Tactile Traffic Maps to Help Blind Pedestrians Navigate

Tactile Traffic Maps to Help Blind Pedestrians Navigate

Designers at a navigation technology company, Touch Graphics, have created tactile maps for the ease of blind pedestrians in New York City, according to an article published in July 2017.

According to the government data of 2006, New York City reported an increasing number of pedestrian deaths due to the city traffic facilities and the scenario for the visually impaired has gotten much worse. New York’s department of transportation in collaboration with Touch Graphics, is testing its first device at a busy intersection in the city. The device incorporates the sense of touch to use the tactile map created for blind pedestrians to cross the roads safely. These maps make use of three-dimensional diagrams with braille text. If the trial of this tactile map is successful, then 13,000 traffic lights in New York would have them installed.

This technology has previously been tested in Denmark and Sweden, however, the New York Trial would be the first trial in North America.

The designers used ultraviolet printing, a process in which ink is printed on a surface and passed under a UV light before it air-dries. This process permits more detail and less ink spreading, used to create raised graphics crisp enough to be felt by touch. Each map makes use of 3-D shapes and high-contrast colors to represent the intersection from one of eight possible perspectives for someone about to cross the road.

The map shows a raised circle to indicate a person’s starting point, while a dotted line traces the path to be walked. Vehicles are denoted in shapes of oval, each consisting of a raised arrow at one end, indicating the direction of traffic in a given lane. Whereas, bikes are represented by black bars.

Haptic technology experts from the University of Michigan, who are not involved in the project think that these maps could change lives.  The blind would now visit more places they were earlier hesitant to, due to the complex traffic lanes in those areas. The installation of this technology would now make it easy for them recognize the number of traffic lanes they are required to overcome while crossing, with the simple feature of labelling used by the technology.

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