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tactile maps automated production

TMAP FAQ and Troubleshooting

  1. About TMAP: General questions about the TMAP app and the maps it can make. Also see About TMAP page
  2. Getting TMAPs: Questions about maps from Adaptations and about getting a user account.
  3. Using TMAP to make your own tactile street maps: Questions about the TMAP app, how it works, bugs, and technical stuff. Also see How to Use TMAP to Make Maps page
  4. Printing TMAPs: Questions about printing TMAP files. Also see Printing Instructions page
  5. On the Map: About the actual map, and what’s on it. Also see About TMAP page
  6. Reading or teaching TMAPs: Questions about what’s on a TMAP, how to read it, and how to use it. Also see Reading Tactile Maps page

1. About TMAP

General questions about the TMAP app and the maps it can make.

What is TMAP?

TMAP is a tool to generate tactile street maps. Tactile Maps Automated Production (TMAP) is a project of LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired and Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute.

How much area does a TMAP cover?

TMAPs can range from a few blocks to a few miles wide, depending on the map scale and paper size. TMAP can generate maps at six different zoom levels, from 1:1500 to 1:50000. For more about map scale, see What is map scale?

Can I get a map of anywhere?

TMAP works best for addresses within North America. It can generate maps of addresses outside North America, but results may vary.

What kind of maps can I get from TMAP?

TMAP makes tactile street maps, ranging from a few blocks to a few miles wide, using raised lines and textures to represent roads, pedestrian paths, railways, and buildings (when the data is available). Maps include braille and large print street labels, north arrow, scale, and key.

Can TMAP make campus maps?

Yes, with a caveat. TMAP can make maps showing streets, service roads, paths, and buildings (when the data is available), which are all essential features on a campus map. TMAP will not label buildings, quads or path names. Most campuses are too large to fit on a TMAP while remaining legible. If you would like a campus map, we recommend that you contact MAD Lab to customize a TMAP to best fit your needs. Or fill out our contact form.

Can TMAP make maps of cities, states, and countries?

No, but our skilled design team can create custom maps. Contact MAD Lab or fill out our contact form. Also check out Adaptations map collection.

Can TMAP make maps of floor plans or building interiors?

No, but our skilled design team can create custom maps. Contact MAD Lab or fill out our contact form.

Are digital TMAP files screen reader accessible?

No. TMAP produces SVG and PDF files that are designed to be embossed. If you would like to collaborate with us to create an accessible digital map, get in touch.

2. Getting TMAPs

Questions about maps from Adaptations and about getting a user account.

How can I get a TMAP?

You can order a map from LightHouse’s Adaptations store or call 1-888-400-8933. Alternately, if you have an embosser or tactile printer, you can create and print your own maps. Sign up here.

What do I get when I order a TMAP from Adaptations?

You will receive an introductory page along with two maps of the same address—one map zoomed-in, with streets, paths, and railways, if data is available, and one zoomed-out with streets only. Please specify special requests to the product specialists at the Adaptations Store when ordering your TMAP.

Can I print my own maps?

Yes. If you have an embosser or tactile printer, you can create and print your own maps. Sign up for a TMAP user account. TMAP produces SVG and PDF files suitable for printing on ViewPlus embossers, PixBlaster, and Swell/capsule paper. See Printing Instructions for more information.

Can you add features to my TMAP?

Yes. TMAPs show streets and labels for streets that meet the edge of the map, paths, railways, and a locator dot on the map’s address. If you would like additional labels, buildings, or multiple points of interest, our skilled design team can customize your TMAP. Email us or fill out our contact form.

3. Using TMAP to make your own tactile street maps

Questions about the TMAP app, how it works, bugs, and technical stuff.

How does TMAP work?

TMAP uses Google Maps to search for an address, intersection or landmark. TMAP uses the resulting coordinates to pull data from OpenStreetMap, creating separate SVG files for each: tactile map page, print map page, tactile key page(s), and map key page(s). When you download a map file, TMAP combines the SVG files into a PDF optimized for 2-in-1 emboss on a ViewPlus printer. Also see How to Use TMAP to Make Maps and Printing Instructions.

Which browsers are compatible with the TMAP app?

We recommend using Chrome, Firefox, or Safari.

What does Map Scale mean?

See What is map scale.

TMAP error: “We’re sorry, it looks like there are no results for that address or location.”

This happens when Google cannot find the address you are searching. A few things to try: check spelling; omit apartment numbers; use either city or zip code, not both. Try your search in Google maps. If it gives you a “partial match,” then try a different address. If it finds your searched address, please contact us.

TMAP error: “Sorry, there was an error.”

Please contact us, specifying the address, as well as setting for paper size and scale. This can happen when a street label contains an uncommon character. We will try to address the issue as soon as possible.

Is this a bug?

Despite our best efforts, there might be bugs. If you think you’ve encountered a TMAP bug, please contact us. Sometimes what appears to be a bug was an intentional design decision. We will attempt to respond to all questions and feedback but cannot offer technical support at this time.

4. Printing TMAPs

Questions about printing TMAP files.

Which embossers or printers can print TMAP files?

TMAP is designed for ViewPlus embossers with 2-in-1 printing capabilities but can also be printed on tactile-only ViewPlus embossers (like VP Columbia or VP Delta), on APH PixBlaster, or on capsule paper (Swell, Zychem, PIAF). Since the braille font is intended for ViewPlus embossers, braille on capsule paper may be low. See Printing Instructions.

TMAPs can also be embossed on Index (using TactileViewTactileView-US), though at a lower resolution than ViewPlus.

Since MAD Lab does not have Juliet or Romeo embossers in our shop, we have not tested their TMAP printing capabilities. Please email us to let us know if you have success printing to these embossers, and we will happily share your tips.

The braille seems off, either too big, too small, too squished, or too low.

If embossing on ViewPlus, check that you ran the TMAP PDF through PDF Unembed Fonts, and that you printed from the file with _VP at the end. Disclaimer: this does not always solve the issue. See Printing Instructions page.

If printing on Swell or capsule paper, check that you printed the file at 100% scale or actual size, not ‘shrink to fit’ or ‘fit to page’. The braille font on TMAPs is intended for ViewPlus embossing, and is slightly smaller than Swell-Braille font, so it might be lower than desired. Braille near the edge of the page may not swell as high, and not all Swell/capsule paper is created equal.

5. On the Map

About the actual map, and what’s on it.

What is on a TMAP?

TMAPs are titled with an address, marked on the map with a locator dot. Each map has a north arrow, as well as a scale line and the equivalent real-world distance. By default, maps contain streets and labels for streets that reach the edge of the map. Maps can also show paths and railways (and buildings upon request), when the data is available. Each map comes with a corresponding key. Map files contain both braille and print text. Maps purchased from Adaptations are embossed and printed with ink, containing both tactile and visual information. Download Introduction to TMAP page.

What material is the map?

TMAPs produced by the MAD Lab are embossed and printed onto heavy cardstock (paper) using a ViewPlus EmFuse 2-in-1 printer, combining tactile and ink-print onto a single page. Both map and key pages contain braille and large print text, tactile and ink graphics.

Can I get my map in Grade 2 Braille?

No. The braille on the map and key is uncontracted (Grade 1), Unified English Braille (UEB). We hope to add a contracted braille option in the future.

Why aren’t all the streets labeled?

Our automated mapping system uses an algorithm to determine which streets are labeled and how. Only streets that meet the edge of the map are labeled to prevent clutter. A street may not be labeled due to space constraints, lack of street name or lack of data from OpenStreetMap (where TMAP data originates).

Why is there no title on my map?

This may be a bug in our software or an error with the address used to make your map. This can occur on maps outside North America, or for maps of a park or open space without a defined address. If ordered from Adaptations, please contact us to determine if there was an error in the production of your map. If generating your own map, also see How to Use TMAP to Make Maps.

What is map scale?

Map scale is the relationship between distances on a map and the world it represents. We represent map scale as a ratio, with the first number (1 in our case) as 1 unit on the printed map, and the second number (1500, 2500, … 50000) as the number of units it represents in the real world. The default TMAP scale is 1:5000, which means 1 inch on the map represents 5000 inches in the real world. Since we’re talking about units, it could also be 1 foot on the map represents 5000 feet in the real world.

Examples of what each scale might show in an urban area on 11.5 x 11-inch paper:

  • 1:1500 – intersection
  • 1:2500 – 1-4 block area
  • 1:5000 – 8-12 block area
  • 1:12500 – neighborhood, 6-8 blocks wide
  • 1:25000 (not recommended for urban areas due to density) – college campus overview
  • 1:50000 (not recommended for urban areas due to density) – part of regional park

For detailed information about available scales, see the table below:

Scale Scale line length on map (feet) 11.5 x 11 map width (miles) 8.5 x 11 map width (miles) 17 x 11 map width (miles)
1:1500 50 0.07 0.04 0.12
1:2500 100 0.14 0.09 0.23
1:5000 (default) 250 0.28 0.18 0.47
1:12500 500 0.56 0.36 0.93
1:25000 1000 1.12 0.72 1.87
1:50000 2500 2.25 1.44 3.73

6. Reading or teaching TMAPs

Questions about what’s on a TMAP, how to read it, and how to use it.

Can you modify a TMAP, add labels, remove unnecessary streets, make lines bolder?

Yes. TMAPs show streets and labels for streets that meet the edge of the map, paths, railways, and a locator dot on the map’s address. If you would like additional labels, buildings, or multiple points of interest, our skilled design team can customize your TMAP. Email us or fill out our contact form.

How can I customize TMAPs myself?

We recommend customizing maps to meet your or your student’s needs, either using a collage method, or digitally. You can open or import SVG or PDF files into a variety of design programs (Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Reader, Inkscape, TactileView), and add or omit elements. Be sure not to resize the map, as the braille will not print correctly. TMAP uses Braille29 font, 29pt font size.

Can TMAP be used to teach routes through distance learning?

Yes. Teachers and O&M instructors use TMAPs to pre-teach routes around students’ neighborhoods or routes near their schools or workplaces. Also see Reading Tactile Maps and Putting the Mobile in Mobility.

Do you have any materials to build tactile reading skills in preparation for reading TMAPs?

Tactile Intersection Diagrams are for sale at the Adaptations store. You can also download mazes and print them yourself on capsule paper.


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.


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 contact us. 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 $26.25

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.


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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Reading Tactile Maps

Lesson Plans

Learning to read a tactile map can be a challenge. LightHouse O&M instructor Sarah McIntyre has put together two lesson plans to help students get acquainted with TMAPs.

Download Sarah’s Lesson Plans: Reading a TMAP and Using a TMAP While Exploring.

Other Resources

Teaching Tactile Graphics (Lucia Hasty for Perkins)

Related Posts: Putting the Mobile in Mobility

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