Best Practices for Creating Non-Visual Digital College Campus Maps

O&Ms are off and running with the new non-visual maps, especially during this challenging time of remote O&M instruction! Now that you are ready to create your own non-visual digital map, what points should you include in the map and how should you label these points? 

As always, when you create a map for O&M purposes, you want to carefully consider your student/client, their abilities and the goals of the map. The ability to create your own SAS Graphics Accelerator maps is new, so we are all still learning how we can apply these maps to teach O&M goals for various ages and student levels. In this post, we are going to look at the best practices for creating college campus non-visual maps. Students transitioning to or currently in college should have strong O&M concepts and skills. The two main goals of the non-visual digital campus maps are:

  1. To explore and learn what is on campus
  2. To build a mental map

The campus map is intended to be used prior to an on campus O&M lesson. 

Most O&M students take the approach of "whole to part" approach while other students might use the "part to whole" approach. "Whole to part" involves learning the big picture of the campus (boundary roads, main areas) before learning each part (individual buildings, routes to specific locations). The student who uses the "part to whole" approach may start from one location - such as his/her dorm - and  will learn a specific route from the dorm to the dining hall, then add on another route from the dining hall to the library. In other words, this student learns pieces and then puts those pieces together to start filling in the whole campus. While both approaches work, typically the student who uses the "whole to part" is able to figure out short cuts around campus and often requires significantly less time (and 1:1 O&M instruction) to learn the campus.

Best Practices

What to include

  • List only items that are on campus
  • List the intersections of the boundary roads
  • List the intersections of the important roads through campus
  • List the academic buildings, dorms, dining halls, and important buildings for campus life, such as the Student Center
  • List Points of Interest (POIs) such as the Bell Tower, prominent water fountains, and common area/quad
  • Do NOT list bus stops

Labeling details

How you label the various points is important as these labels will provide critical information!

  • Spell out all abbreviations
  • Do not use hyphens
  • Include location details;
    • If the building/point is on a road, list the name of the building on “North Main Street”, and what the building is such as “academic building”
      • Example: “Department of Computer Science on South Columbia Street, Academic Building”
    • If the campus building is not on a road but is facing a large common area or quad, then list the name of the building “on the south side of the Quad”, then what the building is such as “academic building”
      • Example: "Department of Economics on the west side of Polk Place Quad, academic building"
  • After the name of the building, include what the point is (unless the name reflects the type of building, such as Lenoir Dining Hall or Wilson Library)
  • Streets - mark and label the intersections
    • List the larger street first
    • Include important information, i.e. T-intersection, one-way north, roundabout
      • Example: "North O'Kelley Avenue and Pheonix Drive roundabout, intersection"
    • Streets need several data points (intersections) along the street to understand the direction of the street, especially if the street curves
    • List intersections of main streets in and around campus – including the major roads into the city and campus; smaller streets and driveways do not need to be marked
      • Example: "North Columbia Street and West Franklin Street, intersection"
      • Example: "East Cameron Avenue splits to become South Boundary Street (headed north) and Country Club Road (headed south), intersection"
  • Large areas such as a common area or quad, mark a point and label each of the four corners.
    • Example: “Polk Place Quad, South East boundary, Point of Interest”
  • Point of Interest: These are interesting landmarks around campus; they can be historical in nature, a greenway/trail, a campus statue, or noteworthy item.
    • Example: "Morehead Patterson Bell Tower on South Road, Point of Interest"
  • Auditory and tactile landmarks: consistent and unique auditory or tactile landmarks can also be identified and labeled. These landmarks may be a prominent water fountain, a hill, tunnel, or unique surface change. "Unique" is important - if the campus is hilly, then a marking a hill is not beneficial. Note: The map creator must be familiar with campus or working with someone who is familiar in order to know about these O&M-related landmarks.
    • Example: "Chandler Fountain in front of the Koury Business Center, acoustic landmark"

Create Layers

Layers is a future feature of the SAS Graphics Accelerator. Maps created now should include layers in order to take advantage of this future feature. Layers will provide the user the ability to choose which types of data points will be available. Example: The student may want to learn the streets first before adding the academic buildings, so he/she might chose to only select the Intersections layer. Campus maps should have 3 – 5 layers and these Layer topics may change according to the campus. Common layers for college campus are:

  • Academic Buildings
  • Intersections
  • Points of Interest

Another good layer might be "Campus Life" which would include things such as dining halls, dorms, theatres, etc. 

The University of North Carolina map, for example, has numerous hospital-related buildings and numerous Sports and Recreation fields and buildings; therefore, these two layers were added.


View the list of related non-visual maps blog posts here.