Interaction Design for the Blind

Master’s Thesis, 2013

The goal of my Master’s Thesis, submitted at the Institut für Gestaltungs- und Wirkungsforschung at Vienna University of Technology, is to help blind students to learn map reading by using state-of-the-art multi-touch gestures as well as audio and tactile feedback.

Popular map services are almost exclusively intended for the visual sense. As a result, the blind and visually impaired are inevitably excluded from constantly growing sources of geolocated information. In this day and age map reading is of particular significance for blind children.

This thesis is embedded in the joint project Sparkling Fingers 2.0 of the HCI group at Institut für Gestaltungs- und Wirkungsforschung and the Federal Institute for the Blind in Vienna. The interaction design is based on hardware which is currently under development at IGW: a tactile paper map superimposed onto a low-cost DIY capacitive multi-touch tablet that takes user input.

The outcome of this master‘s thesis is a gesture language that reflects the circumstance that blind people interact distinctly different from sighted users when using touch devices. Also, the interaction design aims at a quick implementation.


Paul Sommersguter


Peter Purgathofer

Tactile Paper Map - courtesy Armin Wagner
Interaction Components
Basic Interaction
States Diagram