Interactive audio-tactile maps for visually impaired people

Abstract : Visually impaired people face important challenges related to orientation and mobility. Indeed, 56% of visually impaired people in France declared having problems concerning autonomous mobility. These problems often mean that visually impaired people travel less, which influences their personal and professional life and can lead to exclusion from society. Therefore this issue presents a social challenge as well as an important research area. Accessible geographic maps are helpful for acquiring knowledge about a city's or neighborhood's configuration, as well as selecting a route to reach a destination. Traditionally, raised-line paper maps with braille text have been used. These maps have proved to be efficient for the acquisition of spatial knowledge by visually impaired people. Yet, these maps possess significant limitations. For instance, due to the specificities of the tactile sense only a limited amount of information can be displayed on a single map, which dramatically increases the number of maps that are needed. For the same reason, it is difficult to represent specific information such as distances. Finally, braille labels are used for textual descriptions but only a small percentage of the visually impaired population reads braille. In France 15% of blind people are braille readers and only 10% can read and write. In the United States, fewer than 10% of the legally blind people are braille readers and only 10% of blind children actually learn braille. Recent technological advances have enabled the design of interactive maps with the aim to overcome these limitations. Indeed, interactive maps have the potential to provide a broad spectrum of the population with spatial knowledge, irrespective of age, impairment, skill level, or other factors. To this regard, they might be an efficient means for providing visually impaired people with access to geospatial information. In this paper we give an overview of our research on making geographic maps accessible to visually impaired people.
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Anke Brock, Christophe Jouffrais. Interactive audio-tactile maps for visually impaired people. ACM SIGACCESS Accessibility and Computing (ACM Digital Library), Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), 2015, pp.3-12. ⟨http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=J956&CFID=730680571&CFTOKEN=17044974⟩. ⟨10.1145/2850440.2850441⟩. ⟨hal-01237319⟩

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