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Project description

Smith-Kettlewell Display Tools (SKDtools) provides blind engineers and scientists with a set of MATLAB scripts for auditory and tactile data representation. MATLAB is a powerful number-crunching environment from The Mathworks, Inc. It has become one of the most popular and ubiquitous software tools for scientists and engineers to do such tasks as numerical modeling, signal processing, image processing, and data analysis.

SKDtools uses a standard sound card and/or a Braille embosser capable of producing tactile graphics. The auditory plotter uses spatial location and frequency as parameters in representing single-valued, two-dimensional plots with a wide variety of user-definable parameters. The extraordinarily flexible tactile graphics functions can be used to emboss any combination of charts, graphs, images or text.

SKDtools was written by Dr. Miele at the Smith-Kettlewell Institute's Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (SKI RERC) with support from the National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR).


SKDtools is a work in progress. We anticipate users will find some quirks and bugs. We have tried to make the scripts as stable and robust as possible, but you may find situations where they do not function as expected. Please contact us and tell us about any problems you encounter so that we can fix it for other users. If you are able to fix the problem yourself, please send us the modified code so we can include it in future releases.

This toolbox does not include any MATLAB tutorial information. We assume that the user already has a working knowledge of the MATLAB environment. Thus, the beginning user may wish to begin by learning some MATLAB basics before installing and using SKDtools.

SKDtools is NOT a screen reader. We assume that you already have a means of accessing the text of your computer screen.

System Requirements

Before downloading and installing SKDtools, please be sure that your system satisfies the following requirements
  • Sound Blaster-Compatible sound card and/or Graphics-capable Braille embosser
  • MATLAB 6.0 (R12) or later version of MATLAB (Note: Some student versions of MATLAB may not be compatible with SKDtools)
  • MATLAB Signal Processing Toolbox
  • MATLAB Image Processing Toolbox

Downloading and Installing SKDtools

Preparing Your System:

Install MATLAB 6.0 or later and verify that it works properly.  TIP: Most people using MS Windows with screen readers or magnification software may find it helpful to add the command line argument -nodesktop to the MATLAB command line. Without this modification you may experience caret-tracking problems in the MATLAB Command Window. To do this:
  1. After installing MATLAB 6.0, find the shortcut that launches the MATLAB application and select it.
  2. Press Alt-Plus-Enter to open the properties dialog, then select the "Shortcut" tab.
  3. Press 'TAB' until the "Target:" field is selected and press the "END" key.
Downloading and Installing:
  1. Download and save the archive.
  2. Copy the entire contents of this archive to a directory under your MATLAB root. For example:


  3. Add the SKDtools directory name to your MATLAB path. This can be done in a number of ways. Perhaps the easiest way is to add the command

    addpath c:\matlabr12\skdtools

    to your startup.m file. For more information on this command, type

    help addpath

    at the prompt in the MATLAB command window. You may want to restart MATLAB after doing this just to be safe.
  4. If you plan to use SKDtools with a Braille embosser to produce tactile graphics, edit the brlprefs.m file found in your SKDtools directory to reflect the realities of your embosser. You may use any standard text editor to do this.
  5. To get started learning about the various scripts in the SKDtools package, type the command <dir> at the prompt in the MATLAB Command Window. A text file called DOCUMENTS.TXT is also included for your convenience. This file simply contains the text of the help information found in each of the SKDtools scripts compiled into a single file.

Related resources

 ICAD 2003 Conference
 "Smith-Kettlewell Display Tools: A Sonification Toolkit for MATLAB"