LightHouse Builds First UC Berkeley Campus Talking Tactile Map

Visitors and students unfamiliar with the campus at UC Berkeley may experience a bit of difficulty finding their way around the sprawling campus. But by getting their hands on a map and taking time to study it, they can learn the positions of buildings relative to each other, and determine how to get from one place to another. This way they build a “mental map” of the campus.

But for a student or visitor who is blind or has low vision, building that mental map, finding new classrooms each semester on a campus like UC Berkeley – with its non-linear paths of travel, and buildings with multiple entrances – can be daunting. Soon blind and low vision students and visitors to the UC Berkeley campus will be able to use special tactile maps of the campus that “talk”, thanks to the LightHouse.

“If you examine a map tactilely, it really becomes ingrained. It’s as though you’ve walked through the space.” –LightHouse CEO, Bryan Bashin

LightHouse Access to Information Services specializes in conveying “visual” information tactilely, producing braille maps of outdoor and indoor public spaces; college, hospital and corporate campuses; and transit systems. With UC Berkeley we’re taking it one step further, making maps of the campus that are not only tactile, but also large-print, and with an audio component accessible through a Livescribe Smartpen.

When a user taps a feature on a map with a Livescribe Smartpen (basically a slim computer with a tiny camera that can read the underlying micro-dot pattern) a richly detailed audio commentary on each location, including nearby landscape features and assets, pours into the user’s ear. The multiple ways this information is presented help students and visitors tailor their study of the maps to their own individual needs and skill levels; for example, breaking the material into chunks for better retention or working from simple to complex.

UC Berkeley will be making these maps available through their Disabled Students Program in the near future. The LightHouse is also engaged in similar projects including the Stanford campus and San Francisco State, as well as for BART and SF Muni Metro. Contact us about creating a map for your transit system, campus, or building today.

To learn more, visit our braille and tactile maps web page, or contact Greg Kehret to discuss how the LightHouse can help you provide meaningful access to your site. He can be reached at 415-694-7349 or