Teacher holding a book with tactile images for a child who is exploring an image, vector image.
Guide

Free braille art and tactile image libraries: World Braille Day 2024

Free online resources for braille art and tactile graphics for blind and low vision students, with emphasis on STEM content.

As part of a semester-long school project for one of my graduate classes, I researched several free braille art and tactile image libraries that could be used for educational activities relating to science, agriculture, ecology, and several other topics. Even though I don’t personally use braille due to neuropathy in my hands, I can often access some components of tactile graphics and braille art, examining high-contrast lines and other details through touch. Here is a short list of free braille art and tactile image libraries that provide resources on accessible images for blind and low vision audiences, in honor of World Braille Day 2024. I’ve also included links to graphics and other resources I used specifically for this school project when possible.

What are tactile graphics?

Tactile graphics are accessible images that feature raised surfaces and details so that they can be explored by touch. There are several different methods for creating tactile graphics, ranging from creating collage-style images with craft materials to using professional grade embossing tools, and many tactile graphics incorporate braille in some capacity as well. Some tactile graphics are composed entirely of braille in the form of braille drawings or image generators, while other tactile graphics may include braille labels for text components.

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Why use braille for images?

Braille images provide a more authentic way for readers to form mental models and examine details of an image, instead of using audio-based or text-based descriptions that leave the reader imagining what an item might look like. To give a real-life example, one of my friends had no idea that the Eastern Shore of Virginia existed until they examined a tactile graphic showing the outline of the state, which showed the Eastern Shore detached from the mainland of Virginia. Up until that point, they had assumed the Eastern Shore was another name for Norfolk or Virginia Beach, which are located on the mainland, and not part of the Delmarva peninsula where the Eastern Shore is actually located.

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APH Tactile Graphics Image Library

American Printinghouse for the Blind has several amazing resources for blind and low vision learners, including the APH Tactile Graphics Image Library. After creating a free account, users can explore and download free tactile image templates across a variety of subject areas, including math, science, social studies, health, independent living, and so much more. Users can also request graphics through the feedback page or submit graphic templates of their own for other users.

For my school project, I used a few different graphics including TGIL 1556 (parts of a flower), TGIL 449 (dicot and monocot seed diagrams), TGIL 240 (deer footprint), and a few others. Instructions for printing and embossing graphics are posted on the website.

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Six Dots Art

Six Dots Art is a free website created by Lena, a retired teacher who shares several templates and instructions for drawing braille pictures. There are several text-based tutorials available, as well as high contrast images that can serve as a reference when creating images.

When creating additional resources for the project, I added links to a few different image collections, including On The Farm, Horses, and In The Backyard. These would be perfect for braille readers planning a field trip to the petting zoo!

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Paths to Literacy and Perkins School for the Blind Braille Graphics

Paths to Literacy is a free website maintained by Perkins School for the Blind and Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired that has several free resources for braille drawing, braille art, and tactile graphics. Braille art is often promoted as a stepping stone to using tactile graphics for older students, and Paths to Literacy has a lot of fun ideas for drawings. I also found several resources on Paths to Technology, another free website maintained by Perkins where I am a frequent contributor.

I didn’t mention any braille art from Paths to Literacy for the final draft of the school project, though they were an invaluable resource for learning more about braille art and tactile graphics in general. However, I did use the ostrich template in an early draft to illustrate the difference between ostriches and emus.

Editor’s Note: Paths to Technology has a Tactile Graphics Library with free downloadable digital images for tactile graphic machines (i.e., PIAF and Swell machines) that create raised line drawings. The P2T Tactile Graphics Library is unique as the digital images and worksheets have links to associated posts with lessons and activities. Beneficial for students with low vision, the digital images are simple black and white line images; view these images using technology or print the images using a copy machine.

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Braille ASCII Art Generator

Braille ASCII art generator is a free tool for generating braille art from any image file using a simple GitHub program. While I haven’t tested this with photos, it can be used to create simple art using braille “dots” instead of traditional pixels. Another option for creating accessible images is to include alt text and/or image descriptions when posting online, which can be read by a screen reader and/or transcribed on a braille display so that users can get information about an image.

I used a braille ASCII art generator for creating simple graphics of animal tracks, as well as example mockups for a presentation.

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BTactile

BTactile offers thousands of free tactile images and braille art options that can be filtered by desired graphic type, and several templates can also be edited within the web browser. There are also options for exploring 3D-printed tactile graphics that include various types of filament, as well as graphics that can be used in high school and college classes.

I shared the digestive system of the hen as an example of a tactile graphic that could be used for a science activity, though the original template uses French text labels- something the France native Louis Braille would have enjoyed!

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Imageshare accessible graphics library

Imageshare is a STEM library of accessible educational resources from the parent company of Bookshare. While this website doesn’t exclusively feature tactile graphics, users can search for a variety of different types of content, including videos from the Described and Captioned Media Program, simple diagrams, and tactile graphics templates from several different sources. Imageshare does not require an account, but some of the resources linked on their website require free accounts to access.

I didn’t use any tactile graphics or braille art from Imageshare for this school project, but I discovered it during the research process and wanted to add it to the list. I mention the website again in my post on accessible anatomy diagrams linked below.

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Other resources for free braille art and tactile image libraries for World Braille Day 2024

By Veronica Lewis/Veronica With Four Eyes, www.veroniiiica.com

Updated January 2024; original post published 

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