Going somewhere new? What is the first thing you do? Open your favorite map app and learn about the area and preplan your route. But, what do you do if you are visually impaired and cannot see the visual map?
ObjectiveEd has just released the first version of Map Explore, an iPad app which uses cutting edge technology to make digital maps accessible! These innovated maps use sonification – sounds – that enable students to easily trace streets on a touch screen iOS tablet. Drag a finger around the screen – hear the street name and the customized tags of buildings/landmarks. To follow a street, simply drag a finger while listening to the sound. The sound continues as you trace the street; if your finger moves away from the street, the sound stops. As you cross an intersection, the intersecting street is announced. As an O&M specialist, I am thrilled with these accessible maps and the endless possibilities of how these maps can be used in lessons!!!
As an O&M with over 25 years of experience, I have made countless tactile maps for students; these maps have saved hours upon hours of O&M “feet-in-the-street” instruction time. These maps have also been used to build a variety of foundational O&M concepts, with the main goal of teaching the student how to build a mental map – or a big overview – of the desired environment. This ability to create robust mental maps makes the difference between an rote route traveler and a fearless, independent traveler. A rote route traveler may travel known routes independently; however, the rote route traveler relies on someone teaching every single route. Every. Single. Route. A fearless, independent traveler learns orientation skills and then applies these skills to fearlessly travel in new environments and to be able to take shortcuts in known environments.
In the 21st century, people with vision have instant access to digital maps and GPS systems. There are wonderful GPS-type apps that are accessible for travelers who are blind and low vision. These apps are typically used for turn-by-turn directions. While there is a time and place for these turn-by-turn directions, the downfall of these apps is that they can reinforce rote route travel behavior (for users with or without vision). Remember the days when you pulled out that big atlas and planned your trip ahead of time? The atlas provided a general idea of what is there, where major landmarks are, which direction you need to travel in, what you will encounter along the way, spatial relationships between places, etc.The atlas gave you the “big picture” or overview of your trip – making you a fearless, independent traveler. For students who are visually impaired, Map Explore is similar to the classic atlas in that Map Explore provides the “big picture” information needed to develop a strong mental map.
Another brilliant feature of Map Explore is that O&Ms can quickly and easily create customized map within Map Explore, using Google Maps. Add in a few details for a beginner student or tons of details for the advanced traveler. These maps are customized! Like all ObjectiveEd games, Map Explore has educational game play with quiz modes!
Tap with one finger to start the game. Listen carefully for the name of the map and how many location tags are on that map. As you find the tags, the game announces how many tags you have found and how many tags are left.
Note: This is a sneak peak at the Map Explore game by ObjectiveEd – more features are coming soon! The goal of this Sneak Peak post is to introduce the concept of sonified streets on an accessible digital map.
The video below demonstrates a customized map of Moore Square Park in downtown Raleigh. The main goal of this map is to build “block” concepts and to identify the four streets that make up the block around Moore Square Park. The goal of the video is to introduce accessible maps with sonified streets.
Note: “Customized” maps are created by individuals, typically O&Ms. The Moore Square Park map in the video above is a customized map that I created. It is currently only available to my students after I assign the map to them; the Moore Square Park map is not a standard, preloaded map by ObjectiveEd that is available to everyone.
Map Explore is only available to current ObjectiveEd customers.
By Diane Brauner