CLOSE
Youtube user, touchraphicseurope
Youtube user, touchraphicseurope

Designing City Maps for the Blind

Youtube user, touchraphicseurope
Youtube user, touchraphicseurope

When it comes to navigating unknown territory, the visually-impaired are doubly disadvantaged. Not being able to see the layout of a unfamiliar city or subway system is inherently difficult, but not being able to read a map of the situation beforehand complicates things further.

Previously, experts assumed that even tactile maps would prove useless because blind people have limited spatial cognition. But Dr. Joshua Miele, a scientist at San Francisco's Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, who lost his sight at the age of four, says that's just not true. "Blind people with good orientation and mobility skills have excellent spatial cognition, because we have to," he told CityLab.

Miele, who has a degree in physics and psychoacoustics, has been working for the past quarter of a century on improving visually-impaired people's access to information. Recently, he partnered with LightHouse, a local organization for the blind, to create accessible maps of every BART transit station in San Francisco.

Still, designing maps for the visually impaired involves more than overcoming stereotypes. "With a visual map, you can always take a closer look, magnify or zoom in, or squint at it," Miele said. "But with a tactile map, there’s no zooming in or squinting. It’s at the resolution it’s at. So you need to be careful with how much stuff you put on it, because it can get cluttered easily."

He decided that Braille, although effective for reading straight text, would clutter the map in a confusing way. Instead, the finished design consists of a large-print, tactile map that details the layout of each BART station. The maps are specially printed, so that by using a Livescribe smart-pen, users can tap on icons (like a ticket booth or an exit) and listen to more detailed information such as the cost of a fare, or what intersection the stairs lead to.

Miele understands that getting similar maps in other cities is a big undertaking. They're difficult to design and produce, but he hopes that San Francisco's prototypes will set a new standard.

"My biggest goal is for blind people to not only be able to use maps like these universally," he said, "but to expect them, want them, ask for them, and use them in a way that improves their ability to get out there in the world and do the things they want to do."

Check out the maps in action below:

[h/t CityLab]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Pop Chart Lab
arrow
Comics
The Origins of 36 Marvel Characters, Illustrated
Pop Chart Lab
Pop Chart Lab

No matter what their powers, every super hero has an origin story, from Spider-Man’s radioactive bite to Iron Man’s life-threatening chest shrapnel. In their latest poster, the designers at Pop Chart Lab have taken their infographic savvy to the Marvel Universe, charting the heroic origins of 36 different Marvel characters through miniature, minimalist comics.

Without using any words, they’ve managed to illustrate Bucky Barnes's plane explosion and subsequent transformation into the Winter Soldier, Jessica Jones’s car crash, the death of the Punisher’s family, and other classic stories from the major Marvel canon while paying tribute to the comic book form.

Explore the poster below, and see a zoomable version on Pop Chart Lab’s website.

A poster featuring 36 minimalist illustrations of superhero origin stories.
Pop Chart Lab

Keep your eyes open for future Marvel-Pop Chart crossovers. The Marvel Origins: A Sequential Compendium poster is “the first release of what we hope to be a marvelous partnership,” as Pop Chart Lab’s Galvin Chow puts it. Prints are available for pre-order starting at $37 and are scheduled to start shipping on March 8.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
technology
The Design Tricks That Make Smartphones Addictive—And How to Fight Them
iStock
iStock

Two and a half billion people worldwide—and 77 percent of Americans—have smartphones, which means you probably have plenty of company in your inability to go five minutes without checking your device. But as a new video from Vox points out, it's not that we all lack self-control: Your phone is designed down to the tiniest details to keep you as engaged as possible. Vox spoke to Tristan Harris, a former Google design ethicist, who explains how your push notifications, the "pull to refresh" feature of certain apps (inspired by slot machines), and the warm, bright colors on your phone are all meant to hook you. Fortunately, he also notes there's things you can do to lessen the hold, from the common sense (limit your notifications) to the drastic (go grayscale). Watch the whole thing to learn all the dirty details—and then see how long you can spend without looking at your phone.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios