‘Clearer’ tactile maps produced by inkjet printer will open new doors to blind people

Published: 8 June 2006 at 09:40

Researchers at Anglia Ruskin University and University of Surrey are working on a research project which could greatly enhance the lives of visually impaired people. Using a digital Ink-Jet printer, the team can produce tactile maps giving users a better understanding of their surroundings.

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 Carey says,

“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 Carey adds,

“This is the very first system to use Ink-Jet technology (jetting polymer) for the production of tactile maps. All we need now is a financial backer to take our product forward to the marketplace. Then, blind people can be more aware of the environment in which they move about, in their daily lives.”