The TTP: An accessibility tool that enhances tactile tours in our Museums. 7th July 2013


If i have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
– Isaac Newton

Why Technology?

Technology brings great benefits to our lives and we see this 
trend increasingly prevailing in the arts and within arts institutions. 

Besides reaching even more people and creating newer audiences, I am 

pleased to see this trend applied in the Interpretation of visual arts to 

visually impaired and blind people, with tools now more readily accessible 

to enhance tours within Museums and art galleries.

Imagine you want to read a book or catalogue and you can access a pen that 
only relays text information but also image or visual commentary? The 
technology to do this is currently available and one of my favourite tools that 
is increasingly assisting to bridge the gap between a visual image and the 
audience is the TTP (tactile talking pen) by Touch Graphics Europe. This pen 
pairs easy functionality, clear audio and other composite features, to aid the 
Interpretation of visual content and information in an audio-tactile interactive 
book to a blind person.

Bernat showing visitors to Touch Graphics stand one of their products.

At the recent Museums + Heritage show 2013 at Olympia in London, i met 

with Bernat Franquesa to talk about the TTP pen. Touch Graphics Europe 

provides resources for sensory impairment and accessibility to museums, 

specialising in the design and the production of tactile graphics, audio tactile 

graphics and tactile paving for the blind and visually impaired.

The TTP process:
TTP technology combines visual and tactile materials with a high quality 
“smart pen” that gives more information in an audio format. This process 
means we can explore a visual image or an audio message assigned to 
different parts of an image. An image can be given several layers of 

information, for example, about a particular aspect of that image, and the 

viewer can then access the different layered contents by using the TTP pen.

By touching the tip of the pen on any location in the audio book, we hear 
information about the area touched. When you tap on the audio book again, 
you hear another layer of embedded information. You can use this pen to get 
the audio commentary while you touch the surface of the book to explore the 
tactile image.

The basic principle involved in the creation of this tactile tool is to provide a 
platform where a simple version of the visual image can be explored. This 
process allows the audio books to hold several layers of information, all 
accessible by tapping on the book.

This means there is huge capacity to add many layers of specific information 

to the audio book, like the title, dates, period and historical content, design, 

colour, or even a song or music from that period, everything that can bring a 

relevant connection to the image described. The audio commentary can be 

heard through the pen’s in-built speaker, or if needed for a group session, can 

be plugged into main speakers.


In a matter of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current.”
 – Thomas Jefferson

The Advantages:
The tactile book does not just rely on good design and visual imagery but is 

also of good production quality and durability, with the capacity to hold a 

huge amount of detailed information. The illustration quality is very good and 

the interactive books can come as tactile cards or ring-bound books.

The design also includes sufficient spacing between symbols and raised 

images with the result that readers and users are able to feel each part of a 

representation clearly. Contact Bernat via details listed at the end of this 
article for more information on the different formats.


Another plus for the interactive book is that the reader can choose to use it 

on their own, or it can be used for group sessions and with the support of an 
art educator or workshop facilitator, giving it great flexibility of use. This 
means Museums that use this tool can also choose to issue them to 
visually impaired or blind people on tour of the Museum, just like Audio or 
Multimedia guides are currently been used.
Listen to the video below for a commentary on the use of the Tactile Talking 
Pen. The audio-tactile interactive book used in this demonstration is the 
Teapots audio book made for the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston, 
Massachusetts, USA.

Bernat’s background with making geographical prints and the making of 

tactile maps (tractography) is one he greatly enjoyed but he has found more 

fulfilment in producing tactile products that enhances lives, enabling blind 

people access to various things.


PollWhat artwork would you like in an audio-tactile interactive book?

The need for continued research into use of other technologies.
As with any new technology, we must be prepared to experiment, explore
and monitor how effective the various technologies and supporting tools are. 
Museums and heritage homes should be prepared to invest in technology so 
we can evaluate, develop and design various strategies for employing them. 
In the long-term, this may help bring down the unit cost of Interpretation 
tools and improve the opportunity for some of these tools to be 

more regularly used in the Museums, art institutions and by the end-users 

also, the visually impaired and blind people.

It is undoubted that there is great need for GPS-based devices and other 
navigational aids to support blind and the partially sighted as they strive for 
an independent life, and we should all be encouraged to advocate for this.
Making art more visible to the visually impaired and blind visitors to art 
institutions not only creates greater access to visual art, but it also 
encourages a new audience. These technologies can encourage new 
platforms and new discourses for engaging with the arts, and support 
improved dialogues and new conversations.

Contact Bernat Franquesa at Touch Graphics Europe

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