GraVVITAS – helping blind people access graphics

Information graphics–diagrams, maps, plots and charts–are widely used. Reading, using and creating these graphics are important skills that most of us take for granted. However, for those of us who are blind or have severe vision impairment access to such graphics is severely limited, restricting  effective participation in the workplace, limiting educational opportunities, especially in art and design, mathematics, and science and technology, and constraining enjoyment of popular media including the web. Lack of access to maps and plans of public spaces and buildings also contributes to one of  the most disabling consequences of being blind: the difficulty of leaving the safety of home and having to find one's way in a new environment.

The GraVVITAS (Graphics Viewer using Vibration Interactive Touch and Speech) project is developing new computer technologies that are designed to work on an iPad and will (at last) provide people who are blind or have  severe vision impairment with fast, inexpensive access to a wide variety of information graphics at home, at school and at work.

GraVVITAS aims to present graphics to people who are blind or have vision impairments by using multi-touch screens, such as iOS devices, augmented with haptic and audio feedback.

It has four major components:

  • GraViewer (Accessible graphics viewing application): The core of the GraVVITAS project is an app that present information graphics on the iPad. As the user explores the screen with their ngers, a mixture of speech and non-speech audio allows them to hear the graphic they are    touching.
  • GraAuthor (Accessible graphics authoring tool): A web-based graphics authoring tool allows teachers, friends or family members to quickly create accessible graphics suitable for display with GraViewer.
  • GraCalc (Accessible graphing calculator): An accessible graphing calculator built on top of GraViewer. Simply specify a mathematical function and its line graph will be displayed on GraViewer.
  • GraGame (Accessible games): For those who want a little fun, we have also built games designed for blind people that are built on top of GraViewer. These are a great way to learn to use GraViewer.

GraVVITAS also includes a wearable device that provides haptic feedback. It is used in the GraVVITAS system as an input and output device. This device has been further developed as touchRing at SensiLab.

GraVVITAS was awarded an honourable mention in the prestigious 2012 Touch of Genius Award given by the National Braille Press of USA.

The GraVVITAS project is conducted at the SensiLab research group at Monash University.

GraVVITAS is currently under the commercialization scheme at Monash University as RaisedPixels Pty. Ltd. GraViewer iOS app is now available at Apple AppStore as RaisedPixels Reader.

Selected publications featuring the GraVVITAS system:

  1. Goncu, Cagatay, Madugalla, Anuradha, Marinai, Simone, Marriott, Kim; Accessible On-Line Floor Plans; Proceedings of the 24th International Conference on World Wide Web 2015.
  2. Goncu, Cagatay, Marriott, Kim; GraCALC: An Accessible Graphing Calculator; Proceedings of the 17th International ACM SIGACCESS Conference on Computers & Accessibility 2015.
  3. Goncu, Cagatay, Marriott, Kim; Creating eBooks with Accessible Graphics Content; Proceedings of the ACM Symposium on Document Engineering 2015.
  4. Goncu, Cagatay, Marriott, Kim; GraVVITAS: generic multi-touch presentation of accessible graphics; Human-computer interaction–INTERACT 2011.

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