Veronica With Four Eyes

How To Modify Anatomy Diagrams For The Visually Impaired

One of my friends in college is studying kinesiology and asked me if I had any ideas on how to modify anatomy diagrams for the visually impaired. My friend has low vision and a progressive eye condition, and was telling me about how it can be difficult to read anatomy diagrams and learn about the different muscle groups for someone that has trouble identifying them due to low vision or blindness. Luckily, I was able to work with my friend and come up with an awesome solution for studying muscular anatomy with visual impairment, so without further ado, here are our tips for making anatomy accessible for blind and low visions students. Many of these tips can also help students with other print disabilities as well!

Using graphics from Breanna Spain Blog

The foundation for this post came from free graphics that were created by Breanna Spain, a physical therapy student who also goes to college in Virginia. Breanna published graphics that feature hand-drawn images of muscles that are all over the body, along with handwritten notes about proximal attachments, distal attachments, innervation, blood supply, and actions. The graphics themselves are very easy to read, though my friend suggested I modify them further for students with print disabilities.

I highly recommend downloading all of the PNG files for free from Breanna Spain Blog before continuing. She also can send a PDF file of all of the drawings, but I prefer to work with the PNG format.

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Decide what format to have the diagrams in

There are a few different options for creating accessible muscular anatomy diagrams. One of the biggest questions should be if the diagrams should be printed as a physical copy or kept as a digital copy. I am personally a fan of all things digital, but physical copies can be helpful for students who want to have access to tactile images.

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Graphic modifications

Here are a few options for modifying the graphic for digital or physical copies using Microsoft PowerPoint or any other software that allows for custom page sizes.

Option 1- Enlarging existing graphics, no modifications

For students that can easily read the handwritten graphics but need them to be enlarged, this is the quickest method to enlarge the graphics for the appropriate page size:

  1. Open up Microsoft PowerPoint
  2. Set a custom slide size of whatever paper size you need- I used 11 x 14
  3. Drag the image to fit on the page, taking care to avoid going outside the margins
  4. Repeat for additional images

Option 2- Modifying text of graphic, two page format

Many students may find the color contrast or handwritten text difficult to read, so another option is to modify the graphic to include accessible fonts or text sizes:

  1. Open up Microsoft PowerPoint
  2. Set a custom slide size of whatever paper size you need- I used 11 x 14
  3. Drag the image to fit on the page, taking care to avoid going outside the margins
  4. Write down the text in another program such as Microsoft Word- you’ll format it in step 6
  5. Crop the image so that only the diagram remains, and drag the image outward so that it expands to fit the page. You might need to put a white square over the remaining text
  6. In Microsoft Word, create a document with headings that shows the name, proximal attachment, distal attachment, innervation, blood supply, and actions for each muscle group. Use Heading 1 for the name and Heading 2 for all other sections. Make sure this page is the same size as the custom slide size
  7. For graphics that have additional labels, replace the text labels on the graphic with white textboxes that have large numbers. Write the corresponding labels in the Microsoft Word document

Option 3- Modifying color scheme

For students that have color deficiencies or need a higher contrast diagram, there are a few different image filters that can be used for the diagram. I decided to just use the pen tool to color over the red part, which took a while but was the best way to maintain the high resolution of the image. Alternatively, users can view the images with an inverted color scheme on their display.

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What to do with finished images

Put them in a binder

My friend keeps anatomy diagrams in a binder for easy studying. I have an 11 x 14 binder from Keep Filing that I use for my music that would be perfect for displaying muscular anatomy diagrams, as it can hold a lot of pages. I write more about my binder organization in my related post for my large print music binder.

Make images tactile

There are several different ways to add texture to these images to make them even easier to use. I recommend using two different textures- one for the shaded section, and one for the outlines as needed.

Color or no color?

When printing images, I recommend having the diagrams printed in color for best results. The main reason I have the diagrams across two pages is to help with organizing for printing and to ensure images are printed at their highest resolution.

Create a PDF

After creating all of the images in PowerPoint, I export them as PNG files and then add them to the Microsoft Word document after their text labels. After that, I save the Microsoft Word document as a PDF, which I then can save to my computer or send to my iPad. Alternatively, users can just keep the document as a Word file.

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Final thoughts

I had a lot of fun learning about different muscle groups when working on this post, and am so grateful to the Breanna Spain Blog for sharing her work so freely with others. With these tips, students with blindness, low vision, and other print disabilities can learn more about muscular anatomy and do well in their science classes!

How To Modify Anatomy Diagrams For The Visually Impaired. Creating accessible muscle anatomy diagrams for students with low vision and blindness for science class