There is quite a buzz about the SAS Graphics Accelerator, a free Chrome Extension that enables blind and low vision users to access digital charts, graphs and maps. (See SAS Graphics Accelerator Summary Page for a list of blog posts about SAS Graphics Accelerator.) The process of creating accessible charts, graphs and maps is super easy - for sighted people; even a boy scout troop has created a series of accessible non-visual digital maps which have been shared in Paths to Technology's Map Library!
But how can blind or low vision students or adults create their own non-visual digital charts, graphs and maps?
In this post, we will focus on how users who are blind or low vision can find publicly created maps which can be accessed using the SAS Graphics Accelerator and/or create their own customized non-visual digital maps.
Finding User-Created Google My Maps
Google Maps is an incredibly popular mainstream app. Google Maps has 154.4 million monthly users and nearly five million live websites use Google Maps. Google My Maps is a feature in Google Maps that allows its users to create custom maps for personal use or to share with others. SAS Graphics Accelerator takes the mainstream Google My Maps and adds the "accelerate" button to make any Google My Map accessible. The power of expanding a mainstream map app is that there is a whole large community creating maps which are publicly available online. This means that anyone - including a person who is blind or low vision - can do an Internet search to find a map and can then activate the Accelerate button to access that map! Now that's powerful!
So, let's try it out! Let's say you are planning a trip to Chicago and would like to know what are the "must see" tourist attractions. You want to know where these attractions are located in relationship to each other so that you can plan your itinerary. Search the Internet using key words, such as "Google My Maps Chicago Tourist". Some of the options will list the amount of area the map covers, such as 5 or 10 km. Lots of options pop up, such as:
- Chicago/Downtown Attractions - Google My Maps (10 data points)
- Chicago Tour - Google My Maps (emphasis on STEM; 5 data points)
- Sightseeing, Chicago - Google My Maps (A "place-blog" charting all the interesting random things I came across while on various neighborhood bike rides. 5 km; 50 data points)
- Chicago Sports Travel Guide - Google My Maps (10 km; 34 data points)
Want to narrow the search? Type in the desired information, such as "Chicago Restaurants Google My Map"
- Chicago Restaurants - Google My Maps (44 points, a few are major landmarks for orientation purposes)
- Chicago Restaurants - Google My Maps (148 data points)
- Chicago Food (141 data points)
- Chicago Loop Lunch Restaurants (75 data points)
"Classic restaurants"," Restaurants and Bakeries", "Iconic Restaurants" . . . and the list of Chicago Retaurants maps goes on!
Don't forget that there are maps with data points created specifically for BLV students and adults in the Paths to Technology Map Library.
Creating Customized Google My Maps
Using the scenario of traveling to Chicago, what if you want to add your hotel to an already created map? You can do that! Want to create your own map?
In the video below, Ed Summers demonstrates step-by-step how to create data visualizations by importing data.
Note: it is recommended to watch the entire video to fully understand how to import data using the SAS Graphics Accelerator. However, if you understand the basics and want to jump to the section on how to import data to create non-visual digital maps, that section of the video starts at 35:14.
For more information about the webinar, go to the SAS Support Page.