Cambridge News, UK.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006.
A NEW type of map could help give visually impaired people a better understanding of their surroundings.
Clever researchers have developed a tactile map - described as being to visual diagrams what Braille is to written text.
The team at Anglia Ruskin University and the University of Surrey hope their work will open new doors to blind people.
The Tactile Ink-Jet Mapping Project (TIMP) is inspired by Anglia Ruskin's Steve Carey, who is blind, having lost his sight through diabetes.
It was through his determination to improve access to graphical information for blind and partially-sighted people that TIMP was initiated.
Steve said: "Tactile maps are three-dimensional representations which are to visual diagrams what Braille is to written text.
"This research addresses the factors limiting the availability of tactile maps, the limitations in current manufacturing processes and the lack of tactile map design guidance based on real data."
The team interviewed over 50 visually impaired people about tactile maps that are available on the market.
The results show their needs are simply not met by what is currently available.
Steve added: "This is the very first system to use Ink-Jet technology for the production of tactile maps.
All we need now is a financial backer to take our product forward to the market place.
"Then blind people can be more aware of the environment in which they move about in their daily lives.
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