Tag Archive

tactile maps

MAD Lab Event Sponsorship Opportunities

Finger on tactile BART system map.

Sponsorship Opportunities

$1,000 SILVER Sponsorship Level

  1. Company/donor name listed in event program.
  2. Sponsorship acknowledgment from podium by Master of Ceremonies.
  3. Social media thank you message recognizing sponsor posted by LightHouse.
  4. Sponsor 5 free TMAP tactile street maps (retail $26.25 each) for individuals who order through LightHouse’s Adaptations Store.
  5. One (1) TMAP T-shirt.

$2,500 GOLD Sponsorship Level

Includes SILVER Sponsorship Level, and:

  1. Company/donor name in LightHouse e-newsletter.
  2. Receive an individualized UV-printed tactile street map (by TMAP).
  3. Two (2) TMAP T-shirts.

$5,000 PLATINUM Sponsorship Level

Includes GOLD Sponsorship Level, and:

  1. Choose one:
    • Complimentary ticket for a MAD Lab map-making workshop hosted by the MAD Lab team and Josh Miele.
    • Company banner displayed at event (sponsor provides banner) or sponsor booth consisting of one six-foot long table and 2 chairs.
    • Receive a 1-page custom tactile map of a school or park of your choice (restrictions apply).
  2. Three (3) TMAP T-shirts.

$10,000 TACTILE TITAN Sponsorship Level

Includes PLATINUM Sponsorship Level, and:

  1. Dessert and cocktails (summer 2024) with Dr. Joshua Miele, 4 guests.
  2. MAD Lab experience (2024): lunch with MAD Lab team, custom tactile maps.
  3. Four (4) TMAP T-shirts.

Should you have any queries or require further details, please feel free to reach out to Karen Thompson, Senior Director of Individual and Institutional Giving, at KThompson@lighthouse-sf.org or (415) 694-7695. 

Event Registration

Learn the Fundamentals of Using Tactile Maps, March 23

Learn the Fundamentals of Using Tactile Maps, March 23

LightHouse’s Rehabilitation Services and Media & Accessible Design departments are teaming up to present this free course on learning to read tactile maps.
This workshop takes place Thursday, March 23, from 10:00 am to 12:30 pm at LightHouse East Bay in the Osher Conference Room. The address is Ed Roberts Campus, 3075 Adeline Street, Berkeley.

What will you learn?

  • The value of tactile maps for route planning and awareness of environmental features
  • Systematic strategies in your approach to exploration of tactile maps
  • How symbols, line types, labels, and distance, direction, and environmental features are used in interpreting maps
  • Tactile discrimination techniques for map reading
  • Greater orientation to new environments
  • How to order more maps
  • In addition to the training, each student will take home free TMAPs of their residential area and of the LightHouse East Bay neighborhood at 3075 Adeline, as well as a tactile map of the Ashby BART Station and a tactile BART system map


  • Functional use of intermediate braille is required
  • Students must be aged 16 or up

LightHouse Braille Instructor, Divina Carlson, Senior Accessible Media and Braille Specialist, Frank Welte, Orientation & Mobility Specialist, Sarah McIntyre and tactile map aficionado, Jerry Kuns, will be facilitating this introductory training in the practical use of TMAP, tactile maps and tactile BART maps for Bay Area travelers. It must be noted that Jerry states he isn’t happier than when he has a good cappuccino in one hand and a tactile map in the other!

Come join us in learning the language of tactile maps. To attend, please contact Briana Kusuma, at BKusuma@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7335 no later than Friday, March 17. In your email, please provide Briana with your full name, phone number and your residential address, so that we can produce your home map prior to the training.
Space is limited to 15 participants. Additional registrants will be placed on a waiting list. We will consider scheduling an additional session if there is sufficient interest. Students may attend with their TVI or O&M teacher. Because this is an in-person activity, we are requesting that you provide proof of vaccination upon entry and wear a mask during the event.
This course is made possible thanks to a grant from the Federal Transportation Administration.

Map of Ukraine, relevant cities and regions

Map of Ukraine, relevant cities and regions

Map of Ukraine with braille labels for cities and surrounding countries.


Title: Ukraine Map

Image Description: Map of Ukraine with bordering countries and prominent cities labeled. North is up; north arrow is omitted. Surrounding Ukraine, clockwise from the northeast, is Poland, Belarus, Russia (northeast and east), Black Sea, Moldova, Romania, Hungary (not labeled), Slovakia (not labeled). Crimea is south of Ukraine within the Black Sea, though land adjacent. Cities are labeled with abbreviations, clockwise from the northeast border with Poland: Lviv, Kyiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, Luhansk, Donetsk, Mariupol, Kherson, Odessa. Crimea (south) and the Donbas region (east), are separated with a dotted line.

Download Graphic

ZIP folder contains files for producing tactile graphics on 8.5 x 11-inch paper, portrait:

  • PRN for ViewPlus Columbia / Delta, APH PixBlaster, IRIE BrailleTrac / BrailleSheet;
  • PDFs for Swell, Microcapsule or PIAF;
  • Reference PDFs with corresponding large print text (not for tactile production).

Printing Instructions and Supported Embossers

How to unzip/uncompress: Windows 10, Windows 8.1, MacOS.

Source: Mapping the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Washington Post.

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How TMAP Reinvigorated How Angela Reynolds Serves Students

How TMAP Reinvigorated How Angela Reynolds Serves Students

Since 2016, LightHouse’s Media and Accessible Design Laboratory (MAD Lab) has been continuously developing their innovative Tactile Maps Automated Production (TMAP) software and perfecting its outcoming product. TMAP, a tool to generate tactile street maps, has grown since its early days and has become a widely used Orientation & Mobility (O&M) tool among O&M instructors and blind and low vision travelers. The expansion of TMAP is due to MAD Lab’s reliable presence at O&M conferences, webinars, and various blindness podcasts and presentations.

We are proud to announce that TMAP has made its way across the world! We chatted with O&M instructor Angela Reynolds of the Orientation and Mobility Association of Australia (OMAA) about her experience with TMAP.

How did you discover TMAP?

“I heard Greg Kehret [Director of LightHouse’s MAD Lab] talking about TMAP on Kassy Maloney’s podcast ‘A Step Forward’ in February this year. I thought it sounded like a great practical resource and immediately created an account and started experimenting with it.”

What was your experience/relationship with tactile maps before discovering TMAP?

“I commenced working as an O&M in 2001. Early in my career, I had access to PIAF [Pictures in a Flash] machines in the offices I worked in so I would create tactile maps when required. For the last 15 years I’ve worked in a country region in northeast Victoria, and I’ve worked from home, our office is a three-hour drive away. This means I don’t have a PIAF machine or any type of embosser at my disposal. If I need a tactile map, I have to be very organized and create and order the map at least three weeks in advance to ensure I had it in time for the O&M session. At times, I have to admit, it was difficult to be this organized or predict the need for a map this far ahead. Sometimes during a session, it would become clear that a client would benefit from a map to increase their spatial understanding of a travel route, but I simply couldn’t get the map created in time for the next session.

“To address these gaps, I crafted my own maps. I used a variety of materials to do this such as cardboard strips pasted onto cardboard to create street maps. Often clients would assist by creating the braille labels so it would be a collaborative process. Other times I’d create a quick map when we were on the go during an O&M session by using a magnetic board and magnetic strips and symbols that I’d created, often embellished with Wiki Stix, foam stick on symbols and tactile dots. I’ve made maps out of lollies [candy] with children and larger street maps out of cut out pieces of wood, sandpaper and felt.

“I think maps are so important to develop spatial understanding so people can start to create a mental map of the areas they’re travelling through, so I pursued many options to create maps, however it was time-consuming because of how long it took to create a map.”

How has having a TMAP account affected your work?

“I’ve been so excited to discover TMAP! It has filled some major barriers that I was experiencing with my capacity to provide good quality and timely maps to clients. I’m very impressed with how easy it is to use, the ability to set a scale to provide a big picture map or a more detailed smaller view of an area, the north compass rose, the key and the embedded braille, braille, did I mention braille?! The braille is a major game changer. The other aspect of TMAP to create tactile maps is how quickly I can create a map, it’s so fast and I can quickly download it to my computer and email it through to another staff member and request them to put it through the PIAF machine for me.

“Since I’ve had access to TMAP is has reinvigorated my passion for tactile maps. It’s also resulted in me revisiting and thinking about the development of foundational O&M skills and how to teach tactile mapping skills to both children and adults. Map reading is a learnt skill, and the skills of tactile mapping are learnt in a graded and methodical way.  Even with the emergence of GPS technology there remains a strong need for tactile maps to increase spatial skill development, mental mapping and to use as a tool for enhanced and accessible learning of travel routes and environments.

“Due to the maps being sourced via Open Street Maps I find that the resulting maps are accurate and can really add value to the development of the conceptual understanding of the shapes of roads. And the TMAP software is working well in Australia and the fact that it’s free is also so exciting.”

How have your clients responded to working with TMAP?

“I have been providing services to a lady for a number of years on and off. She lost her vision due to retinoblastoma when she was 17 months old. She is an avid map lover and often requests maps from me so she can increase her spatial understanding of the areas she travels. Prior to TMAP, I had been crafting cardboard street maps and trying to put them together to create a big picture of the two towns she travels in regularly. Each map took me about 2 hours to make and there were issues with scale when we put them together. I am no cartographer! She was doing the braille labels and we’d stick them on together. Ultimately, I couldn’t keep up with her requests for maps, she wanted more, and I didn’t have enough time in my day to make the maps. This year when I discovered TMAP I was able to pump out multiple tactile maps for her so quickly and we spent several hours excitedly going over the maps together. This is also the other aspect that I really love about TMAP tactile maps, is the ability to sit down and share the experience of reading and looking at a map. She had the Braille version, and I had the text version and we read the map together in a really natural way. It felt accessible to both of us. Through TMAP, she learned that the street she has lived on for 25 years had a pronounced curve, it was curved like the shape of a horseshoe or the print letter U. She had always thought her street was straight.”

Since LightHouse chatted with Angela, she presented a paper at the Orientation & Mobility Association of Australasia online Symposium in Australia back in September. Our MAD Lab director, Greg Kehret, joined Angela for a joint presentation about TMAP. There has been a very positive response following the presentation, and several more O&Ms in Australia have created their own TMAP accounts and are starting to experiment and create tactile maps for their clients, as well. Nothing fills our hearts and fuels our ambition and dedication more than hearing feedback like Angela’s. LightHouse is thrilled to see MAD Lab’s services are vastly expanding and positively changing the lives of blind and low vision individuals worldwide. “I often highly recommend TMAP to other O&M’s,” Angela tells us.

Don’t have a local embosser but still want TMAPs for you or your students? No problem. LightHouse can produce the maps and mail them to you. Order online at Adaptations.org or call 1-888-400-8933.

MAD Lab Creates Accessible Maps for Local Parks

MAD Lab Creates Accessible Maps for Local Parks

LightHouse provides business and government accessibility services to those who have low vision, are blind or Deaf-blind. One way we do this this is by partnering with other organizations and city and county-wide task forces on projects and programs across the Bay Area to promote accessibility. LightHouse’s Media and Accessible Design Laboratory (MAD Lab) has their accessible handiwork displayed all over museums and other public spaces in the Bay Area.  Now   we’re venturing outdoors!

In May 2020, the MAD Lab partnered with the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) on a long-term project creating accessible tactile signage and outdoor exhibits in parks and outdoor recreational spaces in the Bay Area.  Our team devoted hundreds of hours in design, production, project management (and love, of course!) to bring durable, in-place tactile maps and informational plaques to eleven different GGNRA parks.

This project began after the culmination of Gray vs. GGNRA, a landmark settlement agreement to significantly improve access to GGNRA parks. This agreement is the first comprehensive settlement in the country that will increase the accessibility of a federal park system, and MAD Lab has been engaged with GGNRA, providing solutions and services every step of the way. These new maps and Braille park guides will significantly improve access and enhance the experience for thousands of GGNRA park goers with blindness, low vision or mobility disabilities for generations to come.

MAD Lab’s work is proudly displayed at Muir Beach, Fort Mason, Fort Funston, Battery Alexander, Gerbode Valley, Mori Point, and Eagles Point. Among the next parks to have MAD Lab signage are Crissy Field, Tennessee Valley, and the Presidio Coastal Trail. We encourage all our community to go out and explore these maps and outdoor informational signage in person. And when you do, tag us on social media @lighthouse_sf on Twitter and @lighthouseblind on Instagram.

To learn more about the products and services MAD Lab provides you can visit the MAD Lab section on our website. To contact the MAD Lab with questions or inquiries, contact madlab@lighthouse-sf.org.

New from Touching The News: Tactile Map of Gaza Strip and West Bank

New from Touching The News: Tactile Map of Gaza Strip and West Bank

Braille labeled map and key of Israel/Palestine, including Gaza and West Bank.

Title: Israel, Gaza, West Bank

Description: Map of Israel-Palestine, Gaza Strip, West Bank, Golan, and neighboring countries. The map includes a north arrow and scale, approximately 1 inch = 40 miles. The Mediterranean Sea borders to the northwest, Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan to the east, Gulf of Aqaba to the south, and Egypt to the southwest. Countries are represented by an empty fill with solid borders. Gaza on the west and West Bank on the east, occupied Palestinian territories, are represented by a textured fill. The Dead Sea overlaps the border with Jordan, partially within the West Bank. Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are represented by circles. Golan, a disputed territory of Syria is to the north, with Lebanon to its north and Jordan to its south.

Download Graphic

ZIP folder contains files for producing tactile graphics on 8.5 x 11-inch paper, portrait:

  • PRNs for ViewPlus Columbia / Delta, APH PixBlaster, IRIE BrailleTrac / BrailleSheet;
  • PDFs for Swell, Microcapsule or PIAF;
  • Reference PDFs with corresponding large print text (not for tactile production).

Printing Instructions and Supported Embossers

How to unzip/uncompress: Windows 10, Windows 8.1, MacOS.

Source and related articles: Israel’s borders explained in maps, BBC news; Mapping Israeli Occupation, Al Jazeera; The toll of Israeli strikes on Gaza: Mapping the destruction left behind, Washington Post; The World Factbook Israel map.

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Suez Canal Maps: Where was the Ever Given stuck and what is the main alternative route?

Suez Canal Maps: Where was the Ever Given stuck and what is the main alternative route?

two maps of suez canal, detail of Egypt and route through Asia, Africa, Europe

Tactile map 1: Alternative route for shipping while Suez Canal blocked

Description: Tactile map of shipping route using Suez Canal and route around Cape of Good Hope. Routes connect Rotterdam, Netherlands to Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Additional information not on tactile graphic:

  • Using Suez Canal: 10,000 nautical miles, 18,520 km, 25.5 days (avg speed)
  • Around Cape of Good Hope, 13,500 nautical miles, 25,002 km, 34 days (avg speed)

Source: Suez Canal: Ships stuck in ‘traffic jam’ as salvage efforts continue, BBC.

Tactile map 2: Suez Canal, Egypt: Red Sea to Mediterranean Sea

Description: Tactile map of Suez Canal from Red Sea to Mediterranean Sea, showing location where Ever Given hit right bank of canal.

Source: Suez Canal: Owner of cargo ship blocking waterway apologises, BBC.

Related podcast: Tug Life: The story of the small boats helping reopen the Suez Canal.

Download Maps

ZIP folder contains files for producing 2 tactile maps on 8.5 x 11-inch paper:

  • PRNs for ViewPlus Columbia / Delta, APH PixBlaster, IRIE BrailleTrac / BrailleSheet;
  • PDFs for Swell, Microcapsule or PIAF;
  • Reference PDFs with corresponding large print text (not for tactile production).

Printing Instructions and Supported Embossers

How to unzip/uncompress: Windows 10, Windows 8.1, MacOS.

Submit Your Ideas and Touch The News

Sign up

Sign up to receive tactile graphics files to print at home.

Back to Touching The News Gallery

Participants Get the Feel of Streets of San Francisco at SFMTA Sponsored Workshop

Participants Get the Feel of Streets of San Francisco at SFMTA Sponsored Workshop

On April 8, LightHouse, in partnership with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), held a second Tactile Intersections Workshop to promote the citywide campaign Safety—It’s Your Turn. The campaign is designed to encourage safer driving around left turns. Individuals who are blind or have low vision who live or work in San Francisco joined LightHouse Orientation & Mobility (O&M) Specialist Sarah McIntyre and Senior Accessible Media and Braille Specialist Frank Welte for the workshop where they received an overview of interpreting and comprehending tactile diagrams of various intersections found throughout San Francisco.

Upon registering for the workshop, participants were sent a packet of the tactile intersection diagrams (designed and produced in-house by LightHouse’s Media and Accessible Design Lab) to follow along from home with Sarah and Frank as they guided students through understanding what the different tactile traffic lines and symbols on each diagram represented. The two LightHouse employees made a dynamic duo as they offered valuable insights, as Sarah has the many years’ experience teaching O&M and working alongside blind and low vision people, while Frank has the first-hand knowledge and experiences of traveling in cities all over the country as a blind man.

“Understanding how various common types of intersections are configured and how traffic flows through them makes it possible for a blind traveler to cross streets efficiently and safely in a wide variety of situations.” Frank said. “The intersection diagrams produced by the LightHouse make it much easier for Orientation & Mobility students to acquire this important knowledge.”

I had the opportunity to participate in last week’s workshop. As a person who has low vision and as a non-driver, I found the workshop incredibly informative. The geography of San Francisco is unique with its many neighborhoods and busy city streets that spread out across climbing hills and flat shorelines, but while it makes for a beautiful landscape, it also makes for many complicated travel routes, both in car and on foot. Exploring the different types of intersections and gaining an understanding of what all the painted lines along the city streets actually mean helped me form and understand my own mental map of the city and specifically different busy traffic areas within my own neighborhood.

“I’ve used the intersection diagrams in two different ways,” Sarah McIntyre explained. First, with students who started learning intersection analysis and street crossing skills in person, I’ve used the intersection diagrams to reinforce and strengthen what they had begun learning.

“Second, with students who are learning spatial awareness skills and have progressed to the point of examining TMAPs [tactile street maps produced using an automated tool], I’ve used the intersection diagrams to discuss the different types of intersections found along their routes.”

Building confidence, independence and knowledge for those in the blind and low vision community is at the heart of every service LightHouse provides. It is a very empowering experience to partner with local agencies like SFMTA to help increase safety and awareness, not just for San Francisco’s blind and low vision residents and commuters, but for everyone who travels the streets of our beloved San Francisco.

If you missed out on the workshop but are interested in obtaining a copy of the Tactile Intersections Diagrams packet, you can do so by ordering the diagrams from the LightHouse store, Adaptations, by calling (888) 400-8933 or finding LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired under specialized help in the Be My Eyes app. For more information about the fantastic strides the city is making to improve traffic safety visit SFMTA’s Safety—It’s Your Turn page on their website. For any inquiries about Orientation & Mobility lessons and services provided by LightHouse, contact info@lighthouse-sf.org or Esmerelda Soto at 415-694-7323.

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