Satellite view of Pittsboro Historic Courthouse circle with text

Pittsboro Map Lessons: Getting Started

New to non-visual digital maps? Use this simplified map to get started!

The non-visual digital map software is brand new and O&Ms and students are learning together as we go. Older students who have strong orientation concepts and who are tech savvy are up and running. Send them a link to install the free SAS Graphics Accelerator Extension, a link to the map, and a link to the guide and they are off to the races. (See post about Victor, a rising college freshman.) But, what about the younger student or a student who does not have strong orientation concepts?

We always want to set a student up for success. We have learned several things through numerous O&M trainings (all online of course!) and through feedback as O&Ms work with their students. Remember a non-visual digital map is intended to look different than the traditional visual map. Visual maps are designed to be accessed with your eyes while non-visual digital maps are designed to be accessed with your ears. Both types of maps should contain the same information. Additionally, non-visual digital maps have unique concepts; it is beneficial for O&Ms and students to understand these five non-visual digital map concepts before accessing the non-visual digital map. I recommend reviewing these concepts at the beginning of each lesson, until the student is comfortable and independent with the map software.

Non-Visual Digital Map Concepts

  1. You are always in the center of the circle.
  2. You always face 12:00.
  3. You always compare the spacial relationship of your POIs from your location.
  4. You always relate the distance of each POI from your location – near, halfway, far away (For advanced students you can use fractions!)
  5. The closer the POI, the higher the tone; the farther the POI, the lower the tone.

Are you working with younger students or students who need hands-on activities to understand the five basic concepts? (See Activities that Build Digital Maps post.)

Next, start with a very SIMPLE map with 8 – 10 data points, ideally a map of an area that students are familiar with. Many students benefit from using a tactile map of this area before being introduced to a non-visual digital map. Remember: All students should have hands-on time with various tactile maps before being introduced to a non-visual digital map. Just like all students should be introduced to tactile charts and graphs before using non-visual digital charts and graphs. The tactile map is helpful in transitioning map skills from the tactile version to the digital version. Initially, students need to learn about maps using either their eyes or their fingertips, before using their ears to explore a map. After the initial introduction to a non-visual digital map, most students do not need a corresponding tactile map fully understand the digital map.

In this lesson, we will use the map called “Pittsboro Courthouse Map Simple”.  This map has 8 data points, which include the 4 streets that intersect with circle around the historic courthouse, three businesses on the circle and the Historic Courthouse located in the middle of the circle. The main goals of this map are to learn about non-visual digital maps, learn about the software/commands, and to explore the immediate area around Pittsboro’s Historic Courthouse. This activity is a great introduction activity which is appropriate for all ages and is geared for both O&Ms and students with visual impairments or blindness.

Note: The John’s O&M Lesson 1: Non-Visual Digital Maps for Elementary Student post dives deeper into introducing non-visual digital maps to young students; however the Pittsboro Basic Map has 18 data points and beginner users maybe overwhelmed with the amount of information. The Pittsboro Courthouse Map Simple has only 8 data points, enabling beginner users to focus on the commands and software – not the data – while growing their digital map concepts.

Open the Map

Map Lesson

Remember, the non-visual digital map is a full circle. You – the user – are standing in the exact center of the data points on the map. With this map, the center is NOT on a data point. In this map, there are 8 out of 8 data points, meaning that all 8 of the data pints are currently in view. If you choose to Zoom in on this map (+ key to zoom the map), the screen reader will announce, “Radius will decrease to 50 yards, showing 3 out of 8 objects.”  Zoom out by pressing the minus key (-).

Depending on the user, you can decide to focus on names of the data points (names of the 4 street intersections and three businesses). Then focus on where these things are in relationship to the courthouse (Example: Which street is on the north side of the courthouse or 12 o’clock?) Other users may remember the name and location of all the data points all at once.

Ask the student to rename the data points and using their hand, to physically point in the direction of each data point. (Example: When the Historic Courthouse is in the center of the map, where is Hillsborough Street? (Student should phisically point straight ahead.) Where is Neal’s gas station? Which direction is the city, Raleigh, from Pittsboro?)

Draw a conclusion: Which street intersects the courthouse at an angle? How do you know? Hint: Roads that intersect in a straight line with the Circle will be located at 12:00, 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00. (Answer: Highway 501 to Sanford is at an angle to the south west because it is located at 8 o’clock from the Historic Courthouse.)

Determining which side of the street a business is located on

When you create your map, you can include cardinal directions to indicate which corner of the street a business is located, if that is the goal of the map. In this map, I included an example of a label with cardinal directions to indicate which side of the intersection a business is located on. (“Pittsboro Toys is on the north west side of West Street and the Circle.”) Does the cardinal information need to be included? No, adding cardinal directions to the label is not necessary.

Can you tell which side of West street the Roadhouse restaurant is located? How do you know? From the Historic Courthouse, both West Street and the Roadhouse are listed as being at 9 o’clock. (Answer: When moving your virtual cane clockwise around the circle, your cane will find the Roadhouse before the virtual cane finds West Street.)

Which corner of the intersection is Neal’s Gas station? (Answer: The south east corner of the Circle and East Street.)

Note: When creating digital maps, include the name of the street that a business or Point of Interest (POI) is on. Do NOT include information about which side of the street a business or POI is on, unless the goal of the map is to learn how to use cardinal directions to teach the student to identify the four corners of an intersection or to identify which side of the street a POI is located on.


By Diane Brauner

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