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Tactile and Narrative Maps

Tactile and narrative maps can assist some (but not all) sight impaired people navigate spaces.

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Some but possibly not all sight impaired people could navigate polling places using a tactile or narrative map (or a combination of both).

Tactile Maps

Tactile maps usually have a raised image on paper or plastic created by either  embossing, printing or thermoforming from a modeled master.

They are now being produced as static maps at venues and as portable maps

Anglia Ruskin University and University of Surrey initiated a Tactile Ink-jet Mapping Project about 6 years ago which seems to be quiescent at the moment.

With the advent of 3D printing it should be possible to produce relatively accurate and inexpensive masters for thermoforming, or even simply for distribution.

Another approach is using textiles with weaving, knitting and embroidering
Linda Westerman is a textile artist who produces tactile images.

Narrative Maps

These take the form of text and or audio directions for navigating a venue.
Audio maps can now be produced as mp3 files or as audio through ordinary telephones and cellphones.

Tactile and narrative maps can be used in combination.

The effectiveness of these technologies obviously depends on the accuracy and precision of information but also on the capacity of sight impaired people to interpret the information.

Some companies are beginning to specialise in these things - amongst them
InTouch Graphics and their associated offshoot Click and Go Wayfinder


Tactile maps can form part of regular and permanent signage and temporary panels could be installed according to use of the building e.g. for voting purposes.

Similarly there are firms now specialising in tactile paving

Voter Support Groups

The services of organisations such as T. Annie Ngyen's proposed Voter Help Hub or Whitney Quesenbery's Support Network could be engaged to prepare materials under guidance from Orientation and Mobility experts, and in conjunction with sight impaired clients between elections.

Lula Albar's concept for voter profiles could be used to include details of individual preferences for directions to and within polling places.

Electorate/Division/County Maps

Broader maps indicating polling places could be produced as tactile/narrative maps.
Stefan's excellent Accessilibilty Maps (v2) would be an example where the maps would not only show where to vote but which places have wheelchair access and/or accessible voting machines.

How will this concept improve election accessibility for everyone?

Although conceived for use by those with sight impairment some aspects of this concept e.g. audio directions can be of use to anyone. As was mentioned on a recent radio program for the blind if you want to know directions to somewhere asking a blind person is a good start, because, if they know the way their directions will be clear and unambiguous.

How well does this concept adapt to the changing needs of different voter communities?

The sight impaired community, as with other voter communities is embracing new technology. As this tactile and narrative technology develops it can keep pace with voter needs and aspirations.

What kinds of resources – whether time, money, people, partnerships, technology or otherwise – will be needed to get this concept off the ground?

For large scale production considerable resources might be required but it should be relatively inexpensive to pilot. It would be possible (if not desirable) to partner with firms already undertaking some of this work, especially if they have resources in place for places like university campuses where polling booths might be set up to take advantage of facilities.

My Virtual Team

As usual there are many OpenIDEATORS who I would include in my team


Join the conversation:

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Paul, have you looked at the mobility and orientation resources at VisionAustralia?

The also have a link to a radio panel yesterday on orientation and mobility that you might find useful:

And their policy on access to voting:

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Tactile maps are used more frequently today then in the past and embossers exist that can create tactile maps on paper rather than expensive plastic. However there are few commerciql printers that can produce tactile maps. For areas where voting takes place in centralized locations, the provision of a tactile map of the polling place to blind voters may be practical. However, in areas where citizens vote at their local polling place, producing tactile maps of each polling place would probably not be practical. In this instance, the information that a map would contain can be conveyed verbally to the blind voter by a poll worker, friend, or family member. Then, using a cane or guide dog the blind voter can move independently to the voting machine.

Photo of Paul Reader

Thanks for the input and links I lost my updates about 2am this morning and decided to sleep on it before trying to update again -this will actually become tatile and Narrative Maps shortly

Photo of Paul Reader

Thanks for the insights too Lou Ann - im hoping that someone may be inspired to find an inexpensive and practical way to produce something like portable tactile maps supported by audio. I am going to link to a few websites that have been active in this area such as these related sites and

Thanks too Whitney
I have now had the chance to listen to the radio program and review some of the information

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