Tag Archive

tactile maps

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. Email us to request a TMAP user account.

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. Email us to request a TMAP user account. TMAP produces SVG and PDF files suitable for printing on ViewPlus embossers 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 submit a bug report.

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

Please submit a bug report, 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 let us know and submit a bug report. 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), 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.

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

Love maps? Sign up for our newsletter!


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

New local tactile maps at Adaptations

New local tactile maps at Adaptations

Photo: Sarika Dagar

Our Mad Lab designers have been hard at work producing a set of new maps of our region. Never before have curious blind travelers had these tactile maps, and they can be acquired immediately from LightHouse’s Adaptations Store.

Here is a list of the available maps:

• San Francisco Bay Area Cities: Ever wonder where the heck Piedmont actually is? This map shows the major cities in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. $15

• San Francisco Bay Area Counties: This map shows the counties in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Now you can see, for example, why Contra Costa County is actually north of Albany. $15

• San Francisco Bay Area Highways: You’ve heard of highway 13, or 237, or 92. Now you can see exactly where they are and how they connect. This map shows the main highways of the greater San Francisco Bay Area. $20

• San Francisco Neighborhoods: Just where does the Western Addition end and the Richmond District begin? Now you can find out. This map shows the neighborhoods in the city of San Francisco. $15

• California: Sacramento is actually more north than people commonly think. This map shows the state of California and its major cities. $20

Each map comes with braille and large print labels and is available for pickup. Get yours today by visiting our Adaptations store on the 10th floor at LightHouse Headquarters, 1155 Market Street in San Francisco. Or for extra convenience, just phone in your order and we’ll mail it to you. For more information call Adaptations at 1-888-400-8933 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: Why a GPS pioneer still uses paper

Behind the Map: Why a GPS pioneer still uses paper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get your TMAP today

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

What’s in the package?

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

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

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

* indicates required


Behind the Map: A midwesterner meets Market Street

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get your TMAP today

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

What’s in the package?

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

Click here to learn more more about TMAP.

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

* indicates required

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required


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.

Love Maps? Sign up for our Map Love newsletter!

* indicates required


Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award will help support our new on-demand mapping software for the blind

Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award will help support our new on-demand mapping software for the blind

Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award Seal On Sunday we accepted a national award for a new technology that’s got the blindness community talking – and walking.

The National Federation of the Blind distributed six Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards for accomplishment and innovation in the field of blindness this week – including to outdoor program Ski for Light, Navajo braille creator Carol Green, and Danish startup Be My Eyes. Among them was LightHouse’s mapping project known as TMAP (Tactile Map Automated Production).

“Blind people profit from access to maps as much if not more than their sighted friends and family,” said LightHouse CEO Bryan Bashin, himself blind and an avid map user.  “That’s the reason the LightHouse is commercializing accessible, automated map production.”

TMAP was developed by LightHouse in partnership with the Smith Kettlewell Eye Research Institute over the past year and is the culmination of many years of iterating and testing. The system allows a blind user to type in a point of interest, auto-generate a specially formatted map file, and print a tactile (raised line, braille) map on an embosser in one simple workflow.

“The internet gave sighted people the ability to generate a street map of anyplace they wanted,” said Dr. Joshua Miele, the blind scientist at the Smith Kettlewell Eye Research Institute who conceived TMAP. “I wanted blind people to have that, too.” Lighthouse’s T-Map project stems from original work conducted by Dr. Miele in 2011 and has been transformed into a consumer-facing service by the LightHouse’s Media and Accessible Design Lab.

Those interested in obtaining tactile maps for their locality can e-mail adaptations@lighthouse-sf.org and will soon be able to purchase the maps through an online store.

The Bolotin award was presented during the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind, the largest gathering of blind people held anywhere worldwide. LightHouse’s Senior Director of Programs Scott Blanks accepted the $5,000 honor.

“At the LightHouse, we are passionate about connectivity, community, and the power of autonomy through access to information,” says Blanks. “Tactile street maps embody these tenets, giving each blind person the agency to decide how they wish to interact with the world around them. When a person can touch, or look at, a top-down streetscape, so much can be unlocked: the orientation of an intersection, directionality of streets, and a better overall understanding of how a neighborhood fits together. With TMAP, we are just getting started.”

About the National Federation of the Blind’s Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award

The Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards are presented annually by the National Federation of the Blind with support from the Santa Barbara Foundation to recognize outstanding individual and organizational achievements in the blindness field. For more information, go to nfb.org.