Beginning Map Skills

By Charlotte Cushman on Feb 12, 2013

Learning to interpret tactile graphics is a long process and should begin well before formal maps of countries and continents are introduced.  In order for tactile graphics to be meaningful, a student must first be able to:

  1. interpret spatial relations between objects, as well as the spatial relationship between himself and other objects
  2. interpret the relationship between three-dimensional objects and their two-dimensional representations

The Picture Maker Wheatley Tactile Diagramming Kit from APH is a great way to introduce students to these relational concepts. 



  1. Provide the student with repeated opportunities to explore the school campus or neighborhood where she lives.  This can be done in conjunction with the family and Orientation and Mobility instructor.
  2. Discuss terms such as "corner", "intersection", "parallel"
  3. Practice directional concepts, such as in back, in front of, left, right, next to.  Once the student has mastered those, work on north, south, east, west.
  4. Create tactile maps using the Wheatley picture maker, or any other shapes and consistent tactile representations that are available.  Begin with small spaces, such as the classroom or school building, and work up to larger areas, such as a neighborhood.
  5. Ask the student to find different locations on the map, e.g. Where is the nurse's office?  Where is the gym?
  6. Make the maps increasing complex as the student masters each level.


  • Have the student create a map for another student to interpret.
  • Use braille or print labels on the map.
  • Introduce more complex maps, as appropriate.