February 1998

Root Page of Article: The Quest for Access to Science by People with Print Impairments, by John A. Gardner

DotsPlus, a Tactile Font

DotsPlus is a font intended for use with a computer printer that produces raised images. It is an extension of braille that provides a tactile equivalent of standard literary and math print fonts including italic, bold, and underlined characters.

Tactile resolution is coarser than good vision, so DotsPlus fonts are approximately 24 point for correct spacing on the final copy. A sighted computer user must merely use these correctly-sized fonts and then use an appropriate tactile printing technology. If DotsPlus becomes widely accepted, then anybody who knows how to use a computer can create written materials for a blind person.

By comparison to the arcane, expensive, and time-consuming methods used today, DotsPlus is a dream come true. In fairness however it is not a panacea that allows absolutely anything to be printed instantly. In an ideal world a blind computer user who wants to read a document containing graphics could simply convert all fonts to DotsPlus and print the document on a tactile graphics printer. Unfortunately the real world is not so simple.

In general any arbitrary document will need some editing to accommodate the larger DotsPlus font size. Fancy fonts used for visual emphasis need to be replaced by italics, bold, or underlined fonts. Finally there is no tactile technology that can represent variations in color or gray scale in common photographs. This may not be a fundamental limitation, but there is certainly no straightforward way at present to represent anything beyond simple line and block graphics tactually.

A ^ brief overview of DotsPlus font details may be of interest to specialists. An even more detailed explanation, including pictures illustrating DotsPlus and instructions for downloading DotsPlus fonts and macros can be found on the SAP DotsPlus description page. ^

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