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Tactile Maps
The basic principle of a tactile map (also known as a raised or embossed map), is to present an extremely simple version of a visual image.

A tactile map can assist blind and visually impaired people with the layout of a built environment ie. a museum or a natural environment ie. a public garden. Tactile maps are not easy to produce or interpret since just embossing a sighted map seldom leads to an intelligible tactile map. The problem of converting a sighted graphical representation to an embossed one can be illustrated by the problem of indicating direction. Visually it is often shown as an arrow on a line. An embossed arrow gives a sense of direction at only one point on the line and the symbol is unfamiliar to many blind persons. However a line sawtooth in cross-section has an indication of direction over the whole length of the line, and it is easy to associate the symbol with the meaning since the line is smooth in one direction and rough in the other.

To read a tactile map requires the user to use a systematic scanning technique. Consider a sighted person trying to read a large wall map but only being able to read through two small holes; it is necessary to read the detail before being able to get an understanding of the whole image (the opposite to normal sighted reading of a map). Using a scanning strategy is something which usually needs to be taught, so many blind people lack this skill if their visual loss was later in life.

Static and Portable Maps and Plans

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There are 2 basic ways of providing information about the layout of a venue to a visitor, whether they have a sight problem, or not: static, in-situ maps or plans portable, hand-held maps or plans Static, in-situ maps and plans The information given on static, in-situ maps and plans needs to be very simple and straightforward as people need to remember information once they have walked away from the map or plan. The main benefits of large static maps or plans are that they give a good overview of a venue along with simple orientation information, which is of particular benefit to people who have sight problems. Very special consideration has to be given as to the siting of these static maps or plans. They must be located at a suitable height to give accessibility to people with sight problems and must be positioned where they can be read in comfort, for example not in the middle of a busy entrance. Static maps and plans should be inclusive in their design, enabling as many different people to read them as possible and preventing the necessity to have more than one map, for example RNIB has been developing a new inclusive design concept called the "Map for All". This combines visual and tactile elements by using good colour contrasts, different textures along with braille and print text which is also raised, enabling the map or plan to be read by sight, by touch or by sight and touch combined. Think Graphic and The Dog Rose Trust have developed the "Dorcas Panel". These are interpretive panels - an invisible tactile layer conveys information via braille and raised illustrations without interfering with the full colour graphics below. See following picture.

Portable, hand-held maps and plans The information given in portable maps and plans can be much more detailed than on a static map or plan as they can be referred to constantly. However, a mechanism is needed to get them into the hands of visitors, consequently, they may not be suitable at unstaffed sites. The ideal would be to provide both static and portable maps and plans so that the visitor can start with the static version to get a general understanding of the whole venue and then refer to a hand-held version to get further information. If this is not possible, then a decision must be made based on what is most useful at a specific venue. Overall, hand-held maps and plans usually come out on top because of the level of information they can convey.

Producing Maps and Plans Maps and plans can be produced in a number of ways: tactile format with braille labelling tactile format with audio description audio description alone large print

There are many methods of producing tactile maps or plans, but the two most common are: Thermoforming This process is also known as vacuum forming. Thermoform maps or plans are created from a process where a sheet of plastic is heated and vacuumed on top of a model or master. The master can be made up from almost anything, although certain substances can be more durable than others. The key to a good thermoform map or plan is in the creation of a good master. Masters are generally built up from a base of card, but the card must either be thin enough for air to pass through it, or small holes will need to be drilled through for the vacuum process to work. A sketch of the design can be made and transferred onto the base, from which outlines and regions can be built up using a variety of materials. To give substance, objects such as balsa wood or card can be cut and glued in place. Some of the more artistic thermoform master designers use ceramic tile cement, which can be manipulated to the desired shape. Braille can be added by cutting and pasting sheets from a standard embosser or Perkins machine. Swell paper This process is also known as Minolta, Microcapsule paper, hot spot. Swell paper is paper with a special coating of heat reactive

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chemicals. Microcapsules of alcohol embedded in the paper burst when exposed to heat and make the surface of the paper swell up. Putting black ink on the paper before a heat process enables control over the raised areas. Swell paper can be used to create tactile maps or plans in a number of ways: 1. Photocopying - an image can be transferred to swell paper using a photocopier. 2. Printing - an inkjet or fast laser printer can be used to print directly onto the paper. Because of the heat process involved in laser printers the finished product can have background swelling which can cause tactile clutter and be unpleasant to use. 3. Marker pens - you can draw directly onto the paper with some black markers. 4. Heat pens - a special pen with a heated tip allows you to draw directly on to swell paper and see results without the need to have a fuser (once an image has been transferred to the swell paper, it can be passed through a fuser. The fuser is a device with a heated element which causes the paper to react). Some heat pens have battery packs which make their use even more flexible.

Producers of tactile maps

Acknowledgement The above information was collected from the following sources: National Centre for Tactile Diagrams. [accessed 25/10/07]. RNIB (2003) The Talking Images Guide - Museums, galleries and heritage sites: improving access for blind and partially sighted people.

Further information:
Anglia Ruskin University (2005) Tactile Inkjet Mapping Project. [accessed 25/10/07]. British Journal of Visual Impairment. Special Issue on Space and Touch: Recent studies on tactile graphics and spatial imagery. Vol. 24 (2), May 2006 Gardiner, A. & Perkins, C. Best practice guidelines for the design, production and presentation of vacuum formed tactile maps. [accessed 25/10/07]. Map for All - Sue King, Tactile Images, Maps and Signage Consultant, RNIB. The ICA Commission on Maps and Graphics for Blind and Visually Impaired People. [accessed 25/10/07].

Other information:
Barker, P. Barrick, J. & Wilson R. (1995) Building Sight - How the needs of blind and partially sighted people can be met in the design of buildings and the environment. London: RNIB. [accessed 16/10/07]. Bright, K. Flanagan, S. Embleton, J. Selbekk, L. & Cook, G. (2004) Buildings for all to use - improving the accessibility of public buildings and environments. London: CIRIA. [accessed 16/10/07]. Casserley, C. (2000) Tourism and the DDA: your guide to understanding the Disability Discrimination Act. London: RNIB. Centre for Accessible Environments (2005) Specifiers' Handbooks for Inclusive Design Series [accessed 08/10/07]. Communities and Local Governement (2003) Planning and access for disabled people: a good practice guide. [accessed 16/10/07]. Department for Transport (2005) Inclusive Mobility. [accessed 16/10/07]. EuCAN (European Concept for Accessibility Network) (2003) The European Concept For Accessibility. [accessed 16/10/07]. Equality and Human Rights Commission (2001) FOCUS 7: Creating an Inclusive Environment. Equality and Human Rights Commission (2004) Making access to goods and services easier for disabled customers: A practical guide for small businesses and other small service providers. [accessed 16/10/07]. Equality and Human Rights Commission (2005) The Duty to Promote Disability Equality - Statutory Code of Practice. Equality and Human Rights Commission (2006) Code of Practice - Rights of Access: services to the public, public authority functions, private clubs and premises. [accessed 16/10/07]. Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (2007 ) The good, the bad and the ugly design and construction for access. [accessed 16/10/07]. JMU Access Partnership (n.d.) Buildings and Internal Environments. London: RNIB. Lacey, A. (2004) Designing for Accessibility. London: Centre for Accessible Environments. [accessed 08/10/07]. Merseytravel (2006) Code of Practice on Access and Mobility. [accessed 16/10/07]. National Council for the Blind of Ireland (2005) Guidelines for Accessibility of the Built Environment. [accessed 25/10/07]. National Disability Authority (2002) Building for Everyone. [accessed 16/10/07]. RNIB (2000) Welcoming your visually impaired customers, leisure industry pack. [accessed 16/10/07]. Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities [n.d.] Accessibility for the Disabled - A Design Manual for a Barrier Free Environment. [accessed 16/10/07]. Sport England (2002) Access for Disabled People. [accessed 16/10/07]. VisitBritain (2004) National Accessible Scheme. [accessed 16/10/07]. Pictures acknowledgements RNIB Scientific Research Unit Mekan Industri AB Think Graphic timp (tactile inkjet mapping project) - Anglia Ruskin University Lantmteriet

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