How to Create Accessible Digital Maps Using SAS Graphics Accelerator and Google Maps


This post explains how to create accessible digital maps that contain points of interest such as intersections, bus stops, buildings, and other landmarks. The resulting maps can be posted on your website or shared with students via email.

The scale of the maps can range from a city block, to a campus, to an entire metropolitan region. You can create maps that are used by many students, e.g. a map of a school or college campus. Students may use the map to orient themselves as a freshman and then refer back to the map at the beginning of every semester when they need to find new buildings.

Students with visual impairments or blindness can access the maps using a pair of headphones and either a standard computer keyboard or a video game controller. They can pan around the map, zoom in or out, and quickly perceive where points are located in relation to each other. This interaction provides a very effective way for students to orient themselves to a new school or plan travel to a new destination.

Before you begin

  • You must have a Google account.
  • You must install the Google Chrome browser.
  • You must install SAS Graphics Accelerator in Google Chrome.

Step 1: Create a map in Google Maps 

  • Go to
  • Click the Create A New Map button. It is near the top left of the page and it is red.
  • Click the text box that contains “Untitled map”.
  • Enter a title for the map.
  • Click Save.

Step 2: Add points to the map using Search 

  • Use search bar at the top to search for locations.
  • Select one or more results.
  • Click the Add To My Map button which is near the bottom left of the page.

You can search for a wide variety of objects including:

  • A specific place such as the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
  • A specific address such as 11 West Jones Street, Raleigh, NC.
  • An intersections such as Wilmington Street and Edenton Street.
  • Categories such as restaurant, Italian restaurant, park, parks in Raleigh, bus stop, etc.

Step 3: Add points for places you see visually on the map

  • Click on objects you see visually within the map such as buildings or intersections.
  • Click the Add to Map button.

Step 4: Add points for any random location on the map

  • Click the Add Marker icon which is near the Search bar at the top of the page.
  • Click anywhere on the map such as the main entrance of a building, an intersection of two sidewalks in a plaza, or a landmark that is easily located using hearing.
  • Enter a name for the point.
  • Click Save.

Step 5:  Export the points as a KML file

  • Click on the ellipsis button near title and then choose Export to kml/kmz.
  • Choose entire map.
  • Do not choose networked.
  • Choose kml.
  • Click the Download button.

Step 6: Create and share an accessible digital map that contains the points

Note: You must first install SAS Graphics Accelerator in Google Chrome.

  • Click the SAS Graphics Accelerator icon in the Chrome tool bar. Visually, it looks like a blue “s”.
  • Within the popup, click the Laboratory button.
  • On the Laboratory home page, click the Import Table button.
  • Use the File Chooser dialog to select the KML file you downloaded from Google Maps.
  • On the Prepare Table page, click the Save to Laboratory button.
  • On the Table page, click the Create Map button.
  • On the Create Map page, select Name under the Label column, enter a Title for the map, enter a footnote that provides proper attribution for the map data (Example: "Map data provided by Google Maps.") and click the Submit button.
  • On the Table Page, click the link for the map you just created. Click the Map button
  • On the Map View page, click the Download as HTML button.

Step 7: Share the accessible digital map with your student 

Note: Your student must first install SAS Graphics Accelerator in Google Chrome.

  • Share the downloaded map and the following instructions with your student.
  • Connect a video game controller such as an Xbox controller to your computer.
  • Open the map in Google Chrome and activate the Accelerate button.
  • Use the Page Up and Page Down keys (or Fn Key and Up Arrow/ Fn Key and Down Arrow on Mac) on your keyboard or the right thumbstick on your game controller to feel objects in any direction around your current virtual location.
  • Press H on your keyboard for a list of additional commands that allow you to zoom in/out, pan around the map, jump directly to any point on the map, control speech output, and more.
  • Read the self-guided maps tutorial to learn more.


Posts in this series:

How to create accessible digital maps Pinterest tag


Posted by Diane BraunerMay 13, 2020

Note: Google Maps is not accessible with a screen reader. To create an accessible digital map using, requires vision.