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MAD Lab

TMAP Printing Instructions

When you download your TMAP, you will find a ZIP file with a PDF and 4 (or more) SVG files. The SVG files are Tactile Map page, Print Map page, Tactile Legend page(s), Print Legend page(s). The PDF combines these SVGs to print on our embossers. TMAP files are designed to print on ViewPlus embossers, however they can also be printed on capsule paper (or Swell, PIAF, Zychem), or on Index. Results may vary.

TMAP files are intended for 2-in-1 printing, creating an embossed and ink-print document on a ViewPlus (or Tiger) embosser. ViewPlus embossers may incorrectly print braille from PDFs. To mitigate possible braille errors, complete the steps outlined below. This creates an additional PDF with fonts unembedded, filename ending with “_VP”, ready to emboss. (Please note, this step is only for embossing to ViewPlus, and is not necessary for Swell or capsule paper.)

  1. Download the PDF Unembed Fonts tool from the ViewPlus Downloads page (for Windows only).
  2. Run PDF Unembed Fonts (see sections below: with a mouse or in command line)
  3. Open the PDF with _VP in Adobe Acrobat or Reader. Send to printer. In print settings:
    • Check the Tiger tab to optimize results. Printing “draft” quality is not recommended. On VP Columbia/Delta, Graphics Quality: Best.
    • Check that the paper size matches your TMAP file paper size.
    • Check that the paper orientation matches your embosser output.
  4. Important! If printing tactile-only (NOT using 2-in-1 printing), send odd-numbered pages only (1, 3, etc.).
  5. Print.

Running PDF Unembed Fonts with a Mouse

  1. Create a shortcut to the Unembed program on your desktop.
  2. Drag the PDF on top of the Unembed shortcut icon or browse to the file from the Unembed Fonts tool. This will create a new file with _VP at the end in the original folder.

Running PDFUnembedfonts in Command Line

  1. To ensure the shortest file path, after extracting it is recommended to copy the entire PDFUnembedFonts folder to the root of your C drive (or an external drive). For economy of file path it is further recommended that the PDF also reside in this folder.
  2. From the start menu, Search programs and files, type cmd. Hit Enter.
  3. To point it to the specific directory type cd space c:\pdfunembedfonts
  4. Now to actually run the script on your PDF type pdfunembedfonts space .\filename.pdf. Hit Enter.
  5. If all went well c:\pdfunembedfonts should now contain a version of your PDF, the file name appended with _VP

Though TMAP file can be printed on capsule paper, the braille font is not optimized for this method, and results may vary.

  1. Open the PDF (Adobe recommended). Send to printer. In print settings:
    • Check that the paper size matches your TMAP file paper size.
    • Check that the paper orientation matches your printer output.
    • Print at 100% or Actual Size. Do not “fit” or “shrink to fit”.
  2. Choose braille or large print map:
    • For a map with braille text, send odd-numbered pages only (1, 3, etc.).
    • For a map with large print text, send even-numbered pages only (2, 4, etc.).
  3. Print.

Related Pages: TMAP Main page, Frequently Asked Questions, How to Use TMAP to Make Maps, Reading Tactile Maps, Learn more about TMAP

How to Make a Map Using TMAP

TMAP generates files of tactile street maps, which can be printed with an embosser or on microcapsule paper (either with a PIAF or Swell machine).

TMAP is optimized for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.

Overview

Steps to producing a tactile street map:

  1. Search an address, intersection, or landmark.
    • If search results are ambiguous, choose between several options or search again.
  2. Create the map. Confirm the map address and choose map settings and features.
  3. Download or email the map file.
  4. Emboss or print the map using a ViewPlus (also called Tiger) embosser or Swellform machine, PIAF, Microcapsule paper. Printing Instructions. Or you can contact Adaptations to print and ship the map.

Step by Step Instructions

1. Search Page, where you search for an address

Starting on the Search Page where it says “Welcome to TMAP”, enter an address, landmark, or intersection into the search bar. This search uses Google maps information, so if Google maps recognizes your search query, TMAP will too. This means you can enter names like “Civic Center BART Station”. You can also enter an address, city, and state, omitting the zip code. You can also enter a street address and zip code only, without city or state. Click the Search button.

2. Map Preview Page, where you create a map

You should find yourself on a map preview page showing the address, features and settings options, and a visual map preview. If you do not get the result you were hoping for, search for a new address from the search bar or click on the TMAP logo to go back to the main search page.

2a. Map Preview Page: confirm map address

Check that your map is of the correct location. After the search bar reads “Create map for” followed by the address TMAP found from your search. Is this address correct?

If this address is not what you expected or does not match the address you think you searched, check spelling or try omitting apartment numbers. If you enter an address that Google is unsure of, or is ambiguous, like “Main Street”, TMAP will give you a list of options, showing you a preview of maps of various Main Streets in different cities. Select one of the options, if any are correct, or add city name or zip code for better results.

If you want to make a map of this address, you can continue on to choose settings and add features to your map.

2b. Map Preview Page: settings

Once you have confirmed the map address, choose your preferred paper size, map scale, and distance units.

  • Paper size depends on your printer or embosser, and amount of information you want to show on the page.
  • Map scale is how zoomed in or out you want to be, how much information you want to show on the page, or how dense you want the map to be.
  • Distance units is feet or meters.
  • The default settings are 11.5 x 11-inch paper (standard braille paper size), 1:5000 scale (or about ¼ mile on braille paper), and miles.

2c. Map Preview Page: features

Now comes the fun part where you get to add features to the map. You have the option to include streets, paths, service roads, and railways. (Buildings are currently unavailable, but will be back soon.) We have tried to match the look and content of the map preview to the TMAP output, but occasionally you will notice differences, especially around railways that go underground. Some things to know about features:

  • By default, streets are checked.
  • Checking or unchecking these buttons will not change the map preview.
  • On the map preview, the thicker solid lines are streets, thinner solid lines are service roads, dotted red lines are paths, and dashed lines are railways.
  • All of the data we use to generate map is from OpenStreetMap, an editable, opensource map of the world created by volunteer mapmakers. If someone has not yet mapped the path by your house, it will not show up on TMAP. If you notice something important missing (like your favorite walking trail), please contact us and we will try to add it in to OpenStreetMap.
  • We do not recommend checking all the boxes for every map. Though this may be tempting, it will create a very cluttered and potentially illegible reading experience.
  • For zoomed in map, it’s ok to include paths, service roads, and railways.
  • Service roads are things like alleys, bus lanes, and main routes through parking lots (we have omitted smaller parking lot aisles to eliminate clutter). If these are significant to the reading of your map, then include them. If not, it’s best to omit them.
  • We recommend caution when selecting railways and paths on maps covering large areas since they can blend in and overlap too much with streets, but the density of your map varies based on location, so experiment and play around with it.

2d. Map Preview: pan

By default, the address you searched is in the center of the map preview box. If using a mouse, you can pan to the area you want to print by clicking, holding, and moving any part of the map. If you drag your address outside of the map preview, the center locator dot will no longer appear on your printed map, though the map will still be titled with your searched address.

2e. Map Preview: zoom

If you change map scale from the dropdown above the map, the preview automatically zooms in or out. You can also click on the plus and minus buttons at the top right corner of the map preview.

2f. Create Map

Once you have chosen a paper size, map scale, distance units, and map features, click the Create Map button. This will bring you to the File Preview page where you can download or email the map file.

3. File Preview and Download

On the File Preview and Download page, you have another chance to confirm your map choices. This page reads “Download map for” and lists the address TMAP found from your search. There is also a visual preview of the generated file, showing the print version of the map with streets, street name abbreviations, and any features you selected that appear on the map.

If you aren’t happy with the file preview, you can navigate back to the previous page to edit your selections. If you click the back button on your browser, all settings except map features will be saved (except on Safari, you lucky mapmaker).

If you are happy with the file preview, you can click Download or Email. Emailing the file simply sends the TMAP files to the email address you’ve entered. It will come from tmaps@lighthouse-sf.info When you download your TMAP, you will find a ZIP file containing a PDF and 4 (or more) SVG files. The SVG files are Tactile Map page, Print Map page, Tactile Legend page(s), Print Legend page(s). The PDF combines these SVGs to print on our embossers.

4. Print or Emboss

Now print your map! See Printing Instructions

Having trouble? Check our Frequently Asked Questions or enter a Bug Report. Check out our recent presentation (demonstration at 17:55).

Order TMAPs from Adaptations.org

Related Pages: TMAP main pageHow to Use TMAP to Make Maps, Reading Tactile Maps, Download Introduction to TMAP page, Learn more about TMAP

About TMAP

How can someone without eyesight learn a city block or navigate a new neighborhood? In 2018, the LightHouse of the Blind and Visually Impaired – SF introduced TMAP: Tactile Maps Automated Production, offering on-demand tactile street maps.

Covering an area of several blocks surrounding a given address, TMAP uses both braille and large print to identify streets, represented by crisp, raised lines that can be easily followed with the fingertips.

TMAP is a collaboration of the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute.

Side by side key and tactile map of 1155 Market Street showing braille and print text, tactile and ink street lines.
TMAP of the LightHouse Building location in San Francisco, CA.

Order a map for $25

To order a map, call our product specialists at 1-888-400-8933 or or visit adaptations.org and specify the street address of the map you’re interested in receiving. Within two business days we’ll ship you your map.

What’s in the package?

  • You will receive two maps of the same address, a zoomed-out overview map, and a zoomed-in detail map showing streets, paths, and buildings, if the data is available
  • A tactile map key
  • An introductory page (download intro 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.

Contact

Recent Presentations: At Home With APH: TMAP – Building Environmental Literacy at a DistanceMobility Matters 2020 Slides, Mobility Matters 2020 Video Presentation

Related Blog Posts: Maps, at your Fingertips, New local tactile maps at Adaptations

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Maps for the blind: How the MAD Lab is challenging designers’ hyper-visual assumptions

Maps for the blind: How the MAD Lab is challenging designers’ hyper-visual assumptions

For the experienced blind traveler, obstacle avoidance is not the overwhelming part—that’s why we have canes, dog guide and blindness skills. The challenging part is getting familiar with the lay of the land in order to make the spontaneous choices of everyday life, like which quirky cafe to duck into or how to get to the canal everyone keeps telling you to wander along.

And if you’re a sighted traveler, it’s easy to take mapping tools for granted with GPS apps at your fingers. Most people don’t realize that blind people don’t have easy access to non-visual or ‘tactile’ maps. (You might be asking: what’s a tactile map? It’s pretty simple—it’s a map with raised lines and braille markers that you can feel.)

That’s why the LightHouse Media and Accessible Design Lab hosted a Maptime SF/Oakland meetup last month: to teach multidisciplinary designers about accessible methods to use when creating maps and encourage them to incorporate tactile information into their work.

Attendees came from a wide swath of industries and design disciplines. The MAD Lab team hosted designers from Apple, architects from Arup, graphic designers, transportation specialists, programmers, students in interactive design, occupational therapists, special ed teachers, ocean mapping specialists, and highly skilled cartographers.

After comparing and contrasting examples of different design methods and discussing their effectiveness, Maptimers used these precepts to make their own maps. The group also discussed Tactile Maps Automated Production, and how this automated mapping system is a game changer for tactile map production.

“There’s such a lack of tactile graphics in the world,” says MAD Lab Senior Designer Naomi Rosenberg. “The only way to increase tactile graphic production is to teach more people how to incorporate tactile information into their designs. Sharing our expertise in tactile graphics empowers specialists in other fields to step outside of their normal design process, and design better for their audience and underrepresented audiences.”

Photos from the workshop

Take a little tour of their design process below. And if you’re sighted, next time you walk down the street or hop on Google maps, start to consider the lack of non-visual information that is available to tell you how to get around. If you’re a designer, it might just change how you approach your own designs.

Workshops like this support the MAD Lab’s goal of making visual information accessible to people who are blind and visually impaired. Ready to get your hands on your own tactile map? We can quickly create an inexpensive personalized map for you centered on a square mile anywhere in the US – visit or call the Adaptations Store to order! Stop by  at 1155 Market St. or give our specialists a call at 1-888-400-8933.

Braille Mail: Get Your Tactile V-Day Cards at the Adaptations Store

Braille Mail: Get Your Tactile V-Day Cards at the Adaptations Store

This Valentine’s Day, give your loved one real feels with our new line of fun, touchable greeting cards. Our Adaptations Store is offering three designs, each with ink-print, tactile and braille designs on a white background.

  • Individual cards are $6, or you can purchase four for $20.
  • All cards come with an envelope.
  • All front covers of the greeting cards feature a combination of ink print and tactile graphic design.
  • The Adaptations Store and the MAD Lab will continue working together to design fun and creative accessible greeting cards that appeal to a wide audience, for all occasions.
  • We will roll out cards all-year-round. Keep posted for birthday, thank you, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day!
  • If you have suggestions for types of cards to sell for upcoming holidays, please email adaptations@lighthouse-sf.org.
A white greeting card features a 4 X 3 grid of ink-print and braille patterned and multicolored hearts.
A white greeting card features a 4 X 3 grid of ink-print and braille patterned and multicolored hearts. The inside of the card reads “Happy Valentine’s Day!” in red large-print and braille.
The inside of the card reads "Happy Valentine's Day!" in red large-print and braille.
An ink-print and tactile graphic of a tic-tac-toe board with a heart in the center, on a white greeting card. The inside of the card reads “Happy Valentine’s Day!” in red large-print and braille.
Red ink-print and braille X's and O's form the shape of one large heart on a white greeting card. The inside of the card is blank.
Red ink-print and braille X’s and O’s form the shape of one large heart on a white greeting card. The inside of the card is blank.
The inside of the card reads "Happy Valentine's Day!" in red large-print and braille.
The inside of the card reads “Happy Valentine’s Day!” in red large-print and braille.

 

Adaptations is the only place in Northern California with a comprehensive offering of tools, technology, and other solutions for blind and visually impaired people. The store is located at our San Francisco headquarters at 1155 Market Street, on the 10th floor. Store hours are Monday through Friday, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. We are also open on the second Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Although we do not take online orders at the current time, we encourage you to call our staff at 1-888-400-8933 to inquire about item pick up or mail orders or email our store staff at adaptations@lighthouse-sf.org.

Blind Students: Learn to Code with Swift Playgrounds Tactile Puzzle Worlds

Blind Students: Learn to Code with Swift Playgrounds Tactile Puzzle Worlds

Today San Francisco’s LightHouse for the Blind announced a collaboration with Apple to make learning to code more accessible to students who are blind or have low vision. LightHouse’s Media and Accessible Design Lab (MAD Lab) has created Swift Playgrounds Tactile Puzzle Worlds compatible with Swift Playgrounds, a free, fun and accessible iPad app aimed at teaching students to code. The MAD Lab has designed 47 tactile layouts corresponding with the 3D puzzle worlds found in Learn to Code 1. 

These tactile graphics enable students to better orient and navigate their way through Swift Playgrounds by touch. The materials supplement the accessible in-app coding experience, and include Unified English Braille (UEB) and large print text, with high-contrast and embossed tactile graphics in order to be universally accessible. The collaboration is all part of Apple’s Everyone Can Code program, an accessible curricula aimed at bringing coding into more classrooms.

“I’m not going to be one of those people who’s being told ‘No, you can’t do this because you’re blind,’” says Darren, who was an early blind user of Swift Playgrounds.

Darren, a senior at Texas School for the Blind in Austin, learned about Swift Playgrounds at Coding Club, an evening program facilitated by his school. TSBVI was one of the first schools to begin offering the Apple coding program to students. It was a fortunate discovery for him — especially in a world that often assumes a blind person can’t learn to code.

Darren first pursued his dream of learning to code at a public high school, but the online coding module used in his intro-level class was not accessible. As a result, the school offered him a cumbersome accommodation: the teacher assigned a fellow student to read Darren the lines of code and type his responses. For Darren this was a considerable barrier: not only did he not get hands-on experience, but he had to work at someone else’s pace.

“I think the teacher knew it was frustrating,” Darren says, “but he wasn’t entirely sure how else to make it accessible.”

When Darren first heard that the Swift Playgrounds app was accessible, he downloaded it onto a rented TSB iPad, eager to dig into a new world of coding. But as his new coding class started and he began to work his way through the “puzzle worlds” that make up the game’s levels, he felt he would benefit from also having tactile feedback.

iPad showing Swift Playgrounds app and accessible features.
iPad showing Swift Playgrounds app and accessible features.

“At first it was confusing because I didn’t know how the world looked,” he says, without a hint of irony. Thanks to Apple’s commitment to accessibility, Darren could use Swift Playgrounds with VoiceOver, Apple’s built-in screen reader, but he needed a way to explore and experiment in the 3D puzzle world – collecting gems, toggling switches – and in order to do that, he needed a mental map of the physical layout.

Enter the MAD Lab

Swift Playgrounds Tactile Graphic Visual Design

Meanwhile Apple was working on a solution – with help from the LightHouse’s Media and Accessible Design Lab.

Building off years of experience creating tactile maps of cities, universities and cultural landmarks for blind and low vision explorers, the MAD Lab is proud to present a new accessible media experience by designing a tactile experience that corresponds to a dynamic 3D puzzle world. Mapping the visual layouts of each puzzle world and enhancing them with cartographical elements to optimize for comprehension, the LightHouse is proud to partner with Apple to further the blindness community’s tech literacy, around the world.

Putting the tactile worlds to good use

Once the Texas School staff got their hands on the guides, everything changed for Darren. “We were creating graphics,” his teacher, Susan O’Brien says. “We had 3D printed some of the switches, the toggles, the portals, but then when we saw your maps, we were like ‘oh my gosh, this is so much better than what we’ve been doing.’”

Today, Darren uses the tactile layouts map to orient himself to the world, then he’ll talk through the commands, then go back onto the iPad and really start to do the coding. “We saw him develop a workflow,’ says O’Brien. “Finding that workflow that’s best just for you – that’s so crucial for everyone, blind or sighted.”

For Darren’s part, he’s now working his way through the game, twice as fast as before. “I’m extremely happy that I don’t have to rely on someone else to get the job done now.”

Downloads for students and educators

Teachers or organizations who have access to braille embossers can download the tactile graphics files to print themselves, or if an embosser is not available, can order beautifully printed, embossed and bound hard copies through the LightHouse’s Adaptations Store.

Swift Playgrounds is a revolutionary iPad app that makes learning programming language Swift interactive and fun. It requires no coding knowledge, so it’s perfect for students just starting out.

Download the Swift Playgrounds app for free app on the App Store

Download Swift Playgrounds Tactile Puzzle Worlds for free via Apple

Don’t have an embosser? Buy full-color or tactile-only editions at the LightHouse’s Adaptations Store (1-888-400-8933).

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.

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The Asian Art Museum opens a new accessible exhibit

The Asian Art Museum opens a new accessible exhibit

In a new exhibition of Indian art, San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum takes steps towards accessibility for blind and visually impaired patrons.

Closeup of a tactile version of The Hindu deity Kali, by Baua Devi, shows the deity's face in bright pinks, yellows and blacks with her tongue hanging out of her mouth.
Closeup of a tactile version of The Hindu deity Kali, by Baua Devi, shows the deity’s face in bright pinks, yellows and blacks with her tongue hanging out of her mouth.

On September 7, a new exhibition opens at the Asian Art Museum featuring 17 contemporary artists working in the Mithila style, a traditional style of women’s domestic decoration originating in the Indian subcontinent.

The exhibition, Painting Is My Everything: Art from India’s Mithila Region, includes three tactile renderings produced by the LightHouse’s MAD Lab and designed by Hong Kong-based social designer Rico Chan. The tactile renderings are displayed on kiosks throughout the exhibition, accompanied by braille labels and audio descriptions, which can be accessed through the museum’s app.

The temporary exhibition features 30 large scale contemporary works on paper from Bihar state, the subcontinent’s rural northeast. It is the first major exhibition in more than a decade to explore how this age-old tradition of women’s domestic decoration has become a vibrant arts movement with a surprising social impact. It is also the museum’s first foray into accessibility in the form of tactile translation, a method that they hope to fine-tune and experiment with in future exhibitions.

“We’ve been chomping at the bit to integrate more accessible accommodations and it was the exhibition that was coming up when everything fell into place,” says Director of Education and Interpretation at the museum, Deborah Clearwaters. “We want to be accessible to people of all abilities, and we know we have much more to do. This project is one experiment in bringing artworks to life for visitors who are blind or have low vision. We have more of an opportunity to try things in some of our changing galleries and these paintings really lend themselves to this approach because they’re very graphic and 2d in style.”

Mithila style painting is characterized by density of line and texture, strong figurative outlines of brush and ink, fine detailing and elaborate borders, and was originally practiced exclusively by women on the walls of their homes. The art form often depicts rituals or religious imagery, including scenes of weddings, flowers and animals as symbols of fecundity and depictions of Hindu god and goddesses. The style of painting is a catalyst of economic growth and social change in Mithila, and for many women, has translated into financial independence and community respect.

Women artists make up only 3 to 5% of major permanent collections in the U.S. and Europe, and in 590 major exhibitions by nearly 70 institutions in the U.S. from 2007 to 2013, only 27% were devoted to women artists. A further winnowing occurs for female Asian artists — so there’s a beautiful synchronicity, then, to making underrepresented work accessible to a group who has minimal access to visual art, even in the most established museums and galleries around the world.

“The Asian Art Museum stands firmly on the side of inclusion, global consciousness, and cultural empathy,” says the museum’s Artistic Director and CEO, Jay Xu. “Not only are our doors open to all, but we actively pursue ways to make our museum more accessible to more people.”

The idea grew out of conversations with disabled members of the Asian Art Museum when asked for suggestions for improving accessibility at an ongoing series of Disability Community Charrettes. Several blind or low vision members suggested tactile renderings and braille labeling to accompany detailed audio description. The museum involved several of these patrons (with varying degrees of vision) into an iterative process that determined the final tactile design and spatial layout of the exhibition.

The tactile kiosks are comprised of slanted counter-height platforms holding the artwork rendered in full color, with the added element of raised tactile lines and textures. The wall behind each kiosk offers a printed sheet with the verbal description of the piece as well as information about the piece in braille on the tactile surface. The accompanying audio description can be accessed via the Asian Art Museum’s app or this YouTube playlist. The setup is meant to allow both blind and sighted audiences to interact with the pieces in tandem and, hopefully, start a dialogue.

“This is an opportunity that we’ve been waiting for for a while,” says the MAD Lab’s Project Manager BJ Epstein. “We’re really excited to be able to produce tactile artwork for the Asian Art Museum. You can hear about a piece of art or read about a piece of art, but without vision, it’s by getting your hands on it that you can really get a sense of the piece and its layout. We’re really excited to be doing this for the museum and for our community.”

Painting Is My Everything: Art from India’s Mithila Region runs through December 30. The exhibition is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursdays until 9 p.m. Learn more about accessibility at the Asian Art Museum before you go.

Provide your feedback

The museum will host a focus group for blind and low vision patrons on Saturday, September 29 from 1 to 3 p.m. in hopes of understanding how to further improve their accessibility standards for future exhibitions — RSVP to communityengagement@asianart.org.

Contact the LightHouse MAD Lab

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

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

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.

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LightHouse’s MAD Lab designs tactile comic strips for the Charles M. Schulz Museum

LightHouse’s MAD Lab designs tactile comic strips for the Charles M. Schulz Museum

Charlie Brown and Snoopy are some of the most well-known characters of all time. By the time Peanuts’ creator Charles Schulz retired in December 1999, the comic strip had run for 50 years and been syndicated in over 2,600 newspapers worldwide, with book collections translated into more than 25 languages.

Peanuts is universally human in its sarcastic, nostalgic, bittersweet, silly, realist and occasionally fanciful humor. Schulz filtered his own dark irreverence into the trials and tribulations of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy, and the rest of the characters many of us came to know and love. It is, fundamentally, a story of a dream not quite achieved — and how, even so, another day will come to pass.

A view of the Charles M. Schulz museum lobby.
A view of the Charles M. Schulz museum lobby.

It’s for its universality and renown that the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa remains dedicated to making Peanuts accessible to all — including the blind and low vision community. Just this month, the LightHouse MAD Lab worked with the Schulz Museum to create a tactile representation of a four-panel Peanuts strip first published on July 31, 1951.

The museum’s School and Youth Programs Coordinator Monica Hernandez initiated the collaboration after learning more about museum accessibility while studying at SF State, and to prepare for the museum’s second Accessible Tours Day, which will be held on September 23, 2018.

“As I understand it, often people with disabilities are told that they’re too expensive, that it’s too much trouble or effort to take on a project like this,” says Hernandez. “That’s not what we’re about. We try to do our best with accessibility at the museum.”

“The comic strip and Peanuts in general are such an accessible and universal topic,” she continues. “People from all over the world love and know and understand Snoopy. Schulz put a little bit of himself into every character, and we all relate to at least one of them — whether it’s the innocent and gullible Charlie Brown or Peppermint Patty because she’s good at sports.”

The strip in question was chosen deliberately in hopes of demonstrating the evolution of the (arguably) most beloved characters — Charlie Brown and Snoopy. An earlier depiction, the strip shows Snoopy running on all four legs (he later evolved to his more recognizable upright, two-legged stance) and a youthful, oblong-headed Charlie (into the 90s, his neck and torso elongated and he adopted a wobbly, anxious mouth).

Charlie Brown challenges Snoopy to a race: “Snoopy, let’s have a race!” When Snoopy sets off, Charlie Brown stays put: “Ah, now I can eat this candy in peace!”

It’s a sweet a simple strip that offers some insight into the very beginnings of the Peanuts’ long and storied history and evolution. MAD Lab’s 10″ X 11″ Direct UV prints used the simplicity of Schulz’s bold lines to their advantage — one set of the ensuing tactile representations feature one-to-one raised lines and braille descriptions. A second set used used various fills, textures and relief heights to differentiate between the overlapping figures of Charlie Brown and Snoopy.

MAD Lab’s Senior Designer Naomi Rosenberg found the project to be a great exercise in translation: “We’re trying to stay as true to the original comic strip as possible, but translate it in a way that makes sense to the touch,” she says. “Pairing tactiles with succinct descriptions provided by the museum was a great approach. They really had the right intentions and a good understanding of the needs of blind users. There’s something exciting about working with a museum that sees a lot of kids and school groups coming through. The project might have an impact on exposing kids to tactiles early on.”

Hernandez was very happy with the project’s outcome and looks forward to seeing how the community receives the strip during Accessible Tours Day.

“It was so great working with the MAD Lab on this project and learning from their expertise,” says Hernandez. “They were very positive and warm throughout the process and openly offered suggestions. The project will go a long way for increasing the Museum’s accessibility and starting further conversations and projects around access.”

Accessibility at the Charles M. Schulz Museum

Schulz himself initiated accessible projects including a braille version of “Happiness is a Warm Puppy”, which can be viewed at the museum upon request.

MAD Lab’s tactile comic strip is also on view by request and will be available for viewing the museum’s Accessible Tours Day on Sunday, September 23 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Special tours will be available for deaf, hard of hearing and low vision visitors led by trained docents with sign-language interpreters throughout the morning.

To reserve your tour time in advance call 707-284-1263 or email monica@schulzmuseum.org. Tours are included with regular museum admission and the museum also offers large-print booklets of exhibition text at the front desk for low vision visitors.

Contact the MAD Lab

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