Tactile Maps and Teaching Maps Skills

The use of maps is an important skill for all children to learn. For students who have visual impairments, learning to read a map is an important step towards independence, as well as a way to participate more fully in the regular geography and social studies curriculum. Check out suggestions on how to teach students to use tactile maps, from the most basic object books to more complex tactile graphics:

Teaching Map Skills to Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Are We There Yet? or How I Spent My Summer Vacation
Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI)
Jim Durkel shares ideas for helping children with visual impairments collect souvenirs and explore maps during family vacations. Creating remnant books and tactile graphics enhances the child's participation in family trips; available in English and Spanish.

Books, Maps, and Other Touching Experiences, Future Reflections
National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
Robert Jaquiss, Jr., recounts the role his parents played "in providing him with a foundation of experiences and skills in using tactile materials throughout his schooling."  He describes the process his father invented for making tactile maps.

Using Maps, Future Reflections
Future Reflections, 10(3), 1991, National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
Authors Willoughby and Duffy explain the needs of partially sighted students, discuss the value of map skills, and offer numerous suggestions for making appropriate maps.

Tactile Maps for Students with Visual Impairments

Products included on this site include Tactile Maps, Map Skills Training, and Voice Output Globe.

Best Practice Guidelines for the Design, Production and Presentation of Vacuum Formed Tactile Maps
Ann Gardiner and Chris Perkins explain each step in designing and creating vacuum formed tactile maps. Their approach enables anyone to prepare useful raised graphics.

Princeton Braillists: Creators of Tactile Maps and Drawings for the Blind
This is a list of tactile maps and atlases available through the Princeton Braillists.

Computer-Generated Tactile Maps

Touch Mapper
Touch Mapper
Find out how you can create a free tactile map with a 3D printer, embosser, or on swell paper, or order one online.

Emerging GIS Technology and Accessibility: Online Mapping for Everyone
Directions Magazine
Christopher J. Andrews discusses the role of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) technology in creating accessible web-based mapping applications.

A More Accessible Map
A List Apart
Seth Duffey presents a way to convert text-based map data into an accessible display.

Tactile Map Automated Production (TMAP)
Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute
TMAP allows visitors to this site to download and emboss customized tactile street maps of any location in the United States.

Tactile Maps
KQED Quest Radio
This podcast describes the tactile maps designed by Josh Miele of Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute. (They can be downloaded at http://www.ski.org/project/tactile-map-automated-production-tmap and embossed by the user.)

Organizations and Resources to Explore: Tactile Maps

Blind Audio Tactile Mapping System (BATS)
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
The Blind Audio Tactile Mapping System (BATS) project focuses on making spatial information accessible to people without vision.

Spatial and Map Cognition Research Lab
University of Oregon
This site has links to research on tactile mapping and visual variables in spatial and map cognition.

Research: Tactile Maps

Accessible GPS for the Blind: What are the Current and Future Frontiers?
California State University—Northridge
Michael May explores the barriers, benefits, and future promise of GPS (Global Positioning Systems) technology for users who are blind or visually impaired.

A Commentary on the Use of Touch for Accessing On-Screen Spatial Representations: The Process of Experiencing Haptic Maps and Graphics
Immerse Research Group—University of Calgary
The authors discuss the possibilities of electronic haptic maps, using "new and off-the-shelf hardware—force feedback and vibrotactile mice" to "enable nonvisual access to onscreen map or graphic material."

Comparing Methods for Introducing Blind and Visually Impaired People to Unfamiliar Urban Environments
This paper examines the effectiveness of several methods for familiarizing people who are blind and visually impaired with the spatial layout of urban environments.

Creating Tactile Maps for the Blind Using a GIS
American Congress on Surveying and Mapping
Jerry Clark and Deanna Durr Clark describe the use of a GIS (Geographic Information System) and coordinate digitizer to create customized tactile maps on micro-encapsulated paper.

Mapping for Change: Tactile Map of UBC
University of British Columbia
Brenda Madrazo and Juan Gabriel Solorzano describe the challenges of tactile map design, share design guidelines, discuss the braille system, and offer a literature review on the field.

Navigation for the Visually Handicapped: Going Beyond Tactile Cartography
Immerse Research Group—University of Calgary
R. Dan Jacobson discusses the development of a personal guidance system which would "provide on-line interactions … in audio or tactile form, providing orientation, location and guidance information...."

A New Approach to Interactive Audio/Tactile Computing: The Talking Tactile Tablet
California State University, Northridge
Steven Landau and Karen Gourgey describe their research on audio-tactile computing, and  discuss development of the Talking Tactile Atlas of the World.

On the Theoretical Basis of Tactile Cartography for the Haptic Transformation of Historic Maps
Konstantinos S. Papadopoulos describes the production and testing of some experimental tactile maps.

Representing Spatial Information through Multimodal Interfaces: Overview and Preliminary Results in Non-Visual Interfaces
Immerse Research Group—University of Calgary
R. Dan Jacobson discusses research on "the accessibility and usability of spatial data presented through multiple sensory modalities including haptic, auditory, and visual interfaces."

SVG Maps for People with Visual Impairment
SVG Open
This paper presents the use of Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) to help people with visual impairment read audio-tactile maps.

Tactile Cartography of Latin America:  Evaluation and Perspectives
This Chilean map project examines cartographic models and evaluates their use by students who are blind.

Tactile Graphics and Strategies for Non-Visual Seeing
Steve Landau discusses tactile maps, talking kiosks, the Talking Tactile Tablet and the Tactile Graphical User Interface.

Touch, Hear and Sea: A Simulator for the Blind Sailor's Geographical Representation
The authors describe Seatouch software and hardware, used by sailors who are blind to prepare their maritime itineraries with haptic sensations, vocal announcements and realistic sounds.

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