Tag Archives: Burning Man

Our Burning Man Maps for the Blind are Back

Burning Man has ten tenets — perhaps the first and foremost being “radical inclusion”. On their website, the first principle reads, “Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.”

It’s a philosophy that we share at LightHouse, and one that led MAD Lab designer and longtime Burner Julie Sadlier to debut a one-of-a-kind tactile Burning Man map two years ago. In other words, a Burning Man map for blind people.

This year, we’ve updated and improved the hybrid tactile-visual map for Burning Man 2017. The maps, with updated art placement, will be available at several locations in Black Rock City, including the Playa Information Booth, Mobility Camp and the CBT Project (at 7 and Fire), and here at the LightHouse headquarters starting August 23. To pre-order a map, contact our Adaptations Store at 1-888-400-8933 or adaptations@lighthouse-sf.org.

Calling it “awesome, no matter your level of sight,” The Atlantic’s CityLab aptly pointed out that you don’t have to be blind to use our map. Complete with braille, visual, and tactile representations of the event’s streets, information booths, first aid tents, restrooms, bus stops, camping, parking, and notable attractions such as artwork, Mobility Camp, The Temple and of course, The Man, the map is a great tool for anybody getting to know the festival – and one that is equally accessible to those with no vision. Now that’s radical inclusivity.

The map’s creator Julie Sadlier, said the response at Black Rock City over the last two years has been incredible, so much so that the leader of Mobility Camp, “Rat Lady”, contacted her way back in February to make sure she would be designing an updated version of the map for 2017.

“I had multiple people coming to my camp, even when I wasn’t there people were dropping off brailled business cards so they could talk more about the map,” says Julie. “Someone at Playa Information dismantled one copy and hung it on the wall to spread the word.”

It’s this type of openness and inclusivity, we’ve found, that opens unexpected doors and embodies the spirit of the LightHouse for the Blind as well as Burning Man. We look forward to printing even more than last year and to hearing your stories when you get back from the playa!

To get a copy of our map, call the Adaptations Store (1155 Market St., 10th Floor, San Francisco) at 1-888-400-8933, or email adaptations@lighthouse-sf.org. If you or your organization would like to design a fully accessible, inclusive map of, well – anything – email madlab@lighthouse-sf.org.

Feel the Burn: Our Blind Burning Man Maps are Back

Imagine wandering the Nevada desert, amid the dust storms, all-night parties, and mind-boggling art of Black Rock City; now imagine doing it on your own and with no eyesight at all. Here at the LightHouse for the Blind, we are more than proud to make that dream entirely possible.

Last year, motivated by some of our very own adventurers here at LightHouse, we took it upon ourselves to design something brand new: a Burning Man map for blind people. A year later, we’re proud to announce that we’ve updated and improved the hybrid tactile-visual map for Burning Man 2016, and will make them available not only in Black Rock City, but also here at the LightHouse in downtown San Francisco starting August 22. To get one in advance of the event, email adaptations@lighthouse-sf.org.

tactile map showing overview of Black Rock CityCalling it “awesome, no matter you level of sight,” The Atlantic’s CityLab aptly pointed out that you don’t have to be blind to use our map. Complete with braille, visual, and tactile representations of the event’s streets, information booths, first aid tents, restrooms, bus stops, camping, parking, and notable attractions such as artwork, Mobility Camp, The Temple and of course, The Man, the map is a great tool for anybody getting to know the festival – and one that is equally accessible to those with no vision. Now that’s inclusivity.

After last year’s burn, we caught up with map creator Julie Sadlier, who is part of LightHouse’s MAD Lab (Media and Accessible Design Laboratory). She said the response at Black Rock City was awesome.

“I had multiple people coming to my camp, even when I wasn’t there people were dropping off brailled business cards so they could talk more about the map. Someone at Playa Information dismantled one copy and hung it on the wall to spread the word. They were delivered to Playa Information, Mobility Camp, our camp (Love Potion) had one, and I also gave one to the Black Rock Lending Library.”
lsit of street names with braille lettersIt’s precisely this type of radical inclusion, we’ve found, that opens unexpected doors and embodies the spirit of the LightHouse for the Blind as well as Burning Man. One member of Julie’s camp last year found himself stuck in a dust storm, taking refuge only to end up sitting at a bar next to a blind man he’d never met before. Without hesitation he pulled out of his pocket a souvenir: a little vile, embossed with braille, a signature of their camp. The man recognized the letters immediately and thus, a connection was made.

This year, our map is not only updated with new artwork sites (drawn from a combination of official Burning Man materials and the official unofficial BM Google map), but features a new logo inspired by  the 2016-specific theme of “Da Vinci’s Workshop.” We look forward to printing even more than last year, and to hearing your stories when you get back from the playa!

To get a copy of our map, call the Adaptations Technology Store (1155 Market St., 10th Floor, San Francisco) at 1-888-400-8933, or email adaptations@lighthouse-sf.org. If you or your organization would like to design a fully accessible, inclusive map of, well – anything – email madlab@lighthouse-sf.org.

Feel The Burn: We Made a Tactile Map of Black Rock City for Blind Burning Man Attendees

Black Rock City map - front cover

As Burning Man has ballooned from a desolate San Francisco gathering to a massive, world-famous yearly festival, it has also stood by its ambitious “10 Principles,” the first of which is “Radical Inclusion.” But for some, the annual, ever-evolving desert colony may still seem to be a daunting frontier for blind and low vision individuals.

But what is it, really, that might keep a blind person from taking on Burning Man? Maybe it’s simply the things that might deter anybody else — radical temperatures, alkali dust storms, swarms of hungry insects, or just the throng of 70,000 that descends on Black Rock City every year. And yet if you have even a slight taste for adventure that might sound perfectly enticing. Could it be that, short of courage, the real obstacle is simply finding the right tools for the journey?

Here at LightHouse we pondered this question — and then we built the perfect new tool to answer it. It’s an elegant, straightforward rendering of Black Rock City, in its entirety, in a booklet that you can read without your eyes. A combination of raised lines, braille dots, and special embossed symbols, the map gives you the location of every street, camping area and official point of interest at this year’s Burning Man festival. That includes straightforward destinations such as restrooms or medical stations as well as more poetic points of interest such as “Life Cube,” “Serpent Mother,’ or the “Burner Express Bus Terminal.”

map showing street names and points of interest

With sparse cell reception and weak wi-fi across the massive, makeshift encampment, a physical map is the simple, dependable way to navigate the more than 50 miles of roads set up to accommodate Burning Man each year. Some intrepid blind travelers have done it without paper maps in the past, though using GPS meant needing a phone and/or Braille display ready, charged, and exposed to the elements — not exactly the liberating experience promised by the Nevada desert. The spirit of cooperation and generosity is high, of course, but for the rugged individualist, the enterprising, independent blind or low vision person who wants to truly have their own experience on their own terms, our map is a fantastic new tool.

Julie Sadlier, our one of our specialists on the Access to Information team, which makes tactile maps of anywhere from UC Berkeley to Disneyland, recently read about the Burn’s “Mobility Camp,” Burning Man’s center for those with mobility impairments (wheelchairs, crutches, walkers). She realized that blind and low vision burners needed mobility tools, too. So she set to work creating the Black Rock City Tactile Map, a hybrid of the official map and a crowdsourced Google Map. Knowing that the city is different every year, she was careful to only add destinations liable to be in the same location as previous years. The result is a map that delivers more useful features than many online maps, but remains clean and uncluttered. And like all of our maps, it’s the nimble type of solution that can be updated and printed by our accessible media team in just a few days.

tactile map showing restrooms and medical tents

“Even if it’s just a very small minority of people that go to Burning Man with a visual disability,” she said this week, “I wanted to have something available to them, to have access to information, to make Burning Man Accessible.” Julie plans to drop off one map at Playa Information Services at Center Camp, and says she will have another one with her at camp Love Potion, located at 7:30 and G, for anyone who’d like to check it out. If you’d like to get your own, email ais@lighthouse-sf.org as soon as possible.

Passing the map around the office, perhaps it shouldn’t surprise that the blind and partially sighted employees responded with particular enthusiasm. Those who couldn’t be bothered to think about the event before were suddenly brimming with curiosity. When asked to assess the map and proof for errors, our braille specialist Frank Welte suddenly found himself intrigued, running his hands over the book, becoming familiar with its stations and roads, and studying the various POI’s studded throughout the pleasingly symmetrical desert settlement. He’d never been to Burning Man, but the map was a small revelation. Julie watched with satisfaction as his interest piqued: “He had so many questions for me, He said ‘I never really wanted to go, but now I kind of do, I want to go see this art, experience this place’.”

We’re looking for blind burners! If you’re headed to the playa next week, please email wbutler@lighthouse-sf.org or ais@lighthouse-sf.org so that we can get a map in your hands.

If you’d like to inquire about tactile maps for your festival, venue, or area of interest, please email ais@lighthouse-sf.org or call 415-694-7349.