Best practice guidelines for the design, production and presentation of vacuum formed tactile maps

Site survey

It is important that any tactile map offers a realistic interpretation of a place because visually impaired people are unlikely to be able to understand discrepancies between environment and map in the same way that sighted people can. A source map is likely to include features that need not be reproduced, and conversely will not show information that should be included. When possible, designers should visit the place to be mapped, and undertake a sensory survey to find non-visual sensory clues to environmental features. This exercise should be informed by an understanding of what visually impaired people can perceive of their surroundings [35].

When designers are familiar with a site, they should discuss it with at least one visually impaired person who has an interest in the place. This approach ensures that a designer makes the map content as compatible as possible with the needs of the users. It is better to involve people who are interested the final product as they may have different needs from those who have only a passing concern. Ideally, this consultation should take place on site, but that may not always be possible.