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⁠The Monarch and The TGIL: Bringing a World of Tactile Graphics to Students’ Fingertips

A student feels a tactile graphic on the Monarch's tactile display with two hands as an APH employee stands beside them.

A student who is blind or low vision sees about a dozen tactile graphics in a school year, while their sighted peers have access to a dozen graphics in a single class period. APH’s Monarch, along with its ability to connect to the Tactile Graphic Image Library (TGIL), closes this gap and presents a whole new path to tactile understanding that was previously unavailable to students with visual impairments.

The TGIL and Monarch

Teachers, students, and transcribers can register for a free TGIL account online. The TGIL is a repository of 2,385 tactile graphics templates that can be used as a starting point for making graphics or downloaded as-is and embossed for the classroom. The files can also be viewed on the Monarch, APH’s 10-line by 32-cell refreshable braille display, without having to log-in to a TGIL account. This instant access to graphics saves a TVI a large portion of production time and allows students to view a plethora of images.

Exploring the TGIL on the Monarch

To open the TGIL, make sure the Monarch is connected to the Internet and choose the Tactile Viewer app from the main menu. The Monarch will display an alphabetical list of TGIL category options, such as Art, Science, Social Studies, and Mathematics. Students can select any category to browse its many graphics or search for more by keyword. Graphics can also be downloaded from the TGIL before a lesson.

Each graphic opens in overview mode, a view that gets the entire graphic to fit within the screen space available to the Monarch. Normally, tactile graphics are understood through a process of relating the part to the whole. Overview mode facilitates this style of learning by making the whole graphic smaller and easier for students to feel and relate each part to the whole. From there, students can zoom in one level to braille mode, which puts the graphic at its original size. This is also the size where the braille is readable. To enter braille mode, students can press the zoom in button, which is found up and to the right from the braille keyboard and has a plus sign on it. The zoom in button will zoom in on the middle of the graphic. Alternatively, students can utilize the point-and-click method, where they use one hand to point at a position on the graphic and their other hand to double tap the multipurpose button, which is the round button found between dots 1 and 4 on the braille keyboard. This will zoom in on that location. Once they are zoomed in, students can move around the graphic with the directional buttons on either side of the display.

Chris, a computer science teacher at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired began producing tactile graphics on his Monarch to enable students the ability to see a draft of a .stl file for 3D printing.

The TGIL also allows students to support self-discovery and self-direction in a way that was never possible. Students can finally find graphics that interest them, rather than waiting for a graphic to be created for them and then embossed on paper. Krystal Guillory, an itinerant Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI) from Ruston, Louisiana, said her students loved the historical and animal graphics. One of Krystal’s students was reluctant to develop her tactile graphic literacy skills until she used the TGIL on the Monarch. “As she’s picking the graphics she wants to explore, I’m able to teach the things she didn’t want to even attempt on a paper copy,” said Krystal. “Being able to teach those skills using the Monarch has been phenomenal.”

Learn more about the Monarch and TGIL.

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