Creating Simple O&M Low Vision Maps with a Little Gloss!

My name is Joseph Kolb, a Certified Orientation & Mobility Specialist with The Carroll Center for the Blind in the Boston area.  My work is community-based and involves teaching high schoolers, college students, and adults with little or no vision how to navigate their environment with reasonable safety and interdependence.  Most often, this process involves learning how to use a red & white cane, as well as the capabilities of all of one’s remaining senses. As the job title suggests, the first concern for any traveler (with or without vision) is spatial orientation. One needs to know where (s)he is in space and what direction to move before travel starts.  Once the route has begun, the traveler requires information from a variety of sources to maintain or even correct their spatial orientation along the route.  These sources typically center around the cane (or guide dog), the traveler’s remaining senses, the people in the environment at the time, and a variety of assistive devices.

Increasingly, my students (mostly adults) are using the iPhone, iPad, and other electronic aids and devices to assist their travel.  Some of my students have vision enough to appreciate visual maps, spatial diagrams, and/or floor plans with some modification/magnification.  Frequently, my students need to become familiar with a new jobsite or college campus, an unfamiliar neighborhood, a new bus route, etc.  

When I entered the field (1980s), instructor-generated maps (tactual or low vision) seemed the only option.  The passage of time saw the development of more formal mapping kits (e.g. Chang Mobility Kit, Wheatley Tactile Diagramming Kit, etc.) which have proven most useful.  However, the advent of smartphones, iPads, and Apps have created almost countless possibilities for making maps with these devices.

Admittedly, I consider myself not a tech-savvy person and very much a beginner when it comes to learning and utilizing Apps.  I have not utilized Apps to assist this familiarization teaching process up until now.

Recently, I attended a professional workshop which introduced me to VoiceOver and various Apps developed for the iPhone and iPad.  As you may know, VoiceOver is part of the iPhone’s system software which allows the phone to talk by utilizing a variety of hand gestures on the phone’s screen.  In addition, the presenters identified a number of interesting Apps, one of which was your own SAS Gloss.  Like my colleagues, I embrace anything that is simple, practical, easy to use/modify, portable, and helpful to the student.  

After a brief introduction to what SAS Gloss does and how it works, I began to think how I could use this App in my work. I wondered how I could use SAS Gloss to create maps utilizing visual maps, floor plans, or diagrams to assist my students with learning unfamiliar walking routes, buildings, bus routes, and various other environments.  Even better, I could teach this App to interested low vision students and have them create their own maps.  So, I downloaded SAS Gloss on my iPad and began to learn how to use it.  Love the fact that it’s free!

During a workshop lunch break, I walked to an adjoining room and took a picture on my iPad of a floor plan map posted on the wall.  It represented a fire evacuation route diagram, and I decided to create a simple map.  I selected the +(plus sign icon, far left side on the top toolbar of the home page). From there, I familiarized myself briefly with the various icons via theHelp icon (top toolbar, right side, circled question mark).  I then started a self-familiarization of the icons in both the upper and lower toolbars.  Via the Image icon (lower toolbar, far left), I selected the Choose From Library option from the dropdown list.  I chose the photo I had just taken of the floor plan, and here’s when the tinkering started. Also, I discovered how easy it is to Share any photo with my other Apple devices. By selecting the Share icon (home page, top toolbar, far right icon), then selecting the photo or image to be shared, I could share my floor plan photo via email, text, add to notes, or save PDF to iBooks. Very neat.  

Screenshot of building with Class, Stairs and Exit marked in bright colors.

Floor Plan with Labeled Destinations

From this photo, I started to use the Shape Tool (lower toolbar, ink pen icon) to draw shapes with Text (size 30) labels onto my floor plan. I liked the options of increasing/decreasing the size of the line or border of the shape, selecting its color, and opting whether to have this color fillthe shape.  From these options, I started highlighting certain destinations on the floor plan, such as the front entrance (primary evacuation egress), the stairwell between the 1st& 2ndfloors, and the classroom where the workshop was taking place.  I would later discover I had more control over composing the shapes by using an Apple Pencilor similar device rather than my finger.  When I had completed entering the labeled destinations, I tapped Gloss (upper toolbar, left most button)which brought me back to the homepage (Bulletin Board).  I then copied this image to the clipboard via tapping first the Share icon, then selecting this image to Copy (left side of toolbar, middle button), then selected Copy to Clipboard.  I did this in order to use this image as a template for then inserting route arrows into the next image.

Screenshot of building with Class, stairs and Exit marked in bright colors and bold dark line showing route from Class, down the stairs to Exit door.

Floor Plan with Route Lines (Class to Exit)

To access this new template photo, I started on the homepage and tapped the +(plus sign icon, far left side on the top toolbar of the home page), which brought me to a blank screen with upper and lower toolbars.  I tapped the Backgrounds icon (lower toolbar, far right, grid shape), then selected Paste Clipboardfrom the dropdown menu.   To draw the routes lines, I selected the Shape Tool (lower toolbar, ink pen icon) once again, then Line (Size 12) from the menu.

Suggestions for Developer

  1. If I have many images saved for various map projects on my homepage bulletin board, is there a way to create folders and group each project’s images in their own folders? This would make it quick and easy to find what I’m looking for by project rather than scrolling through many individual images.
  2. Instead of copying revised images to the clipboard, is there a way to create image layers or overlays whereby each layer or overlay could have its own information and presented in a logical sequence to my student?

Collage of Creating Simple O&M Low Vision Maps with a Little Gloss!

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