My Job at the UW Access Technology Lab

Carson Smith, DO-IT Ambassador

This quarter I started working at the University of Washington's Access Technology Lab part-time. My main job is to help convert two-dimensional graphics into a tactile rendering so people who are visually impaired can feel them. The process involves scanning the original image and manipulating it on the computer using Photoshop software, reducing it to its most basic elements. The image must be simplified because there is only so much that can be perceived through touch. We then print these images using a very expensive machine that only produces Braille dots (and makes lots of noise!). There are about three different textures that can be felt, putting a major constraint on what we can produce, especially when there are colors.

Currently I'm working on images for a student taking Spectral Mathematics. The whole procedure is very time-consuming, so we are working with the Computer Science Engineering School (CSE) on a project that might help to automate the process. Specifically, CSE is working on creating algorithms that simplify the image in a few seconds. Their ultimate goal is to be able to scan a book and have the computer turn all the pictures into readable tactile graphics. Stuart, '99 Scholar, is working on this project too. It is exciting to be part of this developing project, and it will be interesting to see what happens with the technology. I'll keep you posted!