home blog news projects background grants articles reviews donate links forum contact

See what We've pinned on HistorypinTo listen to recordings made of the
Living History team over the weekend of
July 7 and 8 2013, visit www.dogrosesound.org


Creating Tactile Models

Creating Tactile Models

Tactile models


 The Dog Rose Trust has been involved in the production of tactile scale models for many years. While these models have Braille and clear lettering on them, they are for everyone to use. 

 People who are blind and visually impaired say that a tactile model gives them the best idea of a building or environment. But a tactile model is very popular with everyone, as can be seen with the model of the Norfolk town of Wymondham, as it gives the user information about the size, shape and character of a building or place.

 This is particularly true of complex buildings such the  Palace of Westminster or an ancient city like York, where the bronze model has proved very popular. It really shows how the Minster towers above its surrounds.

 The material used for the model needs to be robust enough to stand up to handling but suitable for its surroundings. For the Palace of Westminster, shown here in the Queen’s Robing Room,  only wood was appropriate; the stand had to be specially designed to fit with the Pugin interiors. For outdoors bronze is, at present, the only material that will withstand constant use, weather and vandalism.  


 Commissioning and making a tactile model

 Despite this popularity with users, it is not easy to get clients to commission tactile model; most clients like the idea but not the cost. There is no escaping the fact the tactile models cost money as initial designs have to be drawn and much of the work is carried out by hand, but technology is changing all that. See the paragraph on The Future at the end.

 We have set out the steps that we have taken during the commissioning of some of our models.
1.       We are generally approached by a client to give an estimate of cost for the model so that they can raise funds for it. The longer this takes, the more the cost might rise.
2.       We ask the model maker and caster, if required, to give budget prices for a range of options and materials so that the client can decide what they want to spend.
The options could be:
a.       Wooden three dimensional model of the building. For indoors only
b.      Small wooden three dimensional model of the building with a ground plan. For indoors only
c.       A cast resin three dimensional model: for this a wooden model has to be built first. The client therefore ends up with two models. For outdoors depending on the material used.
d.      A cast bronze three dimensional model: for this a wooden model has to be built first. The small church in both wood and bronze illustrate this. The client therefore ends up with two models. For outdoors this method is very heavy and durable.  
e.      C and D above can also have ground plans as for the Palace of Westminster model.

 1.       Extras items that need to be included in the cost are:

a.       Interactive sound system
b.      Lettering and Braille
c.       Stand for model
d.      Chair or stool to match indoor space (optional)
2.       The cost of the model will depend on the amount of detail that will be put on it and the size and complexity of the model.
3.       Consultation with blind people at this stage should be carried out to ask what is important to them.  At York local blind people had been asked about the routes they take into the city and when the model came down for testing the blind people tried out their familiar routes and the pieces representing the buildings could be moved as necessary.


4.      A decision has to be made whether to put lettering and Braille on it and an interactive sound commentary. (see below)      The size of  a model is determined by the reach of someone in a wheelchair so the overall size is usually about 1 metre by 1 metre.

5.       The client then decides where they will put the model – indoors or outdoors - and what they can afford.
  6.       In order to get the budget prices for the client, some drawings, plans and photos have had to be obtained from the client or else produced by the project manager. These now need to produced in more detail for the model maker to work from. If there are not sufficient drawings/photos already then a site visit will have to be made, which adds to the cost. In some cases, expensive surveys and drawings have to be carried out.
    7.       The model maker then starts blocking the model out or drawing up the plans for production of the model. These have to be seen 
             and approved by the client.
   8.       The model maker then starts to make the model and at a certain stage will have as much as possible tested with blind people. At  
           Downpatrick a group of visually impaired people took part in a consultation at an early stage and then came to see the finished   
          work. For York, the model maker brought down the blocked-out city model which was not then fixed to the board for a consultation
   9.       The wooden model is then completed and the client approves it.
10.       The model can then be cast ready to be installed. If the model is to be accurate, then this is quite an elaborate process.


 Evaluation and feedback should follow this. At Downpatrick we met the same group of visually impaired people and they gave us their reactions to the finished model, which we were pleased to find were all positive.

The addition of Braille and lettering

 Lettering and Braille can be an integral part of manufacture of the model when it is cast or they can be added on after the model is made. It is necessary to ensure that there is enough space on the model for the names to be added.
We use Grade 1 Braille which is letter for letter as more people can read this as on this bronze model of Greyfriars in King’s Lynn.

The addition of sound

 Sound is a help to a range of users and adds atmosphere and character to the model. It can be accessed through a headset or by speakers depending on where is it situated, but it is not easy to provide for outdoor models. It is not impossible but would be expensive to waterproof and make secure.
The sound can be activated either by touching a place on the model, via a computer programme or by pressing a button with the audio on a sound store. The original Dorcas Project, developed by the Dog Rose Trust  used infra-red for the sound, as  on this wooden model of Glasgow Cathedral Precinct.

The audio commentary should reflect the character and sound of the building and if possible be recorded in the spaces being described. The tracks should be informative but short. Two blind colleagues tried out the commentary for the model of Woollaton Hall and made many useful comments.

The Future

 Currently the Trust is involved in several research programmes that will certainly affect the future of tactile models. 
For example, digital survey techniques should make accurate surveys more comprehensive and exact. Prototype modelling techniques are being experimented with to make the tactile models. Research into sound activated by sensors and transmitted in new ways are under review.
Ambient information systems are becoming part of the new inclusive designs.
There is more information about our work on other models and tactile plans on this project page.
The Dog Rose Trust
06 January 2009

home | blog | news | projects | background | grants | articles | reviews | donate | links | forum | contact



  Site design and content copyright © 1995-2015 The Dog Rose Trust, all rights reserved.