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Tactile Mapping Software for Blind and Visually Impaired Navigation and Science Education

Principal researcher

Name: Dr. Amy K. Lobben

Contact details: University of Oregon, Department of Geography, 1251 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-1251, United States of America.
Tel: +1 541 346 4566; Fax: +1 541 346 2067
Email: lobben@uoregon.edu


Project details

Start date: 15/09/2005
End date: 31/08/2008

Description: This project aims at providing/developing a model of environmental and thematic feature perception by blind and visually impaired map users. The project will also provide free, easily accessible, and easy to use tactile mapping software, downloadable from the Department of Geography at University of Oregon website. The software will supply teachers with the tools to create navigation maps for blind and visually impaired orientation and mobility education as well as create tactile socio-economic maps to be used as instructional materials in science and social science education. The Research Goals of the project are to: 1. identify the most important environmental objects that are used during navigation, orientation and mobility by the blind and visually impaired 2. identify how blind and visually impaired map users perceive, categorize and use these environmental objects 3. based on the findings from goals 1 and 2, create and evaluate a library of symbols that effectively represent the environmental objects 4. evaluate the threshold of socio-economic data representation/symbolization on tactile thematic maps 5. create free, easily accessible Tactile Navigation and Socio-economic Mapping software that incorporates research findings from goals 1, 2, 3,and 4 Intellectual Merit. Research Goals 1-4 will be investigated through the design of empirical experiments involving human subject volunteers. Researchers and practitioners still do not understand completely how blind and visually impaired map readers perceive environmental features and then how those features are best symbolized for map use. While some researchers have begun to investigate tactile map design, very little has been reported on tactile navigation map use and environmental perception. Moreover, little to no results has been reported on tactile thematic maps (neither design nor use). The results from the proposed research will build on the limited knowledge base and begin to develop a model of understanding of both the environmental features (important for tactile navigation maps) and thematic value differences (important for tactile socio-economic maps). In addition, currently teachers have no automated means to produce navigation and thematic socio-economic tactile maps for the education of blind and visually students. The Tactile Navigation and Socio-economic Mapping that will be authored in this proposed project will offer the ability for teachers and parents to create highly customized navigation and orientation maps for specific locations such as school, home, church, neighborhood, or playground. Moreover, the proposed software will allow the mapmakers to insert landmarks that are meaningful to the map reader. But, one of the most substantial advantages of the proposed software is the additional ability to create hundreds of US socio-economic tactile maps, products that are flatly unavailable in any realistic way (without expensive custom-ordering from a tactile production company). Broader Impacts. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Law guarantees that this group will receive the materials they need for a free appropriate education. But, they don't have the socio-economic maps they need to achieve an understanding of the country that guaranteed their educational rights. The benefits this proposed project will bring to the underrepresented blind and visually impaired members of society are potentially monumental. The proposed project will deliver not only theoretical models addressing the understanding map use and environmental perception, but also the software, a tangible product that will enhance the infrastructure of both research and education.

Other organisations involved in this project

Funded by the National Science Foundation.

Last updated: 19/03/2010