Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Totally cool - tactile maps!

My husband found this story for me, on NPR, and said, "You have to blog about this." I went, and listened, and he was right, so here I am. It's a radio story about a completely new development: tactile maps for the blind.

The original radio story is here.

These maps are printed on a braille printer and show the layout of neighborhoods - streets, etc. - with their names printed in braille. The most amazing thing about them is that in the thousands of years maps have been used, and the 150 years that braille has been around, no one has ever put the two together (at least, I note after the comment below, not this effectively). This is the first time that maps for non-sighted people have been systematically available. It's astonishing! Even more amazing is the fact that so many people have equated visual with spatial information that for a long time people would say that the blind couldn't possibly understand maps. On the other hand, the radio story gives the example of a braille periodic table of the elements - there's a lot if important information conveyed spatially by that layout, which has nothing to do with its visual properties.

Anyway, it's a terrific story and you should all go have a listen if you have a couple of minutes to spare.