Jumbo Braille Poster

by Damian Sian

On April 24th Princeton University celebrated Global Accessibility Awareness Day with the keynote address from Haben Girma. To advertise the event, the team here in the User Experience Office (UXO) created a PDF iconprint poster for the event and we also created a far less traditional poster that has become affectionately known as the Jumbo Braille Poster. 

Haben Girma touching the jumbo braille poster held by Mary Albert and Damian Sian of Princeton University.

Photo Credit: Cecily Haubner

Purpose of the Poster

The intention behind creating a braille poster of this size (24" by 36") was not for function, but rather to focus on form. The poster challenges the sighted world to perceive and understand its meaning through the use of assistive technology and adaptation thus transposing the relationship in the consumption of Information Communication Technology (ICT). A non-sighted user has all the means to consume the content while the sighted person is forced to manually decrypt the messaging with the provided braille alphabet key, or to rely on technology when they scan the QR code with their mobile device. 

Technique and Construction

The braille poster started out with a template for braille dot placement provided by PharmaBraille via this free online template. Bringing this template into Adobe Illustrator, we then enlarged the vector graphics until each dot was half an inch in diameter. From there, we used a standard braille alphabet to construct the following message “Global a11y awareness day 2017 unlocking access.” We then sent a proof to Braille Works who graciously and expertly alerted us to some errors. Upon fixing the errors we sent the artwork to our internal printshop here on campus and received back a the artwork template mounted on thick foam board. From there, we applied half inch clear acrylic dots onto the board with a quick drying glue. And finally, we spray painted the board and beads with a beige color to match the substrate used for the QR code piece. The QR code was again designed in Adobe Illustrator but this time was printed on a heat transfer paper that creates raised surface, tactile prints. We used Moon Font to write the words “QR Code” above the code itself. And finally, we added a traditionally braille alphabet so sighted users could decrypt the braille. This poster made its rounds at the campus stopping at the Office of Information Technology, the Frist Campus Center, and finally at the Friend Center. 

Half inch clear beads applied to heavy board on a printed braille dot template.

Photo credit: Damian Sian

Braille dots on a 24 by 36 inch poster, raised surface QR and printed braille alphabet

Photo credit: Damian Sian

The Reaction from Users

The reaction from sighted users was per our expectations; curiosity and conversation. However the reaction from the non-sighted community was a bit unexpected. Each non-sighted person (who reads braille) that touched the poster reacted with laughter and amusement. Braille dots at that size are difficult to comprehend (again, we were playing with form over function here). Each user had to spend a while decoding the content for themselves, but they did so while laughing and calling out their experience. The most interesting comment on the poster came from Haben Girma when she referred to the poster as “festive.” Something in the size and frivolity of the piece translated into cheerfulness or exuberance. This was an unintended, yet extremely welcomed, interpretation of the piece.