Bliss Tactile Symbols
Setup & instructions
Tactile symbols help individuals who are blind, visually impaired, and may also have complex communication disabilities, to express themselves.
Blissymbols, originally created by Charles Bliss in 1947, is a constructed, international, ideographic, generative language. Though Blissymbols have traditionally been used in written form, they are uniquely positioned for use as a tactile language:
“Due to their simplicity, [features like] edges, outlines, and kinesthetic feedback are optimized in raised-line renderings of Blissymbols, which may facilitate recognition of tactile Blissymbols. In short, the conformational characteristics of Blissymbols results in stimuli that have minimal complexity (or low potential cognitive load) and when rendered as raised-lines have characteristics that may increase the efficiency of perceptual/cognitive processes involved in communication with tactile symbols.”
This projects includes a collection of 3D printable tactile Bliss symbols as well as a detailed guide for creating custom symbols. These can be used on their own, or embedded with RFID tags to generate sounds or spoken words using the Voice-It device.
The individual communicating will locate the desired tactile symbol and touch it or pass it to their communication partner. They can also have RFID tags embedded and used to automatically generate speech sounds with the Voice It device.
To help identify symbols, the top edge of the shape indicates the word class. A convex top edge indicates a noun, pronoun, or preposition; an angled-out top edge indicates a verb; an angled-in top edge indicated an adjective, adverb, or determiner; and a flat top edge indicates a series of symbols or phrase.
The symbols can also be differentiated using color:
Each symbol has a raised Blissymbols on the top surface. The Blissymbols is positioned between an engraved skyline and a wider and more deeply engraved earth line. The tactile symbols also have optional Braille on one of the side edges as well as the engraved word in English on the bottom.
Detailed build instructions are available at the links above for printing one or more of the existing symbols. There are also instructions for how to create custom symbols including ‘slang’ words.
Pre-existing designs can be 3D printed in the desired color.
Note that his work was inspired by the 3D tactile symbols created by Project Core at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. While their tactile symbols are certainly “tactile”, they are largely opaque, often with no clear relationship between the raised shape and its referent.
The potential for developing a tactile communication system based on Blissymbolics, Mick D. Isaacson & Lyle L. Lloyd, Developmental Neurorehabilitation, 2015; 18(1): 47–58