Understanding Data Selection in Tactile Mapping: An Inclusive Design Approach
According to the World Health Organisation, approximately 285 million people are visually impaired, globally. In New Zealand, it is estimated that 150,000 people have low vision and approximately 30,000 individuals are blind. Tactile maps are graphical representations of geographic information read through touch. Research has found that tactile maps effectivelycontribute to the development of a blind or low vision navigator’s cognitive map. Tactile maps are useful tools, they are used to develop spatial awareness of remote locations and they improve retained knowledge of surrounding environments.
Data selection is the process of determining the necessary information to include on a map, it is key in tactile mapping. Tactile maps require substantial generalisation as the discrimination of the finger is less than the eye. When constructing a tactile map, if data is incorrectly selected, the map can become difficult for a navigator to use. Past tactile mapping research has found that current standards lack necessary data selection recommendations.
This research consisted of two interview sessions in which participants who were blind or low vision were asked about their opinions and experiences with tactile maps, and their data selection preferences. Thematic analysis of the initial interview sessions revealed the value participants placed on tactile maps and their preferences. Four sample tactile maps were presented during the second interview sessions. The association between data selection and tactile map usability was assessed via usability analysis. Based on the ISO 9241-11:2018 guide definition preferences (satisfaction), time taken (efficiency), and task success (effectiveness) were key metrics.
The research found that tactile maps remain a valuable product in the blind and low vision community. Participants value the choice, independence, and improved spatial ability that tactile maps provide. Data selection, however, was not associated with tactile map usability. However, in this research, participants preferred sample tactile maps that included intersection information, including street and road names, crossing type, and intersection type. Thematic analysis identified the importance of data currency, future research could explore this further. More generally, this research recommends investigating techniques to communicate changing spatial information to blind and low vision navigators.