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for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Braille Maps

My friend and I have figured out a way to print tactile maps onto paper very cheaply. This would involve syncing with google maps, so you could type in your destination, or use voice recognition where typing is not possible. The map could then be printed in braille style at the push of a button, with dots representing streets.

I am wondering, how useful would the rest of the visually impaired community find this?

If you had to go somewhere new, would it help to orientate yourself to the street layout this way before leaving the house? Would it help to carry this map in your pocket in case you took a wrong turn? What about if this technology could be applied to floorplans in big buildings?

Feel free to tell me if this is a useless concept! Any feedback appreciated.

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Re: Braille Maps

The visually impaired community has three sub-groups, eye readers, ear readers who use text to speech technology, and those who go either way according to the light, the job, and the tools available. I don't see it as useful to eye readers, but yes for the others, e.g., playing "paper dolls" with cutouts for furniture on a floor plan. [That's what we called it in doing factory planning.]
Good idea. Run with it. gm

Re: Braille Maps

Have you checked into commercially produced tactile maps?

Are you using a braille printer to basically do a dot matrix print map?

It could be useful, but it depends on the size. For it to have a decent number of streets (say, 10), it would take up quite a bit of room. To make it useful for people with low vision as well as total blindness, it would help to have strongly contrasting colours to indicate different streets/paths.

Tactile floor plans for buildings are usually not printed out on paper, they are usually formed out of plastic or some other harder material and put into the wall at a communal area. That is how it is laid out in my office.

(This post was edited by the author on 2/13/2015 at 11:02 PM)

Re: Braille Maps

I've seen the commercially produced textured maps - they're very useful, but not so good when you need an immediate answer!

I'd love to create a situation where visually impaired people can look up maps at the touch of a button, like sighted people can with Google Maps! We've toyed with the idea of the printed dot maps, and also a programmable textured surface - like a tablet with pop up nodules that can be programmed into various map layouts, with software on a computer. Hard to explain!

I'm trying also to figure out what the applications would be. For example with the large building foor plan, you could maybe print it out and familiarise yourself with the layout before going to a new place?

Or maybe trying to find a new city street?

I take your point about eye readers you mention - technologies to make 2-D printing clearer would be more useful for these individuals.

Thank you so much for your help, people! Keep the criticisms and feedback coming :)

Re: Braille Maps

Which one of the tactile surface technologies are you referring to? There haven't really been any that are commercially successful yet. Unless you can find a way to produce it cheaper, the device cost would rather high and put it outside of most people's price ranges.

For example, something like this. To get the higher resolution necessary for maps, you would need a lot more (and smaller) of those kinds of bumps. Because it is also a specialty item, much less people will be purchasing it.

Unless your client would also be willing to carry a dot-matrix style printer around to print out these maps on the fly, they wouldn't be able to access it immediately. They would still need to print it at home before they can head out.

Checking the layout of a building from a map is a pretty good idea, but it is dependent on two major factors: The building updates their maps, and the maps be accessible (both for the technology, and for people to obtain it). For example, let's use the Chrysler Building in New York City (I'm not from there, and have never been there before). It is a place that the public can go to, though, and the building has been around for many decades. But if you try to find any floor plans for the lobby (I just checked), the only ones available are from the 1930s. A lot has probably changed in the last 80 years. There could be two reasons for that. One, the building never bothered updating the floor plan. Or two, the building has, but the floorplan is kept secret for security reasons (the more likely reason). You would need to work out something with these buildings to be able to create a map that your system can use.

Have you checked into technologies that do similiar things to what you are designing, but do it differently?

I'm thinking specifically of Google's Intersection Explorer, Humanware's Trekker Breeze (the Preview mode) and Blindsquare. They provide verbal mapping, at a fairly reasonable price point.

One thing you also have to take into account is the "good enough" rule. Sometimes, you only need a tool that is "good enough". If I need directions to get to a friend's house, I don't necessarily need to pull up a complete map of the city to work out the route. I just need to get to his nearest intersection, and get the directions for which streets to turn down.

Your idea has merit, and there have been some research into such systems.

However, as someone who teaches O&M, we often take a route that is cheaper (and sometimes faster). A tactile map, no matter how accurate, still must rely on the client's skill at interpreting the map and locating the necessary landmarks.

(This post was edited by the author on 2/15/2015 at 2:47 PM)

Re: Braille Maps

I have implemented basically this except using 3D printing, in . Do you think it would make sense to also support use of a braille printer of some sort, to get lower cost prints?

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