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Braille and Tactile Maps
Tactile maps can be obtained free of charge through the San Francisco LightHouse
The LightHouse provides free tactile street maps for California residents produced with the Smith-Kettlewell Tactile Maps Automated Production (TMAP) system.
One of the biggest challenges faced by blind travelers is obtaining a concept of their surroundings. Braille maps have been difficult to come by, being rare if not non-existent. Thanks to a partnership between the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute and the San Francisco LightHouse for the Blind, one can now obtain hard copy maps for any address in the United States.
The process is simple and to-the-point: Provide the LightHouse with a map address (and your contact and mailing information) and within about a week you’ll receive a Braille map representing one square mile of the area. The service is free to California residents, $15 for others.
A TMAP is an 11″ × 11.5″ map consisting of raised lines to indicate streets. Street labels appear in Braille and a Braille key comes with each map. Street names are labeled along the sides of the map and the map address is marked with a raised bump in the center.
Labeling of streets along the map perimeter reduces clutter, making it easier to read. A drawback is that short streets that do not reach the map edge are not labeled. Also, if the map is dense with closely packed streets some may lack labels. Changing the scale from the default 1/6000 (1 inch = 500 feet) to 1/4200 (1 inch = 350 feet) can often solve these problems.
TMAPs are a welcome option for obtaining Braille maps with useful information. They are definitely an aid for mobility instructors and professionals looking to convey map information. Travelers moving to a new area can easily learn their surroundings. Service providers and vendors can include a map to their location in brochures.
We look forward to further innovations from this project and appreciate the collaboration with Dr. Josh Miele, Associate Scientist at Smith-Kettlewell to bring accessible information to all.
Send TMAP inquiries to email@example.com or phone Frank Welte at 415-694-7363. Tell us how you, your students, or your colleagues used TMAP.
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