Cartoon drawing of two homes

Whittier Falls Housing Development Map and “Circle” Concepts

Understanding the road name "circle" may actually represent various other shapes, such as a "U".

During the Perkins Non-Visual Digital Map workshop, orientation and mobility specialists learned how to create, use and apply non-visual digital map skills. Each participant was asked to create a map and to write a short scenario on how she/he would use her/his non-visual digital map during an O&M lesson. This is Cheryl’s Whittier Falls housing Development Map – developed to be help a student learn his neighborhood in before taking tandem bike rides!

O&M Goal

To familiarize student with the layout of his neighborhood and learn some points of interest, street names and prominent landmarks. 

Student Scenario

(Goal and scenario written by Cheryl. Note: House locations have been changed.)

My 13-year old student, D, is functionally blind with object perception. He has some delays in verbal processing. He does not have great cane skills because he relies on his vision to detect and navigate obstacles. However, in doing so, he tends to focus more of his energy on navigation than on orientation. He will use objects he can see in the environment as landmarks and clues but is more of a route traveler. His parents have been reluctant to let him travel independently and their hesitation has made him feel afraid and he lacks self-confidence in his skills and safety. Since he will be entering high school in the fall, parents are starting to realize the value and importance of him increasing his independence. The school bus stop is at the police station, one of the points that is on the map I created.

Coincidentally, D will be getting a tandem bike on loan this summer and I think it would be a great motivator to learn more about his neighborhood, even though he will not be steering the bike. I would like to challenge him to learn more about the neighborhood and to share with me his feelings about the difference in time/distance judgment and experience of more/less contact with the environment comparing/contrasting walking vs. biking.

D loves sounds and technology and I will be very interested to see if he will understand the premise of this tool and become curious enough to want to learn how to use it to get familiar with his neighborhood.

In creating the map, I used locations that he is familiar with from having been there with his family, although he has not traveled there on his own. He does not understand the relationships between them within the context of the layout of the neighborhood. 

He loves to take the bus and I think he will be thrilled to find out that there is a bus shelter in his neighborhood because that should be easy to locate visually. That will be a great mobility goal.

O&M Lesson

Whittier Falls Map

Once the student understands how to use the SAS Graphics Accelerator, ask the student to explore the map. If the student is new to non-visual digital maps, discuss map boundaries, how to identify the direction and/or shape of the roads, and discuss various spatial relationships. Ask the student to give a quick overview of the spatial relationships (using main roads and items found on these roads). If necessary, ask leading questions.

As always, determine the map boundaries and the general shape of the data points on the map and the location of the main roads, landmarks and if there are clusters of data points. This neighborhood map has a good western boundary (Highway 16), southern boundary (Tolend Road/Washington Street) and northern boundary (Cocheco River). There is not an obvious eastern boundary.

Bike Route

Pairing the map with the goal of learning bike routes is a fantastic idea! The student should always know where he is in space, even if he is the second person on a tandem bike, traveling using Human Guide techniques or a passenger in a car. If the community trail allows bikes, this map could be expanded to include the nearby trail system! The discussion about how walking vs. biking might impact time and distance concepts is terrific – I’d love to hear back on how that goes!

Additional Goals

The original goal of the map is to familiarize student with the layout of his neighborhood and learn some points of interest, street names and prominent landmarks. However, there are unique concepts in this map that the student needs to understand in order to truly move from a rote route traveler to a fiercely independent traveler. Let’s expand this lesson to cover these unique concepts – remember, not every student is ready for the expanded version of the lesson. You determine the goals of each map for YOUR student!

Note: These expanded O&M-related concepts are wonderful goals that can be taught remotely!

Unique O&M Concepts

Every map is unique and can be used to teach different O&M concepts. This neighborhood map has unique one-way roads; these one-way roads start and stop at an intersection with another road. Most roads are linear – meaning that they go in a relatively straight line and often continue farther than what is shown on the map. While roads in a city are often designed in straight line grids, there are many instances that roads are not built in straight line or grid formation. Sometimes roads are curved to go around natural obstacles such as hills/valleys or water features. 

Interstates and highways are designed as a way for drivers to get from point A to point B (usually one city to another city) as quickly as possible. Interstates tend to be in a straight line, unless there is a reason to go around an obstacle. 

Neighborhoods often have one entrance or limited entrances. Ask your student what the benefit might be of having only one entrance or a limited number of entrances. Neighborhoods may have roads that “circle back” to the main entrance or to another entrance/exit.

Definition of a Circle: A round shaped figure that has no corners or edges. Some definitions go on to state that all points in a plane are equal distance from the center. When a road has “Circle” in it’s name, is it always a true circle?

Hampshire Circle

The name provides an important clue!  The road, Hampshire is not a straight line. Look at the data points on the map. Do you think Hampshire Circle is a true, round circle? Why or why not? Ask your student to show the shape of Hampshire Circle using Wikki Stycks or draw the shape using the Sensational Blackboard or similar raised line drawing tool. The map provides several clues – what are they?

Three Hampshire Circle data points:

  1. Whittier Street and entrance to one-way Hampshire Circle, intersection.
  2. Whittier Street and exit of one-way Hampshire Circle, intersection.
  3. Cocheco Academy of the Arts on Hampshire Circle.

Note: The text about Hampshire Circle provides some information; however, you need more than just the text! Explore the map to determine if the road is straight by using the spatial relationships of the data points.

Hampshire Circle starts at Whittier Street – the Whittier/Hampshire Circle intersection closer to Highway 16. Hampshire Circle is a one-way street from this intersection and ending at the second Whittier/Hampshire intersection – the intersection closer to Cocheco River. With the location of the Cocheco Academy data point (and no other data points) on Hampshire Circle, we can make an educated guess that  Hampshire Street curves around the Cocheco Academy. Since there is not a data point on the other side of Whittier Street and with the information that Hampshire “entrance” and “exit” are on Whittier, an educated guess that Hampshire Circle ends on Whittier – making the shape of the street more of “U” shape than a circle.

Note: In the map labels, “entrance to one-way street” and “exit of one-way street” indicates that the street starts or ends at this intersection. In other maps, the label may be “College Street begins one-way” or “College Street ends one-way”. The terms “begins” and “ends” indicate that the street continues in both directions, but that the two-way street becomes one way at this location.

Pleasant View

There are three intersection points on Pleasant View along with the DiCicco’s Market located the “corner of Washington Street and Pleasant View Circle”. While you might first assume that Pleasant View is a circle or U-shape (similar to Hampshire Circle), it is not. Using the three data points, you can determine that Pleasant View curves out to the east and back. In reality, Pleasant View is the eastern half of a circle with Whittier Street making up the western half of the circle. The combination of the two roads make the “circle”.  We also know that Whittier street continues north while Pleasant View ends.

Mineral Park Drive

There is another one-way road. What is it? Where does Mineral Park Drive “start”? where does it end? What would be a good way to label this short road? (I’d call this road a “short cut” road.)

To confirm that your student understands the various “circle” scenarios, ask him to not only describe them but to draw them using Wikki Stycks or the Sensational Blackboard.



By Diane Brauner


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