Tag Archive

TMAP

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.

 

TMAP Printing Instructions

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

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

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

Running PDF Unembed Fonts with a Mouse

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

Running PDFUnembedfonts in Command Line

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

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

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

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

How to Make a Map Using TMAP

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

TMAP is optimized for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.

Overview

Steps to producing a tactile street map:

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

Step by Step Instructions

1. Search Page, where you search for an address

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

2. Map Preview Page, where you create a map

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

2a. Map Preview Page: confirm map address

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

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

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

2b. Map Preview Page: settings

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

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

2c. Map Preview Page: features

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

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

2d. Map Preview: pan

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

2e. Map Preview: zoom

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

2f. Create Map

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

3. File Preview and Download

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

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

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

4. Print or Emboss

Now print your map! See Printing Instructions

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

Order TMAPs from Adaptations.org

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

About TMAP

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

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

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

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

Order a map for $25

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

What’s in the package?

  • You will receive two maps of the same address, a zoomed-out overview map, and a zoomed-in detail map showing streets, paths, and buildings, if the data is available
  • A tactile map key
  • An introductory page (download intro page)
  • All materials are printed on 11” X 11.5” sheets of embossed paper and include ink / large print labels in addition to braille

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

Contact

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos from the workshop

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

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

LightHouse will take over as distributor of Sendero Map and GPS products

LightHouse will take over as distributor of Sendero Map and GPS products

The LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco is proud to announce its takeover as the manager and distributor of Sendero Group-manufactured GPS products. The LightHouse will run Sendero Maps and Sendero’s GPS product, which will continue to function normally.

Sendero’s PC Maps and GPS serve the blind and visually impaired community by providing detailed information to explore rural roads or city streets, intersection-by-intersection. The software allows users to record personal points of interest, hear their direction of travel, track distance travelled and collaborate with teachers, friends or family using integrated visual maps.

Sendero has been the frontrunner in accessible GPS technology since Founder Mike May and Chief Technology Officer Charles LaPierre launched the first accessible digital GPS map in 1995 at Arkenstone, their former travel technology company. That product turned into the forward-thinking, personal computer-based Sendero Maps and GPS, which the San Francisco LightHouse will now manage, in conjunction with its Tactile Maps Automated Production (TMAP).

This partnership will yield exciting new technological developments and retain Sendero’s existing products and functionalities. The Sendero mobile apps are slated for new features, and the Sendero Maps software will remain the same. LightHouse will also host the legacy BrailleNote and Braille Sense software, which were formerly available through Sendero.

To complement the PC-based products hosted by LightHouse, Sendero also announced that it is turning over its mobile navigation products to the subscription-based sighted assistance company Aira, who is acquiring Sendero’s iOS products for integration in their service.

Sendero’s GPS products will complement TMAP’s progressive approach to on-demand maps with their easy-to-use technology. There is no better way to learn a neighborhood than to pair the detail of digital maps with the spatial, geographic overview of a tactile map.

Sendero CTO, Charles LaPierre says, “I am thrilled that Sendero Maps and GPS products will continue under the stewardship of Aira and the LightHouse. In 1993, when I developed the first accessible GPS backpack prototype weighing 10 pounds, I said ‘In 10 years it will be the size of a Sony Walkman (TM), which will fit in your hand’. I am honored that my university project 25 years ago evolved into the ‘Swiss Army knife of life’ smartphone version of today.”

Under LightHouse superintendence in San Francisco, we hope to see Sendero products and services expand to serve more blind and visually impaired people worldwide — particularly with the highly anticipated launch of our online Adaptations Store later this year.

Behind the Map: Starting over in a new city

Behind the Map: Starting over in a new city

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.

One month ago, Lia Jacobsen sat on a plane, nervous. She was moving to Ann Arbor, Michigan after living in Washington D.C. for 10 years. The prospect of learning a new city after all that time was, admittedly, a bit daunting.

On the tray table in front of her lay two TMAPs: one detailing the area around her new home in Ann Arbor, and another of the streets around the University of Michigan School of Social Work, where she was beginning a masters degree. Leah traced her hands along the raised lines of the map, determined to memorize the criss-crossing, partial grid system of her new town. She reviewed the braille street names using each map key, learning the quarter-mile radius map first, then working her way out to the more dense and complex 1.5-miles radius map.

The flight attendant paused at Lia’s row, and politely asked: “Excuse me, ma’am, would you like me to turn your light on?” The question struck Lia as a bit absurd. Why would a person need light to read a raised-line tactile map? She tried to be polite but some snark crept into her voice as she expressed her confusion. It wasn’t until this moment that she discovered that the maps were more than just embossed paper: the streets were printed in ink, as well.

A TMAP of the University of Michigan.
Image: A TMAP of the University of Michigan.

The humor of the situation helped dispel some of her nerves, and since arriving in Ann Arbor and completing several weeks of classes, Lia pretty much knows the lay of the land.  

“My TMAPs were hugely helpful because when I landed I already felt like I knew where I was,” she says. “It automatically made me feel much more comfortable because I knew what I was passing.”

On her first day on campus she caught a group of lost undergrads off-guard when she interjected and gave them directions to their building.  

“It’s about being more equal and having the freedom not to rely on other people,” she says. “I tend to explore no matter what, but it gives me a foundation and a starting point so I don’t feel totally lost. Feeling lost makes you just want to go home.”

Lia wishes she had had access to TMAP throughout her many years working on the Obama campaign, traveling far and wide as a member of the Peace Corps, traveling alone in Colombia, or as a kid growing up in Florida.  

“I never had tactile maps growing up,” she says. “My first time having a sort of tactile map, my O&M teacher took a piece of felt and put some velcro beads on it and made a makeshift map.”

She expects to use TMAPs much more as she pursues her masters in social work and hopefully heads back to D.C. to become a victim advocate for the FBI.

“I definitely plan on purchasing more TMAPs whenever I move next time and have been spreading the word about how much I love the TMAPs to all of my friends who are blind,” she says. “The task of learning a new community after being in the same place for a decade was daunting, and the maps I purchased were enormously helpful in my feeling oriented from day one.”

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.

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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!

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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