Tag Archive

TMAP

Behind the Map: Starting over in a new city

In January, LightHouse started offering TMAP — on-demand tactile street maps — for order at our Adaptations Store (1-888-400-8933). We have been hearing some amazing stories about how our maps are being used, so we wanted to share them with our mapping community.

One month ago, Lia Jacobsen sat on a plane, nervous. She was moving to Ann Arbor, Michigan after living in Washington D.C. for 10 years. The prospect of learning a new city after all that time was, admittedly, a bit daunting.

On the tray table in front of her lay two TMAPs: one detailing the area around her new home in Ann Arbor, and another of the streets around the University of Michigan School of Social Work, where she was beginning a masters degree. Leah traced her hands along the raised lines of the map, determined to memorize the criss-crossing, partial grid system of her new town. She reviewed the braille street names using each map key, learning the quarter-mile radius map first, then working her way out to the more dense and complex 1.5-miles radius map.

The flight attendant paused at Lia’s row, and politely asked: “Excuse me, ma’am, would you like me to turn your light on?” The question struck Lia as a bit absurd. Why would a person need light to read a raised-line tactile map? She tried to be polite but some snark crept into her voice as she expressed her confusion. It wasn’t until this moment that she discovered that the maps were more than just embossed paper: the streets were printed in ink, as well.

A TMAP of the University of Michigan.
Image: A TMAP of the University of Michigan.

The humor of the situation helped dispel some of her nerves, and since arriving in Ann Arbor and completing several weeks of classes, Lia pretty much knows the lay of the land.  

“My TMAPs were hugely helpful because when I landed I already felt like I knew where I was,” she says. “It automatically made me feel much more comfortable because I knew what I was passing.”

On her first day on campus she caught a group of lost undergrads off-guard when she interjected and gave them directions to their building.  

“It’s about being more equal and having the freedom not to rely on other people,” she says. “I tend to explore no matter what, but it gives me a foundation and a starting point so I don’t feel totally lost. Feeling lost makes you just want to go home.”

Lia wishes she had had access to TMAP throughout her many years working on the Obama campaign, traveling far and wide as a member of the Peace Corps, traveling alone in Colombia, or as a kid growing up in Florida.  

“I never had tactile maps growing up,” she says. “My first time having a sort of tactile map, my O&M teacher took a piece of felt and put some velcro beads on it and made a makeshift map.”

She expects to use TMAPs much more as she pursues her masters in social work and hopefully heads back to D.C. to become a victim advocate for the FBI.

“I definitely plan on purchasing more TMAPs whenever I move next time and have been spreading the word about how much I love the TMAPs to all of my friends who are blind,” she says. “The task of learning a new community after being in the same place for a decade was daunting, and the maps I purchased were enormously helpful in my feeling oriented from day one.”

Get your TMAP today

To order a map, call our product specialists at 1-888-400-8933 and specify the street address of the map you’re interested in receiving. Within two business days we’ll ship you your map, or make it available for pick up at the Adaptations Store (1155 Market St., 10th Floor, San Francisco, CA).

What’s in the package?

  • You will receive 3 map versions printed at simple, moderate and dense map scale ratios
  • A tactile map key
  • An introductory page
  • All materials are printed on 11” X 11.5” sheets of embossed paper and include ink / large print labels in addition to braille

Learn more about the MAD Lab where these maps are produced.

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Behind the Map: Why a GPS pioneer still uses paper

In January, LightHouse started offering TMAP — on-demand tactile street maps — for order at our Adaptations Store (1-888-400-8933). We have been hearing some amazing stories about how our maps are being used, so we wanted to share them with our mapping community.

Mike May knows a bit about maps. He founded the company that launched the first accessible GPS, Sendero Group, and since 1999, Mike has introduced the world to a variety of talking map softwares, transforming and shaping the way blind people travel.

But despite his love for technology, if you step into Mike’s home or office, you’ll find the tables adorned with what may seem to be a vestige of the past: paper maps.

“The GPS is great in terms of volume, and numbers of points of interest and streets and all of that, but if you want to have a picturea tactile, geographic way of understanding streetsthen there’s nothing better than a tactile representation,” Mike says.

Mike’s a firm believer that hard-copy maps still meet a crucial need for non-visual learners that is currently not being met elsewhere.

The current iteration of TMAP differs from when he first encountered the beta version years ago in form and in scope, but he said that its application serves a critical, universal need: to orient by communicating a physical, material sense of space.

“The value of tactile maps is something that’s been around forever,” he says. “The ability to deliver those maps to people nationwide in a cost-effective manner is really the key.”

Mike has been blind since age 3, and has been involved with the LightHouse since age 7, when he went to camp at Enchanted Hills. In the 1980s, he was on the LightHouse board, and today lives in Wichita, Kansas where he serves as executive director of the Workforce Innovation Center at Envision.

When Mike moved to Wichita from the Bay Area earlier this year, he turned to the LightHouse’s made-to-order TMAPs.

“I needed to learn at least two things: one is my work location, and my home location,” he says. “I called up and I ordered maps for both spots, got a nice clean package, and now I have those available at my house. And I have the work ones available not only for me…we have lots of blind people, just like the LightHouse, that can take advantage of it here, so those maps sit in our reception area for anybody to browse.”

Mike said that he thinks the future of TMAP could include tech integration with the current physical form. As it exists now, he said that TMAP is both a unique and critical tool. “I think it’s a very undiscovered capability, and I applaud the LightHouse for making it available,” he says.

Get your TMAP today

To order a map, call our product specialists at 1-888-400-8933 and specify the street address of the map you’re interested in receiving. Within two business days we’ll ship you your map, or make it available for pick up at the Adaptations Store (1155 Market St., 10th Floor, San Francisco, CA).

What’s in the package?

  • You will receive 3 map versions printed at simple, moderate and dense map scale ratios
  • A tactile map key
  • An introductory page
  • All materials are printed on 11” X 11.5” sheets of embossed paper and include ink / large print labels in addition to braille

Learn more about the MAD Lab where these maps are produced.

Love Maps? Sign up for our new ‘Map Love’ newsletter

* indicates required


Behind the Map: A midwesterner meets Market Street

In January, LightHouse started offering TMAP — on-demand tactile street maps — for order at our Adaptations Store (1-888-400-8933). We have been hearing some amazing stories about how our maps are being used, so we wanted to share them with our mapping community. Order yours today by calling 1-888-400-8933.

When Sheri Wells-Jensen was a child, she got one book per week. That was how it worked, for a blind kid – a braille reader – who relied on braille lending libraries. Each week, Sheri would bound out of her front door, crashing through her front yard and into the mailman’s truck, to get her hands on one new book. Now a linguistics professor at Bowling Green State University, access to language and information has become a passion of Sheri’s, as well as other cool things like aliens and ukuleles.

A portrait shot of Sheri Wells-Jensen.She also loves exploring cities. Depending on how you see it, Market Street in San Francisco can feel like a boulevard of first-world efficiency or a medieval circus. At times, it feels like both at once. This wild, eclectic fusion can be intimidating for some, but this crazy hubbub is what Sheri loves most about visiting the city by the bay. On a recent trip, we had the pleasure of printing out her first-ever TMAP.

It was right before she was taking off to catch the bus back to her hotel. The bus stop was a few blocks away and Sheri, her own most cheerful but fierce advocate, exclaimed when we told her we had a tool to help her learn the neighborhood in just a few minutes – and that it was something she could bring with her, should she get lost or just want to explore.

image 1: A TMAP of the neighborhood around 1155 Market Street, marked by large print labelsimage 2: a TMAP of the neighborhood around 1155 Market Street, marked by braille labels

“Having an accurate,accessible,hard copy map to explore saves endless frustration,” Sheri says. “It changes the rules of the game: without the map, I get directions and learn a route, hoping to fill in details later on. With the map, I learn the neighborhood and then decide how I want to get to my destination.”

Holding her TMAP in front of her, pressed against her torso as she inspected the braille labels and learned the many swerving diagonals of the area, it was impossible not to feel the infectious sense of  satisfaction that comes from unlocking so much knowledge with such ease – especially for a kid who grew up on only one book at a time.

As Sheri sees it, maps and tactile aids are a crucial tool for anyone who needs access to information. And when she wants to learn an area, she thinks it’s better than talking. “I basically have two choices,” she explains. “I can sit some poor unsuspecting fellow down and grill him relentlessly about every intersection and every street name (most of which he won’t remember) – or – with a map in my hands, I can transfer the whole picture of the area straight into my head, thereby saving time and preserving my friendships.”

You can listen to Sheri talk about braille love letters and why braille is worth fighting for in a recent episode of The World in Words on PRI, entitled “Will blind people use Braille in the future?”.

Get your TMAP today

To order a map, call our product specialists at 1-888-400-8933 and specify the street address of the map you’re interested in receiving. Within two business days we’ll ship you your map, or make it available for pick up at the Adaptations Store (1155 Market St., 10th Floor, San Francisco, CA). Each TMAP package is $19.99 per address.

What’s in the package?

  • You will receive 3 map versions printed at simple, moderate and dense map scale ratios
  • A tactile map key
  • An introductory page
  • All materials are printed on 11” X 11.5” sheets of embossed paper and include ink / large print labels in addition to braille

Click here to learn more more about TMAP.

Love maps? Sign up for our new ‘Map Love’ newsletter!

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Behind the Map: This O&M Instructor uses TMAP to demystify the streets of Vacaville

In January, LightHouse started offering TMAP — on-demand tactile street maps — for order at our Adaptations Store (1-888-400-8933). We have been hearing some amazing stories about how our maps are being used, so we wanted to share them with our mapping community.

Sarah McIntyre has fond childhood memories of San Francisco. These trips were all defined by one nostalgic artifact: a giant, foldable street map from AAA. “My mother taught me to read maps,” Sarah says. “She was always the navigator.” And though most families now navigate with digital maps, Sarah fondly remembers the hard copies: well-loved, frayed on the edges, markings revealing every adventure past and future.

Today Sarah is an orientation and mobility instructor at LightHouse, and when she teaches blind students, she stresses this point: navigating by smartphone works until it doesn’t — until you’re out of service, or the environment is so loud that the speech from your phone is too hard to hear. Even with endless technology at our fingertips, there’s no match for a real map.

This is why, when our Media and Accessible Design (MAD) Lab started creating automated tactile maps (TMAPs) this year, Sarah immediately adopted the on-demand maps as a learning tool for her students.

Working out of Solano County, Sarah finds that towns like Vacaville – where car culture reigns supreme – can be hard for pedestrians to picture in the mind.

Map segment depicting a point of interest on a loop with multiple cross-streets
Map segment depicting a point of interest on a loop with multiple cross-streets

Sarah recently used TMAP to confront just this sort of dilemma with a student living on a street that was a circular loop – but not a perfect circle. Using words to explain the tricky extra turn to lead the student back to her doorstep was proving too difficult. New to America, the student had only been in the United States for three years, and mobility was a challenge. It would be a crucial step forward for her to master her home neighborhood.

Normally, Sarah would have confronted this challenge by taking out her DIY mapping kit: a roll of heavy duty aluminum foil, various hand embossers and loose Wikki Stix, among other odds and ends. But hand-crafting a tactile diagram is a big effort to explain one confusing intersection. With TMAP, Sarah had a touchable diagram of the strange circular block printed immediately.

Another student had Sarah print his first TMAP of the area around Gold’s Gym in downtown Vacaville. As luck would have it, the gym turned out to be smack dab in the middle of downtown, which meant that this map would be a particularly good one; useful for finding more than just the gym.

Sarah and her student headed downtown with the map, starting from the center and getting to know the outlying streets –– turning the map with each turn of the corner to navigate methodically, non-visually, through Vacaville’s old town center.

A map depicting many streets in the downtown grid of Vacaville, centering around 201 Main Street.
A map depicting many streets in the downtown grid of Vacaville, centering around 201 Main Street.

For her student, Sarah says, the map was a revelation. “He didn’t know how to read a map visually, let alone non-visually,” she points out. “That’s a huge emotional thing for people, to actually gain a new skill that you thought required eyesight.” Now, she says, he is talking about traveling for work and getting to know new cities with a new level of confidence.

Teaching her students to use the map key has also been a huge boost for their mobility. Not only does each TMAP come with a prominent compass rose, but the key lists the running direction (e.g. North-South or East-West) of each street – all in large print and braille.

“I love braille,” says Sarah. Usually when someone who isn’t blind professes such a thing, they’re not actually familiar with the writing system, or at best, a romantic. But Sarah is serious. “Audio is very linear, and you need the ability to stop moving forward, to control the pace you’re reading at and backtrack fluidly and with braille you have that option. Braille works the same way vision does in that sense.”

Sarah tells her students they don’t need to know braille in order to benefit from the TMAPs, but it’s sure a valuable skill to develop.

Get your TMAP today

To order a map, call our product specialists at 1-888-400-8933 and specify the street address of the map you’re interested in receiving. Within two business days we’ll ship you your map, or make it available for pick up at the Adaptations Store (1155 Market St., 10th Floor, San Francisco, CA). Each TMAP package is $19.99 per address.

What’s in the package?

  • You will receive 3 map versions printed at simple, moderate and dense map scale ratios
  • A tactile map key
  • An introductory page
  • All materials are printed on 11” X 11.5” sheets of embossed paper and include ink / large print labels in addition to braille

Click here to learn more more about TMAP.

Love Maps? Sign up for our Map Love newsletter!

* indicates required


Ten things to know about tactile graphics

Here at the LightHouse, we’re determined to be at the forefront of tactile innovation, education and literacy. Thanks to the work of our Media and Accessible Design Lab (MAD Lab), we’re constantly generating new methods of conveying visual information in accessible and thoughtful ways, and working with organizations all over the world as consultants and educators. Just this month, we presented during San Francisco Design Week to a group of more than 40 designers from various industries about the value of tactile literacy. The follow tips are a great starter kit to understand the importance of accessible print design and way to approach its design:

Tactile graphics convey non-textual information to people who are blind or have low vision. These may include tactile representations of pictures, maps, graphs, diagrams and other images. A person who is blind can feel these raised lines and surfaces in order to obtain the same information that people who are sighted get through looking at pictures or other visual images.

  1. Developmentally, touch begins at birth whether sighted, visually impaired, or blind. Even sighted infants have low vision, so tactile stimuli is a huge part of early development.
  2. Tactile Graphics are vital to inclusion in education, employment, transit, and many other areas. As a highly visual society, we often convey useful and educational information visually. People who don’t have access to visual cues because of blindness get excluded from educational, practical and recreational information. It’s crucial to provide children accessible versions of visual information at the same time as their sighted peers.
  3. To interpret and understand a tactile graphic, the reader must have some experience with the object or concept being pictured. Background information and context are key. Take a map of a bus stop as an example — to interpret it you’d need to know enough about buses to know that they travel along streets. Building on an existing knowledge of a space or topic, a key identifies symbols or labels. Symbols and braille abbreviations are crucial when designing a tactile graphics, because they simplify information and make landmarks easy to identify and differentiate.
  4. Build on students’ own experiential knowledge and concrete understanding. Beginner tactile learners benefit from exposure to maps of a place they know well, like their bedroom, so they can make connections between their mental map and the physical space that the map represents. If you know it’s ten feet to the door from your bed, you’ll have a better sense of the relationship between the bed to door when observing a tactile representation.
  5. The key word of tactile graphics is simplify, simplify, simplify! When designing a tactile map, we always identify the most essential parts of the information being conveyed. We ask, “What are the essentials of moving through this space?” On a TMAP (the simplest of our maps) we don’t include buildings because they create clutter, and make the maps harder to decipher.
  6. There is more to making a graphic tactile than raising lines and adding braille labels. You can’t just raise the lines on a map as is — you have to leave white space, room for braille labels, create space, find the essentials, make sure the relationships between points of interest are preserved, and select the most important points to include. Again, simplify! Our maps may not be to scale, but we’re sure to preserve the necessary relationships between landmarks.
  7. Not everything that appears as a visual graphic needs to be a tactile graphic. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, and sometimes the words are worth the words. Ask yourself, “What is the most useful way of conveying information?” Sometimes a sentence or a 3D object representation would be a more effective means of communicating information. It depends on the audience, their skill-level and what you’re trying to convey. If an object is too small, too large, too dangerous, then make a tactile graphic — but if you’re trying to show someone what a pine cone is, then bring them a pine cone.
  8. Reading and understanding tactile graphics is not as easy as it may look; do everything you can to make it easier. Reading tactile graphics is not an inborn skill, it’s a skill that needs to practiced. You can run your hands across lines and get nothing out of it if you haven’t been taught how to interpret that information. Tactile literacy comes with education, simplification and builds on existing knowledge. It’s not easy — but with some research designers and educators can make it easier on blind and low vision students.
  9. With good tactile graphics, great results are possible. With a good tactile graphic, a blind person can lead a sighted person around a space!xfst
  10.  There are resources available! You don’t have to do this alone.

To learn more about tactile graphics, get in touch with the LightHouse Media and Accessible Design Laboratory (MAD Lab).

The LightHouse MAD Lab is comprised of a team of designers and consultants specializing in braille, tactile maps, accessible venues and alternative media of many formats. They’ll help you go beyond baseline ADA compliance to contextualize and innovate within the scope of your project.

LightHouse is featured in the Cooper Hewitt Museum’s new exhibition, The Senses: Design Beyond Vision

This month, The Senses: Design Beyond Vision launches at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York, to explore how multi-sensory design amplifies everyone’s ability to learn, explore and satisfy essential human needs and experiences.

The exhibition, which runs from 13 April until 28 October, explores design through all the senses with interactive installations, created in collaboration with more than 65 contemporary designers in the fields of product, interior, graphic, and interaction design, data visualization, scent design.

Many of the designs were created to promote independence for people with disabilities. The diverse lineup includes several designs by the LightHouse’s MAD Lab including TMAPs of the area surrounding the Cooper Hewitt Museum, our Talking BART Maps and two DCS printed floor plans of LightHouse to showcase how tactile design contributed to Chris Downey’s architectural process.

The exhibition was organized by Andrea Lipps, Cooper Hewitt’s Assistant Curator of Contemporary Design, and Ellen Lupton, Cooper Hewitt’s Senior Curator of Contemporary Design around several key concepts:

  • Design is multisensory, engaging the whole body
  • Senses interact and transform each other
  • Materials have sound, temperature, weight, and other tactile qualities
  • Sound is a vibration that can be felt on the body and skin and trigger mental images
  • Language and past experiences influence perception making each person’s sensory experience unique

“Across all industries and disciplines, designers are avidly seeking ways to stimulate our sensory responses to solve problems of access and enrich our interactions with the world,” says Cooper Hewitt’s Director Caroline Baumann. “The Senses shares their discoveries and invites personal revelation of the extraordinary capacity of the senses to inform and delight.

“Within the inclusive environment created for the exhibition, there will be over 40 touchable objects, as well as services, such as audio and visual descriptions of the works on view, to ensure the exhibition will be welcoming to visitors of all abilities, an important step forward in our ongoing commitment to making Cooper Hewitt accessible to everyone.”

The Senses: Design Beyond Vision will launch at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York on 13 April and run until 28 October 2018.

To contract for custom tactile maps of your neighborhood, workplace or university or propose a project, visit http://lighthouse-sf.org/braille-and-accessible-design/.

TMAP 2.0: Seeking a Web Developer Who Loves Maps

In 2006, we set an ambitious goal: to make on-demand, user-centered tactile maps for blind pedestrians and connoisseurs of the environment. The LightHouse and Smith-Kettlewell Institute joined forces to start TMAP (Tactile Map Automated Production), a way to make tactile street maps readily available to blind pedestrians for the places they cared about most

Ten years later, we now have the resources to reinvigorate the TMAP project at LightHouse. In an ongoing partnership with SKI, we are beginning work on TMAP2.0 – the next generation of digital tools for producing high-quality tactile street maps to help people with visual disabilities navigate new neighborhoods. We are interested in discussing this project with developers who have strong skills and experience in developing apps and web sites that use digital maps and geographical data. If you are such a developer, or if you are interested in learning more about this unique project, please contact Scott Blanks at sblanks@lighthouse-sf.org.