Screenshot of annotated middle school map with tool bars.

Creating Low Vision Maps: SAS Gloss App

Information on how to use the annotation app, SAS Gloss to create accessible low vision maps.

UPDATE: The SAS Gloss app is no longer available; however, there are numerous other annotation apps that can be used to create low vision maps.

SAS gloss is a free annotation app that can be used to quickly create an accessible map on-the-fly for low vision students.  Annotation apps allow the student or educator to write, color, draw and type directly on top of a PDF or picture.  The annotated PDF or picture can then be emailed.  This post will discuss creating and marking digital maps to be used  by students with low vision.

To take a picture and open the picture in SAS Gloss:

  1. Simply use your iPad to take a picture of a map.  When making school maps, I often snap a picture of fire escape maps as they are posted around the school.  When making a community map, I will take a screen shot of the desired roads using Apple Maps or Google Maps. Teachers can also email the assignment (document or picture) or share the assignment through Dropbox or Google Drive.
  2. Open SAS Gloss and select the “new” button (plus sign in the top left corner).
  3. Open Photos by selecting the photo image in the bottom left corner.
  4. In the popup, select Choose from Library.  (Note:  You can Open SAS Gloss and take the picture directly in SAS Gloss by selecting the Take Photo option.  This does eliminate some steps  However, I usually prefer to have a copy of the photo in the Photo App in case I want the original photo later.)
  5. Find and select the desired image (probably the last photo taken).

Or, the Orientation and Mobility Specialist/TVI can email the assignment (PDF document or picture) or share the assignment through Dropbox.  To open in SAS Gloss:

  1. Select Share
  2. In the popup menu, select Open In SAS Gloss; if you do not have that option, select Open In.
  3. In the next popup menu, select Open in SAS Gloss option

Once the document/picture is in SAS Gloss, select the picture.  If the picture is not full screen, use the “grabber” circles (located in the corners of the picture) and drag to the bottom right corner making the picture full screen and tap the Done button in the top left corner.

Note: Teach your student to explore the Tool bar located at both the top and the bottom of the screen.  Be sure to take a look at the Help Button, as this will show an annotated screen that labels/describes each of the Tool bar buttons!

Picture of original middle school map in black and white.

School maps are often visually cluttered with multiple rooms and hallways.  With indoor school maps, I frequently use a high contrast color to mark the hallways.  I choose a different color to mark important areas within the school, often the larger landmarks such as the gym, cafeteria, office and media center.  Depending on the student, I may mark a few other areas, such as a specific classroom, elevator/stairs, etc. if necessary; however, keep in mind that less is better!  If you mark too many things, then the map is visually cluttered once again!

Use the Tool bar at the bottom of the screen to begin annotating:

Color the hallways and large rooms:

  1. Select a color by tapping on the color button located at the bottom of the screen in the middle.
  2. In the popup, select the desired color.  (I chose bright blue.)

SOMA Conference map with low opacity pink over Imperial Ballroom and high opacity dark blue masking the original text.

  1. Select the opacity by moving the slider.  Note: 100% opacity will mask any written or image underneath the annotation.  Using a lighter opacity will allow the text/image underneath to show thru.  However, the lighter the opacity, the less the contrast. (See the Conference Center image which shows the low opacity pink with the original “Imperial Ballroom” text showing through and the high opacity bright blue that masks the Theatre text.)
  2. When finished making your color and opacity choices, tap outside the popup to close the popup.
  3. Select the drawing pen.
  4. In the popup, select the type of shape that you want to make.  For marking the hallways, choose Line.  For marking the square rooms, choose Rectangle and then turn Fill On.  This will fill the inside of the box with color.
  5. In the popup, select the size or width of your line using the slider.  The right side of the slider will create the widest line.
  6. Tap outside of the box to close the popup.

Annotated school map with blue hallways and colored Media Center, Office and Gym.

  1. To color the hallways (you should have selected Line for coloring the hallways), place your finger tip at the edge of the hallway and drag the length of the hallway.  Some wider hallways may require drawing the line twice.  
  2. If you do not like your line, simply tap the Undo button at the top left side of the screen. You can also use the Eraser button (located in the bottom Tool bar) to erase a small portion of the line.
  3. Color all of the hallways.  Change the size (width) of the pen as needed.
  4. To color the large rooms, select the Color button and choose a different color.  (I used a different color for each room on the sample maps.) Tap outside of the box to close the popup.
  5. Select the drawing pen.
  6. Select Rectangle and turn Fill On. Tap outside the box to close the popup.
  7. Place your finger at the top left corner of the desired room.  Drag finger to the bottom right corner.  The rectangular will automatically be filled with the selected color.
  8. Repeat until all the desired hallways and rooms are labeled.  Remember, only mark what is absolutely necessary!  *

Add text to label the rooms:     SOMA Map with high opacity and manually typed text

  1. Select the Aa button located in the left side of the bottom Tool bar.
  2. In the popup, type the desired room name in the Enter Text Here box.
  3. Select the desired contrasting color.  Note: You can also change the font if desired.
  4. When finished, tap outside of the popup box.

SOMA Conference map with low opacity; original text shows through.

  1. Move the text to the desired location; in this case, on top of the corresponding room. Tap the text and the grabber circles will appear in the corners of the text box.  Then, touch inside the box to drag the large text to the desired location.  NOTE: Be sure that the grabber circles are displayed or you will move the BACKGROUND image instead of the text box!
  2. Make the text the desired size.  Tap the text and the grabber circles will appear.  Starting at the edge of the text box, drag your finger out to make the text larger and drag in to make the text smaller.  NOTE: It is easier to drag the text box when it is larger, so be sure to move the text box first before making the text smaller.
  3. Repeat until all the desired rooms are labeled.
  4. When you are finished annotating the map, tap the Gloss button (top left corner) to go back to the SAS Gloss Home screen.

When you have finished annotating each step, tap on the Done button in the top left corner. This will bring up the bottom Tool bar again, allowing you to choose the next color or annotation options.

Note:  Using the higher opacity and then manually typing in the text works best for students who use the Zoom feature, as the text remains crisp and clear while zoomed.  The original text on the image/document will often become blurry when Zoomed.  Try zooming in on the Conference Center maps and compare the clearness/usability of the original text and the manually typed text.

SOMA Conference map with purple colored hallways.* With maps that have many important rooms but few hallways, such as the Conference Center map, I chose to color and label the rooms and to leave the hallways alone.  Coloring both the rooms and hallways would make the map visually cluttered.  Marking just the hallways did not highlight the important information.  (See the Conference Map with the highlighted hallways on the left.)

When the goal is to teach the general layout of the school with the hallways being the most important element, then you may choose to color the hallways.  The Middle School map is a good example of a map in which the individual classrooms are not the most important element of the map.

To email the annotated map:

  1. From the SAS Gloss Home screen, tap the Share button located in to the top right corner.
  2. Select the desired picture (map). The picture will be checked.  You can select multiple pictures to email at one time.
  3. Select Share in the top left corner.
  4. Select Email.
  5. Type in the desired email address.  You can add a message if desired.
  6. Select the Send button in the top right corner.

  7. By Diane Brauner

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