The current layout of Utiles is based on ANSI A size, a popular and well-supported standard in North America. The tiles are (11" W x 8.5" H) rectangles, with rounded corners. They follow the 3-hole standard for binders, so a lot of packaging and support equipment is available.

This format wouldn't be very useful on low-resolution media (e.g., embossed paper). However, given the (1200 dpi) resolution of laser engraving, it is large enough to be useful, yet small enough to be light and easily portable. It is also possible that this format could be mass produced (e.g., by vacuum forming of thin plastic sheets).

Note: Unfortunately, the 1/16" acrylic sheet I'm using isn't robust enough to support the use of 3-hole binding. So, regretfully, I'm leaving the holes off for the moment.

Dual-mode Use

Although the primary users of the tiles will be blind, sighted people should also be able to interpret features, etc. Fortunately, laser engraving produces reasonably visible features. I have considered using paint (etc) to increase this visibility, but I'd rather explore the possibility of using transparent tiles.

If the dimensions and registration are carefully controlled, it should be possible to glue a printed sheet to the back of the tile and have the features (e.g., walls) be in proper alignment. The result would provide both tactile and visual information, enabling better use by partially sighted people and better collaboration between blind users and their sighted assistants.

The visual content of the tile (e.g., text, QR code) could be printed on both sides of the backing sheet. Seen through the tile, this would be a bit distorted, but still usable. Seen directly (by flipping the tile over), it would be quite clear.


  • each Utile is 11" W x 7 3/8" H x 1/16" D
  • each outer edge has a (3/16" wide) border
  • each corner is rounded, with a 3/16" radius
  • the main rectangle is 10 5/8" W x 7 3/8" H

  • binding and annotation area
    • occupies the top (11" W x 15/16" H) rectangle
    • has three (1/4" diameter) holes, spaced 4 1/4" apart
    • has two (13/16" W x 5/8" H) rectangles (near corners)
    • has two (3 3/4" W x 5/8" H) rectangles (between holes)

My current plan is to use the upper rectangles as follows:

  • The outer pair of rectangles will contain a tile number (e.g., "2").
    In the case of a building floor plan, this could also be the floor number.

  • The center left rectangle will contain terse braille annotations, e.g:

      gdc, uta, 0-3

  • The center right rectangle will contain terse print annotations, e.g:

      GDC, UTA, V 0.3


By convention, braille pages use a larger (11.5" W x 11" H) format. I plan to experiment with this size, as well as grid lines, QR codes, etc.

This wiki page is maintained by Rich Morin, an independent consultant specializing in software design, development, and documentation. Please feel free to email comments, inquiries, suggestions, etc!

Topic revision: r20 - 21 Jan 2016, RichMorin
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