Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Tactile map, a great feature to help the visually impaired

Variety of textures help distinguish places and landmarks

Shut your eyes in a dark room, says Lois Lawrie, president of the Tactile Colour Communication Society, and you'll understand her level of blindness.

Although confident in her own long-cane skills, Lawrie says blindness of that severity usually creates shut-ins.

So she created a map of downtown Victoria, using the international tactile colour system. The society debuted the map for the first time last week at Victoria City Hall.

Designed by artist Raya Jayne Peters, the map uses different pieces of textured paper to delineate obstacles like railings, bushes and fences.

A legend on the side of the map helps users determine not only what each piece texture represents, but also the colour. The map easily folds and can be carried in a bag. There are also Braille and raised-print versions.

It's the second map of its kind to come from the local society.

They produced a similar reference tool for Beacon Hill Park using the same technique last year.
Previously, Peters hand-made maps for visually-impaired locals, but this newest addition can be printed and mass produced.

Even though Lawrie can't see the colours, she says it's an important component to map.
"When I lost my sight I was a printer and a graphic artist and I didn't want to lose my reference to colour," Lawrie said.

Some people are born blind, but the majority gradually lose sight due to illnesses or accidents.
Lawrie lost her sight 22 years ago, but learned to navigate bigger, more confusing cities before moving here. "I got very good training having come from cities in Europe. But that's not the same story for everybody," she said.

She said the audio crossings help alert visually impaired when it's safe to cross, but if you hesitate you lose your right of way.

Traffic dangers are but one obstacle to getting out and about. Another disincentive is unwanted help from well-meaning sighted pedestrians.

"The public want to help, but it's not always wanted help," Lawrie says, adding that visually-impaired people resent the infringement on their independence and find a sudden hand on their arm or shoulder alarming.

Lawrie is hoping the map will signal well-meaning pedestrians that the visually-impaired user is making out fine on their own, thank you very much.

For more information on the free map contact the Tactile Colour Communication Society at 480-1610 or go to their website at www.tactile.org.


Post a Comment

<< Home