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Wanted: Partners on a not-so-profitable venture...


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#1
Derek Tonn

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Hello everyone!

My thread title is a bit "tongue-in-cheek" (as an attention-getter), but I am wondering if anyone in the CartoTalk community would ever consider working with me in effort to develop new and improved mapping/navigational resources for the blind and visually impaired. This is an issue that is very close to my heart, and I've always wanted to grow my business to the point where I could simply invest in this type of endeavor without having to worry about "dollars and cents" (though I am FAR from being to that point as of yet)! I've been researching the topic now for the past 2-3 years, and most individuals in the blind and visually-impaired communities are telling me that tactile resources do exist...but that they are woefully inadequate.

Rather than re-invent the wheel, I thought I would also take the opportunity to check with other CartoTalk members to see what types of mapping/navigational resources for the blind and visually impaired that you are aware of. I ALSO wanted to check and see if anyone out there happened to share my passion for this issue...in hopes that we might be able to work with one another to try and develop new/better resources down the road.

I couldn't promise wild amounts of success...nor could I likely promise that we all would reasonably profit from our time and effort! However, I am thinking of this as one of those "good/right things to do" types of communal activities, regardless of profit, as well as a way for some of us map designers to leave an even greater positive mark on the world after our time on Earth has passed.

Anyone know of any great resources out there that I could reference? Anyone crazy/passionate enough to want to try and work with me on developing better resources in this area (with no guarantees of financial success)? I would love to hear from you if anyone out there might answer "yes" to either question.

Thanks!

Derek
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#2
David Medeiros

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I have often thought about this very problem. Ive wondered if in the near future things like GPS WiFi, bluetooth and GIS might come together to allow people to walk around with a sort of smart guide that knows where they are and can tell them about whats in the area (kinda like the head phones in museums). It's an idea thats been out there for a while and I think cell phone companies are working on locational content right now. But it got me thinking about how a blind person might be able to use this.

A device that could speak out directions and locational informaton and take voice commands could be a great help to any one who can't see. Imagine walking around town and having the device tell you all of the buisnesses you are passing, or telling you how close you are to the next bus stop or your particular destination. It could read the status of the stoplight when at an intersection etc.

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#3
Derek Tonn

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I have often thought about this very problem.  Ive wondered if in the near future things like GPS WiFi, bluetooth and GIS might come together to allow people to walk around with a sort of smart guide that knows where they are and can tell them about whats in the area (kinda like the head phones in museums).  It's an idea thats been out there for a while and I think cell phone companies are working on locational content right now.  But it got me thinking about how a blind person might be able to use this.

A device that could speak out directions and locational informaton and take voice commands could be a great help to any one who can't see.  Imagine walking around town and having the device tell you all of the buisnesses you are passing, or telling you how close you are to the next bus stop or your particular destination.  It could read the status of the stoplight when at an intersection etc.


Dave, I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one who has spent a LOT of time thinking about this issue!

One thing I have always wanted to try is designing maps that include the positioning of SOUNDS in addition to street names....buildings.....landmarks, etc. If there's a big 'ol church at the corner of First and Main that rings its bell on the hour every hour, why not mark that as an audible "landmark" on a map for the visually impaired?

The closest I have seen to mapping sound instead of simply "sight" to this point is a decibel map of Minneapolis that a grad student at the University of Minnesota put together a few years ago. They mapped the city with only measured decibel levels...but the location of major freeways the the International Airport quickly became apparent, even without them actually being drawn on the map!

I intend to try developing an "audible landmarks" map/navigational guide on a small scale to begin with, but am also planning to talk to several state and federal agencies, private associations, schools, etc. about doing something on a larger scale (focusing on high population centers at first, as well as institutions that cater specifically to the visually impaired).

I like your idea about cell phones, GIS/GPS, etc. as well! I've seen that technology, and I am hoping they will also find a way to include "audible landmarks" in those efforts as well!

We'll see what other responses this thread might generate in the days to come. Thanks!

Derek
Derek Tonn
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mapformation, LLC

datonn@mapformation.com
http://www.mapformation.com

#4
Sylvie

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Rather than re-invent the wheel, I thought I would also take the opportunity to check with other CartoTalk members to see what types of mapping/navigational resources for the blind and visually impaired that you are aware of. 

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Eva Sieskera, a speaker at the NACIS meeting, presented some of her work on tactile maps for the visually impaired.

Here's the link:

Mapping for the Visually Impaired
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#5
Derek Tonn

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Rather than re-invent the wheel, I thought I would also take the opportunity to check with other CartoTalk members to see what types of mapping/navigational resources for the blind and visually impaired that you are aware of. 

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Eva Sieskera, a speaker at the NACIS meeting, presented some of her work on tactile maps for the visually impaired.

Here's the link:

Mapping for the Visually Impaired


Thanks Sylvie! I actually was referred to that web site by a university in Canada as part of another forum discussion a few months ago, and it is definitely a part of my research and reference materials on the topic. Great stuff! Thanks.

Derek
Derek Tonn
Founder and CEO
mapformation, LLC

datonn@mapformation.com
http://www.mapformation.com

#6
Mike H

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derek,

i'm always interested in that genre of maps. We looked into it last year at UMaine and met with our visually impaired students/staff, but determined tactile maps wouldn't be all that useful. We do have a programming team working on handheld GPS enabled ipointers which correlate to a visual database of campus buildings.

see: http://www.i-spatialtech.com/index.htm

I'm not directly involved with this group, they are former students who are now part of our business incubator. But we hope to pursue this gadget-mapping angle as an audio-based navigational option for visually impaired folks. They have some bugs to work out, but the prototypes were really engaging to use. It knows where it is being pointed and pulls up static images of buildings. We want to make them content specific to disabled users, so they could guide folks to the handicapped entrances, and offer a subset of historical and current buiulding info, in an audio format as well as image based.

m.
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#7
frax

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you may be interested in one of the entries that got special recognition (but no award) in the 2005 Mapublisher awards (that Martin linked a few days ago). I liked it so much that I actually printed it out and put it on my notice board. It is towards the bottom of this page and from a Norwegian school textbook for blind: 2005 Mapublisher awards
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#8
Derek Tonn

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Frax,

Yes, that is an interesting entry: Tactile Map of Italy Thanks for that information!

Michael,

Wow, that Intelligent Spatial Technologies spin-off looks VERY interesting! I'd love the chance to learn more about what they are doing...as well as see an example of the technology in action! They sound as though they are developing applications with broad, universal appeal! I'll have to try and contact them to see if they are looking for a few more "friendly" firms and/or partners in trying to get some accessibility mapping applications off the ground. We're no "Oracle" or the University of Maine by any stretch of the imagination, but we do have a heart for this particular type of map/navigation resource. ;)

Have a good night, everybody!

Derek
Derek Tonn
Founder and CEO
mapformation, LLC

datonn@mapformation.com
http://www.mapformation.com




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