Non-visual digital maps are not designed to mirror traditional print or tactile maps. Instead, these maps take the same data and present it in a way that enables visually impaired users to easily navigate and interact with the data using a screen reader. Students will use their ears – not their eyes or fingers – to access information can be non-visual digital maps.
The goal of these digital maps is for the user to build a mental map of the area and to glean the names of buildings, streets, and other key information. Similar to how travelers use their long cane in the real world, users can explore the digital map using a “virtual” cane. The student can swing his/her virtual cane clockwise or counterclockwise. As the cane encounters an object within the map, the user hears the direction and distance of that object relative to their virtual location within the map. Users also hear the name of each item they detect with their virtual cane.
There are five key concepts to know when using SAS Graphics Accelerator Maps:
- You are always located in the center of the circle.
- You always face 12:00, which is North.
- You always determine the spatial relationship of your POIs from your location.
- You always relate the distance of each POI from your location – near, halfway, far away (For advanced students you can use fractions!)
- The closer the POI, the higher the tone; the farther the POI, the lower the tone.
Map lessons for all ages
There are numerous posts with lessons for O&M students and map-related classroom lessons. Here are couple of the most popular posts to help you get started!
- Pre-activities for younger students: There are several tried and true activities that can be done with younger students to help make the connection from real world long cane to the virtual cane. Activities that build digital map skills
- Map Lessons for young O&M students: This is a series of progressive O&M lessons created to teach John, a 4th grade student, about his small town. The lessons have step-by-step instructions on how to introduce non-visual digital maps and how to use these embedded maps to teach O&M skills. Pittsboro Map Lessons: Getting Started
- This post is a recorded virtual O&M lesson of a rising college freshman using a non-virtual digital map to build a mental map of his future university. Remote Instruction for Students Transitioning to College: Building a Mental Map