From Perceptual Supplementation to the Accessibility of Digital Spaces: the Case of Free Exploration of City Maps for Blind Persons
Accessibility of urban and digital spaces is still a challenge for the blind or visually impaired people. Information and communication technologies open new opportunities to design innovative solutions for the sake of accessibility for all. For this concern, the development of perceptual supplementation systems is a promising solution. In the framework of the Tactile interactions for orientation, information and presence (ITOIP) project, we aim at developing the use of the Tactos technology which enables blind users to access digital shapes through the sense of touch. Within this project, we designed new applications for Tactos with the partnership of a blind and visually impaired persons local association. Our research is grounded on sensory motor theories of perception. We illustrate our approach with the case of Tactos map: an application that enables street maps free exploration with no need of sight. During the design of Tactos map, we were confronted with the problem of enabling users to access content beyond the screen viewport. This problem and the proposed solution highlights the dialog between theoretical and design perspectives at the heart of our approach. The performances and remarks from the first Tactos map users let us envision several issues to address in our future work.