John's O&M Lesson 2: Learn about Streets

In Lesson 1, John, a 4th grade student who lives in a small town, was introduced to a simple, non-visual digital map of his town. He learned the basics about how to use the free SAS Graphics Accelerator software to access the map and he learned a few Points of Interest (POIs) about downtown Pittsboro. Note: This map is limited to a few blocks around the Circle in the downtown area of Pittsboro. In this lesson, John will learn 

Lesson 2: Learn about Streets

The goal of this map is to learn the downtown street names and to develop a mental map grid of these streets. A variety of street-related concepts can be also be taught, including common city layouts, numbering systems, cardinal directions, quadrants, etc. Again, this map focuses on the streets immediately around John's home and the Downtown/Circle of Pittsboro, staying on north side of East Street/Business 64). Note: Pedestrians can only cross at the Circle as Highway 64 does not have lights and the only stop signs on East Street are at the Circle.

Open the  Pittsboro Downtown Basic Streets map to complete the following activities.

Note: When creating maps, mark the street intersections - intersections are located in a specific place. If you mark a street - not on an intersection - your student will not have enough information to know exactly where that mark is along the street. Multiple intersections on each street need to be marked in order to identify the street "line" aka "direction" that the street travels. Marking multiple intersections can also help identify if the street is straight, angled or curves. Be sure to name the biggest street first, as this will provide a subtle clue; if the streets are the same size, it does not matter which one is listed first.

Some students may benefit from a tactile street map to bridge the gap between tactile and digital maps. For these students, initially pair a tactile map to reinforce the non-visual map; however, the goal is to eliminate the tactile map and transition fully to digital maps, as these digital maps can be quickly made, shared remotely and do not require any physical materials!

Concept Activities and Questions

  • Explore the map by sweeping your virtual cane. (Page up/page down or Fn up/Fn down).
  • Jump to the Historic Courthouse. (When your virtual cane is on the Historic Courthouse, press Enter.) The map now shows 17 of 21 points with several points off the map on the east side. Now sweep your cane to find the names of the roads that intersect with the Circle at the Courthouse. One of these roads is off-set, meaning it is not due north, south, east or west of the Circle. Which road intersects with the Circle at an angle?
  • What road runs in a right/left (east/west) line from the Circle? What road runs east/west (just north of and parallel to) East Street? What is another parallel right/left road?
  • What road runs up/down from the Circle? What parallel road is west of this? What parallel road is east of this? 

Jump Feature

Here is a quick way to find a specific point: Press J to Jump. This opens a search menu. Type in the specific POI, or search by category such as "intersection". When a point is selected, you "jump" to that point, meaning that point is now the center of your circle (center of map). Note: Your virtual cursor location does not change. To confirm where you are (point in the center of the circle), press the forward slash (/) key.

Practice Activity: Jump to John's house.

  • Press J (opens search menu)
  • Type in "John".
  • Select John. (Enter/Return key) John's House is now the center of the map.
  • To confirm that John's House is now the center of the map, press the forward slash key.
  • The screen reader now announces the map coordinates, the POI that is the center of the map, the size of the radius of the map, and how many points are currently displayed on the map and the number of total points on the map. (Remember: you can zoom in or out of the map with plus or minus key, which changes the radius/size of the map.)

Screenshot of Pittsboro map with forward slash information displayed in text and read aloud.

More Concept Activities and Questions

  • The road that John lives on - does it run east/west or north south?
  • Discuss why some streets have two names: Example: East Street and Business 64 are two names for the same street. 
  • Ask your student to name the parellel roads in order. Ask him to create a simple tactile map that represents these streets. He can use a tactile drawing kit, place Wikki Sticks to represent the roads, use a Sensational Blackboard to draw the streets, etc.
  • Discuss the concept of grids and blocks. Starting at East Salisbury Street and North Small Street intersection, ask your student to describe walking around the block - using the names of the streets and which direction he will turn.

Naming and Numbering Streets

Jump to the Historic Courthouse. For the next activities, you want the Historic Courthouse to be in the center of your map.

The county seat in small North Carolina towns will typically have a courthouse in the center of downtown - often inside a street circle. The north/south road from the circle is the dividing line - everything to the right of this line can potentially have the term "east" in the street name; everything to the left of the dividing line can potentially have the term "west" in the street name. (In Pittsboro Hillsboro Street divides the town into east and west. East Street is to the right of Hillsboro Street and West Street is to the left of Hillsboro Street.) Business 64 divides the town into north and south. Everything above Business 64 (also called East and West Streets) are "north" while everything below are "south". Example North Small Street, where John lives, is north of the dividing street, East Street. When you cross below East Street, North Small Street becomes South Small Street.

  • What other street changes its name and where?
  • Discuss Addresses and Numbering: The center of Pittsboro is the Historic Courthouse, which is where the numbering system begins. Addresses in the first block are 0-100. Addresses in the second block are 101 - 200. 
  • If appropriate, discuss quadrants using the dividing streets (Hillsboro/Sanford Road and East Street/West Street), divide downtown Pittsboro into four quadrants (NE, SE, SW, NW). Name several POIs in each quadrant. Note: If you wear stereo headphones or use stereo speakers, you will hear the announcements of points in the east quadrants in your right ear and points in the west quadrants in your left ear. If you are using a game controller, the joystick that sweeps your cane will also point in the direction of the POI.
  • If appropriate, discuss unusual streets, such as a "T" intersection, a dead end, a street that curves, etc.
  • Be sure to apply prior knowledge gained from walking around Pittsboro: Which intersection has a stop light? Which intersection has a stop sign? Where are there sidewalks, curb cuts, off-set street crossings, etc.?
  • Be sure to build distance concepts using concrete activities with yards.


Note: When walking routes, I typically teach street name and one business or point of interest on that street/block. The first map, Pittsboro Downtown Basic Map included streets and one POI on each street. Relating a familiar business/point on each street is often beneficial for students to develop a mental map and to remember the names of individual streets. That map can be substituted to teach some of the street concepts. For some students, having too many points on a map is distracting; these students do best with only one or two locations to anchor the map (such as the Historic Courthouse and John's House).

Modification: If a student has more foundational knowledge, I would start with a Pittsboro map that includes "boundary roads". Boundary lines are basically the perimeter of the town (or the area being displayed in the map).