D modeling environments available, from CAD based applications, to Rhino, to Maya, to Sketch-Up, the base of the interface should be a simplified 3D modeling environment with a basic set of tools for creating from and texture. Within this environment, the program will make suggestions for how to render objects based off of the input characteristics (such as sight level, sight stability, developmental milestones, etc), and insure that the composition is printable given the requirements of the 3D printing hardware. In an initial analysis of different 3D modeling environments, Sketch-Up was identified as having the most straightforward interface. While these features outline the key functionality of the site, much work is still needed to resolve how each component works together, and exactly how people will navigate around the interface. Moving forward we will investigate how to create a Ruby extension that works in Sketch-Up. (See future works.)

Section 4: Future Work Workshop In July 2013 we will conduct the workshop to expose blind high school students the fundamental computer science. During the workshop we will conduct pre-evaluations of the students familiarity with computational concepts, in addition to following up with questions about their overall experience. After the workshop we will critique our performance and identify areas for growth. At this time no additional workshops are scheduled, however it is likely that Bill Casson will take the lead of this task during future iterations.

Tactile Picture Book Project The first stage of the future work for the Tactile Picture Book Project will be to acquire first hand information from parents, artists, and TVI’s about their processes of developing tactile graphics, as well as their familiarity with different technologies. As mentioned, this will be accomplished through the administration of a questionnaire, developed during this practicum, with the aim of contacting 100 parents of children with visual impairments. Access to parents will come through our continued partnerships with the Anchor Center, the Colorado Center for the Blind, the National Federation of the Blind, and online forums administered and joined by parents. Information gathered on this questionnaire will help further inform us about: tactile picture book resources (sources, metadata types, craft guidelines), parents’ needs (support systems, book selection criteria, craft skills, interests and methods, technology entry point), and children’ needs (sight levels/ stability, developmental milestones, learning objectives for children, and interests.) In addition, I hope that this research will help us narrow the scope of the project, validate that parents of children with visual impairments will benefit this work, and provide deeper insights into tactile perception and the art behind creating tactile graphics. In the near future, or Lab also plans to conduct several workshops to introduce parents to 3D printing technologies as a means of directly giving back to the community, while gaining further understanding about their familiarity with different technologies. Furthermore, during the next semesters we



intend to expand our team to include a psychologist/cognitive scientist, several computer scientists, and additional designers. We plan to conduct usability tests of different interfaces and 3D printing technologies, develop algorithms based off of the established design guidelines, begin developing the software and interface, and conduct user-testing of the software with the parents.

Section 5: Knowledge and Skills Acquired Leadership and Collaboration One of my greatest challenges and learning experiences during my practicum came from leading a small multi-disciplinary research team. In the beginning of the semester we had a very loose objective, and every student I worked with had different needs and interests, which required special accommodations and a lot of communication. As the two projects became more clearly defined, I greatly enjoyed working with each individual student to identify their tasks, in addition to finding ways to support collaboration between the whole group. I learned that while some students need less structure than others, it is important to lie out clear guidelines and keep each student accountable to their commitments. I also learned that to execute successful group meetings, one must keep a clear focus all the while leaving space for open dialogue. Furthermore, it is important to structure the group meetings with activities and tutorials to insure that every body as a similar level of understanding about the content at hand, particularly while discussing human factors. Universal Design and Visual Impairment Before taking on this practicum project I had little exposure working with people with visual impairments, understanding about tactile perception, or the complexity of designing interfaces and experiences that are universally accessible. Some of the most beautiful moments of my practicum came when I realized I had made a false assumption about another person’s ability or interest. Through my volunteering at the Anchor Center and working with Bill, I was reminded that there are many different ways of experiencing the world; my practicum has left me with a deep desire to continue to explore alternative ways of perceiving and interacting with the world around me. Technical Skills Throughout my practicum I was exposed to many new technical challenges. Many of these occurred while working on the Workshop for blind high school students. With very little experience with computer science myself, I leaned on my students to help clarify concepts and expressions. Our work together pushed me to look to external sources to learn the new vocabulary and ways of expressing my ideas. Through conducing usability studies, I gained great insight into basic computer science principles and the process of developing a simple program, in addition to refining my ethnographic research practices. Moreover, I learned a great deal about access technology, particularly screen readers and embossers.


Final Reflections While working with Dr. Yeh meant that my practicum assignment would be at the CU-Boulder, as opposed in some far off land, I recognized that issues of ICTD are both domestic and international and that my abilities can be successfully applied and grown within my own community. I look forward to continuing this work as I start a PhD at the University of Colorado, in the fall of 2013.

Bibliography American Foundation for the Blind. “Accommodations and modifications at a glance.” http://www., accessed 3/30/13. American Printing House for the Blind, “Annual Report 2012: Distribution of Eligible Students Based on the Federal Quota Census of January 3, 2011 (Fiscal Year 2012).” . dist11.html, Accessed 5/6/13. Bigham, Jeffrey P., Maxwell B. Aller, Jeremy T. Brudvik, Jessica O. Leung, Lindsay A. Yazzolino, and Richard E. Ladner. “Inspiring Blind High School Students to Pursue Computer Science with Instant Messaging Chatbots.” In ACM SIGCSE Bulletin, 449–453, 2008. Bigham, Jeffrey P., Tessa Lau, and Jeffrey Nichols. “Trailblazer: Enabling Blind Users to Blaze Trails Through the Web.” In Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces, 177–186, 2009. Burgstahler, Sheryl, Richard E. Ladner, and Scott Bellman. “Strategies for Increasing the Participation in Computing of Students with Disabilities.” ACM Inroads 3, no. 4 (2012): 42–48. Burgstahler, Sheryl. “Universal Design: Implications for Computing Education.” Trans. Comput. Educ. 11, 3, Article 19, 17 pages. 2011. National Braille Press., accessed, 2013 National Federation of the Blind. “Statistical Facts about Blindness in the United States (2011)”, accessed 4/29/13. NICHCY. “Disability Fact Sheet 13 (FS13)
November 2012”, visualimpairment#ref6, accessed 5/6/13 Oracle. “Java SE Desktop Accessibility.”, accessed 3/22/13 Raikes, Helen, Barbara Alexander Pan, Gayle Luze, Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda, Jeanne BrooksGunn, Jill Constantine, Louisa Banks Tarullo, H. Abigail Raikes, and Eileen T. Rodriguez. “Mother?Child Bookreading in Low-Income Families: Correlates and Outcomes During the First Three Years of Life.” Child Development 77, no. 4 (July 2006): 924–953. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2006.00911.x. 17

Repenning, A., D. Webb, and A. Ioannidou. “Scalable Game Design and the Development of a Checklist for Getting Computational Thinking into Public Schools.” In Proceedings of the 41st ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, 265–269, 2010.

Appendix Appendix 1: Anchor Design

Russell, David L. Literature for Children: A Short Introduction . Order Dept., Addison-Wesley, 1 Jacob Way, Reading, MA 01867, 1991. Tomasello, Michael, and Michael Jeffrey Farrar. “Joint Attention and Early Language.” Child Development 57, no. 6 (December 1, 1986): 1454–1463. doi:10.2307/1130423. Wasik, Barbara A., Mary Alice Bond, and Annemarie Hindman. “The Effects of a Language and Literacy Intervention on Head Start Children and Teachers.” Journal of Educational Psychology 98, no. 1 (2006): 63–74. doi:10.1037/0022-0663.98.1.63.



Appendix 2: Parent Questionnaire


When reading aloud to your child, how does he/she respond?


What helps keep your child’s focus on the ‘reading’ experience?

Statement of Intent: Our intent is to gather qualitative data about the community who is involved with the creation/use of tactile storybooks. From this data we aim to understand the human and technical factors involved with creating appropriate storybooks. We plan to use this information for creating a software user interface (not platform dependent) that will support the parents of visually impaired children in creative, efficient, and simple tactile storybook design, planning, creation, and production.  These questions have been crafted to not disclose the ultimate design goal (that was developed through background research--observations, literature review, community outreach), but to broadly investigate how human factors will inform interface design decisions.


How many picture books does your family own? How many of them are tactile?


How does your child participate in selecting a book to read? Do they do this on their own?


What are your child’s favorite books?


What about these books is appealing to your child? (the subject, characters, tactility, etc)


How do you choose what books to read to your child?


Academic learning objectives?


Societal learning objectives (culture, tradition)?


Social learning objectives (moral, values, interaction)?




Learning about objects?


Is it important to you what kinds of lessons are being taught in the book?


How do you match a book to the child’s reading comprehension level? How important is this?


In your perspective, what are the benefit of storybooks your child’s learning?

Summary of Survey/Questionnaire: This questionnaire is designed to help us understand the factors considered when designing and producing tactile storybooks for children with visual impairments. The survey will be given  to the parents of visually impaired children (focused on years 0-5) in order to better understand how they understand their child’s vision impairment, how they work with their child to make different learning experiences accessible, their familiarity with the task of creating tactile pictures/stories, and their familiarity with access technologies that support these processes.   General Questions

30. What does the child respond to when you are reading aloud? (voice-manner, tactile pictures, language?)


What is your role in your childs life?


How much do you think your child is able to see?

Familiarity and Family Experience with Tactile Picture Books and Storybooks


Has your child had a vision assessment? If so, which ones?


Are you familiar with tactile picture books/ storybooks?


How do you access tactile storybooks for your child? What makes them accessible/inaccessible?

4. How much do you understand about your child’s vision impairment (sight level and sight stability? 5.

How old is your child?

33. Does your child have a preference for reading storybooks with tactile illustrations over other books/stories?


Does your have other mental/physical/sensory issues?


7. What resources are helpful for you in learning resources, your child’s situation, and the community?

35. How much or little tactile detail is necessary to keep your child’s attention in the reading experience? 36.

Questions about Assessment and Learning Objectives 8.

Where do you find advice/resources about your child’s learning needs?


Have you participated in the development of your child’s learning plan?


What kind of learning milestones do you look for in your child’s development?


How do you note these accomplishment?


How important is it for you that your child learns braille?


What are some of the barriers to your child’s learning of braille?

Books in General 14. 20

How often is your child interested in reading/ being read books?

In what ways does your child play or read (or pretending to read) tactile storybooks?

How able is your child to understand tactile illustrations with a lot of detail?

Book Selection 37.

How does the type of tactile illustration impact your selection of book to read to your child?

38. How do you determine what the appropriate style of tactile representation is for your child? (ex. How literal or how abstract the image/object is.) 39.

How would you categorize tactile storybooks (by genre, subject, age level, etc)?

  Materiality 40.

What kinds of materials does your child like/ dislike? 21

41. etc.)

What kind of surfaces does your child best respond to? (Rough, slick, sticky, hard, moist, dry,


How does the child respond when he/she likes/dislikes a texture?


What kinds of materials confuse your child?


Are surfaces with multiple materials confusing, engaging, or informative to your child? How?

Creation/Production of Tactile Storybooks 45. Have you ever created tactile graphics/ storybooks? If so, are you willing to take a picture of the book and share the picture with us? (If not, please skip this section).


How would it be helpful if this process was automated?


In which ways could it be automated?

Technology Questions 66.

How often do you use a computer? And what platform; ex. Mac, PC, Linux, etc.


What kinds of access technology are you comfortable using?

68. Are you familiar with any technical tactile story book creation tools? If so, which ones? How do you use them? 69. What kind of graphic design software are you familiar with? Adobe, Autocad, Sketch-up, MS Office, etc?

Creating 46.

Why do you like creating tactile storybooks? What are your incentives?

Assessment of Tactile Storybooks


What are the constraints to making tactile storybooks?


How do you assess how your child is engaging with the book you have created?


Do you experience enjoyment/frustration when creating tactile storybooks? When/why?


What cues indicate that your child is comprehending the graphic?

49. How long does it typically take you to create a tactile image? What part of the process takes the longest?


What cues indicate that your child is not comprehending the graphic?


How did you learn to create tactile storybooks?


What design guidelines helped you learn to create tactile storybooks?


Where do you get access to information about crafting tactile storybooks?


Where do you create your tactile storybooks?

Planning 54.

What is your process of planning a tactile storybook?


What characteristics about the child do you consider when designing a tactile storybook?


How do you decide what objects, stories, and spaces to model/ illustrate?

73. In which ways could you tell that the tactile image you created helped your child relate to his/ her environment and experience (learn)? 74. How do you know if what you have designed is appropriate to the child’s ‘stage’ of development? Final Questions 75.

Can we contact you for follow-up? If so, what is the best way?

57. Does your child understand raised graphics or void graphics better? (What kind of relief is better?) 58.

In your opinion what is the ideal scale of a tactile storybook?


What tools and methods do you use to create a tactile storybook?


What are your prefered materials for creating tactile graphics?

Compilation/Completion 61.

How long does it typically take you to compile a storybook?


What tools and methods do you use to complete/print the book?

63. Besides tactile materials, what other interactive/sensorial elements do you like to include in your books? 22


Atlas Practicum  

Masters Practicum Capstone, CU Boulder, Atlas MSICTD- Abigale Stangl

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