Tactile Environmental Maps

Introduction To Maps

Maps convey abstract information and reasoning about the complex world to the reader in a compact and handable way. The need for such information is not limited to those audiences that are typically addressed by visual maps, but shared by disabled people who want to maintain their independence. Gaining survey knowledge of a complex spatial environment has proven to be facilitated by so-called You-are-here (YAH) maps. Following recommendations from the cognitive sciences and psychology You-are-here maps are usually designed as visual medium for visually capable people. The external representation of the spatial environment helps the map-reader to build an internal mental model of his surrounding and to navigate it successfully.

Tactile Maps

Tactile maps hold the advantage that they convey information about their proximate environment that detectable with the fingertips, feasable for e.g. blind people. They can gain information is otherwise not accessible to them, e.g. about locations that are not directly in the reach of their hands and arms and they can build up survey knowledge about their environment. This is why tactile maps would be an exellent approach to support blind people.

You-Are-Here Maps

A special class of maps are os-called You-Are-Here maps (YAH maps). These maps present an abstraction of the surrounding of the current location in the world with a clear marking of the map-readers’ own position. Research on cognition and psychology has identified design factors that contribute to the usefulness and usability of such maps. With these recommendations YAH maps are usually designed as visual medium for visually capable people. We discuss these analyses of visual YAH maps and their transfer to tactile YAH maps useful for blind and visual impaired people. Aside from the sensory layer of modalities, we focus on the representational layer of modalities, especially on the interaction of spatial and verbal representations, which is the basis for designing one promising type of audio-tactile YAH maps for visually impaired people.

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