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ImageShare and Load2Learn

2012 August 31
by Amaya Webster

[Ed. note: The following post comes from Dave Gunn at RNIB, where they’ve been putting enormous efforts into accessible images. Dave, who attended the DIAGRAM Asilomar meeting, outlines their ImageShare system and the Load2Learn system that utilizes it. I hope that as we continue our own work on an image library, Dave will be able to share the experiences and insights they gained working on ImageShare.]

ImageShare is an RNIB project designed to revolutionise access to graphical resources for blind and partially sighted people in the UK, through the identification and promotion of good practices, development of training resources, and facilitating access to and sharing of quality accessible images with supporting material.

The first implementation of the ImageShare system is through Load2Learn (, a project partnered between RNIB and Dyslexia Action and funded by the UK Department for Education to create an online collection of accessible educational resources (including textbooks, music, worksheets, exam papers etc.). Load2Learn is currently a membership service open to education establishments in England, and we anticipate expanding the service to support other UK countries in the coming months (the education curriculum, related textbooks and examinations are country specific for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland).

We’re currently planning further implementations of the ImageShare system to make the content available to UK users outside of education, as well as making the system available outside the UK.

There are currently over 1,000 downloadable image packages in the system. Typical image packages contain PDF print ready artwork of:

  • Large Print colour design (text is 24pt Arial, and colours are selected for tones which are distinct for common forms colour blindness)
  • Tactile design in uncontracted SEB (UK braille code)
  • Tactile design in uncontracted UEB
  • Tactile design in contracted SEB (UK braille code)
  • Tactile design in contracted  UEB

All the tactile designs follow international good practices in tactile image design, and use textures from the palette RNIB contributed to the BANA guidelines.

To enable customisation of the images, each image package also includes the editable versions in their native vector format. The majority of our designs are in CorelDraw format which can be opened in most vector design software. All the images in the system are unique accessible designs, providing the flexibility required to allow users to customise any design to their requirements and submit the finished result for the benefit of other users. For subject areas where image customisation is common, like electronic circuit design or chemistry laboratory experiments, a series of common image components have been created to accelerate the design process.

Accompanying each image is an array of metadata to enable discovery and to support use. This includes multiple browse categories, key words, detail of the formats, uploader, dates, version, permissions, education level, braille codes etc.. It also includes a 1 sentence descriptive overview of the image content, and a lengthier navigation description to support the tactile image in use, describing a natural route across the image to discover all the key elements on the page. We’ve also adopted a complexity rating for each image based on work conducted at the University of Sussex, attributing a rating for tactile complexity (the amount of content on the page) and conceptual complexity (the likely familiarity with the concept or topic). Further details are on the Load2Learn website, and much of the research is published on the Reginald Phillips website:

The development of training resources has always been a key part of the ImageShare project, without which the wider image collection wouldn’t be able to reach its full potential. To that end we’ve developed a range of training resources around 4 topics:

1. Design – good practices in effective tactile design.
2. Software use – how to design and manipulate designs using common applications.
3. Production – the equipment needed to produce tactile images, common issues and how to resolve them.
4. Effective image use – strategies for teaching and supporting the use of images.

The training resources include web content, downloadable factsheets,worksheets with activities and demonstration samples, as well as a range of fully accessible videos to illustrate concepts not easily conveyed in other forms.

We would welcome any feedback and thoughts about the system, and look forward to sharing more details in the near future.

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