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. This section offers 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

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.
International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI)
Polish teacher Boguslaw Marek discusses how tactile graphics help develop understanding of spatial relations and the correspondence between three-dimensional objects and their two-dimensional representations.  Ideas for materials and teaching strategies are included.
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.
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.
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.
This is a list of tactile maps and atlases available through the Princeton Braillists.

Computer-Generated Tactile Maps

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.
Directions Magazine
Christopher J. Andrews discusses the role of GIS (Geographic Information Systems) technology in creating accessible web-based mapping applications.
A List Apart
Seth Duffey presents a way to convert text-based map data into an accessible display.
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.
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

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
The Blind Audio Tactile Mapping System (BATS) project focuses on making spatial information accessible to people without vision.
Immerse Research Group—University of Calgary
This research team focuses on the understanding and representation of spatial and geographic information. Included are studies with users who are blind or visually impaired, and links to numerous publications on the subject.
University of Oregon
This site has links to research on tactile mapping and visual variables in spatial and map cognition.

Research: Tactile Maps

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.
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."
This paper examines the effectiveness of several methods for familiarizing people who are blind and visually impaired with the spatial layout of urban environments.
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.
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.
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...."
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.
Konstantinos S. Papadopoulos describes the production and testing of some experimental tactile maps.
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 Open
This paper presents the use of Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) to help people with visual impairment read audio-tactile maps.
This Chilean map project examines cartographic models and evaluates their use by students who are blind.
Steve Landau discusses tactile maps, talking kiosks, the Talking Tactile Tablet and the Tactile Graphical User Interface.
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.