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Tactile Map Editor

The University of Oregon Geography Department houses the Spatial and Map Cognition Research Laboratory (SMCRL), under the direction of  Amy Lobben, Ph.D.  It is a multi-year project for the study of map use, navigation, and spatial thinking.  Some of the topics included in the study are:

  • behavioral and neurological correlates of map use and navigation

  • spatial thinking

  • human-environmental interaction

  • spatial and map task measurement

  • navigation

  • tactile maps and mapping

  • visual search and visual variables

  • spatial memory

  • mental mapping

  • route planning

  • map 'phobia'

There are several resources created by the project.  According to the SMCRL website, the resources are “part of an ongoing effort to improve the: availability of tactile map resources, ease and independence of mobility, and availability of geographic education materials for users who are blind or low vision.”  One product of special interest is Tactile Map Editor.  It  is a software application for producing computer generated tactile maps and graphics. It can be downloaded for free at this web address,   Along with the software download, there are a tutorial, an ASCII braille chart, and a tutorial base map (jpeg).
What might be interesting to visit is the “See symbols set here” link at  This web page lists many possible symbols used in the production of tactile maps and graphics.  To generate the “best” represented symbols, faculty and staff in the research project had surveyed some 200 teachers of the visually impaired and orientation and mobility specialist.   All the symbols listed are contained in the Tactile Map Editor application.

Patrick Van Geem

Outreach Assistive Technology Consultant

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