Your public or private school student has the opportunity to participate in summer school or an event at your school for the blind. (It is anticipated that summer school will be face-to-face this year!) How can you prepare your student for traveling on campus when you physically cannot go to the campus? For most students, the school for the blind is to far away for the student’s O&M to transport to and provide orientation lessons on site. However, using the non-visual digital maps, you can help your student learn about items on campus and to build a mental map of campus and the surrounding area without physically stepping foot on the school for the blind campus!
If your student has not been exposed to non-visual digital maps, start with the pre-map activities listed in this post: Activities That Build Digital Map Skills. Create a very basic map of the school for the blind with only a few critical buildings, entrance intersection and possibly the boundary roads. Limit the initial map to 6-8 data points. Use this Basic map to introduce how to use a non-visual digital map. When the map opens, the reference point (center of the map) is always the exact center of the map – meaning it is not from the perspective of a specific building or data point. Before teaching the map, determine the campus location that makes the most sense – such as the starting point of most of the student’s routes on campus. Example: On the Governor Morehead School for the Blind campus (North Carolina’s school), Lineberry Hall is the location of the main classrooms and the auditorium; it is also the check-in building for the campus. So, when initially teaching the Governor Morehead School map, make Lineberry Hall the center of the map; all other locations are in relationship from this building. (When the virtual cane is on Lineberry Hall, press Enter to move to Lineberry Hall, making that the center of the map.)
After the student has a general idea of how to use the software and has developed a basic mental map of the campus (with it’s 6-8 data points), copy the original basic map, rename the map and add to it. Now the map should include all the important buildings, boundary roads, roads on campus and important landmarks. Have the student explore this map and build a solid mental map of campus. Ask questions to verify that the student does understand the spatial layout of the campus. Keep in mind that the student may be able verbally spout out information, but just because he can say the right words, does he really understand the spatial relationships? To truly confirm the student’s understanding, ask the student to draw a raised line basic map. (See post on the Sensational Blackboard: Concept Development: Drawing).
Remember, the goal is not to learn step-by-step directions of campus routes. The goal is to know what is there (such as the names of the buildings and what these buildings are used for), the roads/driveways that meander through campus that you might have to cross to get to different areas on campus, and the boundary roads of campus. The student should also be aware of important landmarks, including auditory landmarks that can be used for orientation purposes. Which nearby street is the busiest street? If you put your back to the busy street, what is to your left? Where is the pond? Note: Water always runs downhill. Ponds are typically at the lowest elevation. If you know where the pond is on campus, chances are that the campus terrain will run downhill to the pond. So, if you are walking uphill, you are probably walking away from the pond!
Schools for the blind typically have numerous sidewalks that students use to travel from building to building. For O&M purposes, these sidewalks should be named – ideally with names that make sense to everyone, including guests on campus. The non-visual digital maps are customized maps, so you can add sidewalk tags. Remember, in order to understand the direction that a road, sidewalk or path travels, you must have at least two tags. Tags should be placed at specific points, such as at intersections with other roads or sidewalks or place a tag on a building/landmark that is on that line – be sure the tag includes the road name. Example: On the Governor Morehead Map, “Lineberry Hall on Entrance Loop Road” – that is a specific point. “Entrance Loop Road and Ashe Avenue, intersection” is another specific point, while “Ashe Avenue” is too generic and could be anywhere along that road.
Use the maps below as examples of how to create several digital maps of your school for the blind campus. Remember, start with a very basic map (6-8 points) before introducing the more complex maps. When you create a map, please send the map to [email protected] so that the map can be publicly posted in the Map Library.
By Diane Brauner