If blind students are to truly gain access to statistical analyses, they will need to be able to successfully complete a course in statistics at university level. To do this, they must learn how the graphical techniques used in the sighted world look and are used. Generation of tactile images can show blind students what a particular graph does in a general sense, but greater understanding will come from generating these graphs as part of an analysis — in the same way it does for sighted students.

While sighted students can make use of a number of graphical user interfaces (GUIs), blind students are restricted to use of the command-line mode of operation or typing out an R script in full. One key benefit of the GUI mode of working is the ability to quickly generate basic numerical and graphical analyses. Blind students need to gain the same information as their sighted peers without expending too much additional time and energy. The BrailleR package aims to bridge this gap by delivering the range of analyses commonly found in introductory courses via a reduced set of commands.

Once blind students have completed their first course in statistics, they may embark on research at a university, or head out into industry to apply their knowledge. Irrespective of the direction they choose, they will need certainty in being able to independently create graphs for the sighted readers of their work. Creation of tactile images that provide the same representation of the images to be placed in documents can provide a solution, but all too often blind people do not have access to the right software and hardware to generate tactile images for themselves with the immediacy that is required. The BrailleR package aims to provide textual information to the blind user in conjunction with the graph that would be placed in the final report. BrailleR does this by interpreting the object that is implicitly created whenever a graph is created in R. by creating an appropriate and concise text representation of the graph.

In summary, this book presents the work included in the BrailleR package that will assist blind students successfully complete an introductory course in statistics when other software options fail them. Many of the functions support workflows that improve the efficiency of blind users at all levels of experience.

I’ve tried a few ways to help get blind people using the BrailleR package and needed a place to combine the efforts easily. I don’t yet know if this e-book will turn into anything but a few webpages, but let’s see shall we?

Jonathan Godfrey

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