A 3D printed tactile version of William Playfair's trade-balance time-series chart. It shows a multi-line plot with two lines, rendered in smooth white plastic. One line represents the quantity of exports from England to Norway and Denmark. The other line represents the quantity of imports from Norway and Denmark to England. Different textures are used to distinguish between the two lines. The horizontal axis is divided into years from 1700-1780. The vertical axis is divided into increments of 10,000 pounds. Until the year 1755, the quantity of imports exceeded the quantity of exports, representing a trade deficit. After 1755, the exports exceeded imports, representing a trade surplus. These regions are distinguished using different texture patterns, for which there is a map legend at the top of the chart.

As part of an inclusive design workshop at the Perkins School for the Blind, we created a 3D printed tactile translation of a time-series chart by William Playfair. In this paper, we show how these one-to-one translations, while based on existing best-practice guidelines for tactile graphics, can be pedagogically ineffective and incur prohibitive costs.

Authors: Alan Lundgard*, Crystal Lee*, Arvind Satyanarayan


Accessibility–the process of designing for people with disabilities (PWD)–is an important but under-explored challenge in the visualization research community. Without careful attention, and if PWD are not included as equal participants throughout the process, there is a danger of perpetuating a vision-first approach to accessible design that marginalizes the lived experience of disability (e.g., by creating overly simplistic “sensory translations” that map visual to non-visual modalities in a one-to-one fashion). In this paper, we present a set of sociotechnical considerations for research in accessible visualization design, drawing on literature in disability studies, tactile information systems, and participatory methods. We identify that using state-of-the-art technologies may introduce more barriers to access than they remove, and that expectations of research novelty may not produce outcomes well-aligned with the needs of disability communities. Instead, to promote a more inclusive design process, we emphasize the importance of clearly communicating goals, following existing accessibility guidelines, and treating PWD as equal participants who are compensated for their specialized skills. To illustrate how these considerations can be applied in practice, we discuss a case study of an inclusive design workshop held in collaboration with the Perkins School for the Blind.

Sociotechnical Considerations for Accessible Visualization Design (arXiv)

Perkins partners with new MIT class to imagine innovative assistive technologies (Perkins School)

3Q: Collaborating with users to develop accessible designs (MIT News)


Sociotechnical Considerations for Accessible Visualization Design
Alan Lundgard, Crystal Lee, Arvind Satyanarayan
IEEE Visualization Conference (VIS), 2019.


 title = ,
 author = {Alan Lundgard AND Crystal Lee AND Arvind Satyanarayan},
 booktitle = {IEEE Visualization Conference (VIS)},
 year = {2019},
 url = {http://vis.csail.mit.edu/pubs/sociotechnical-vis-access}