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Tactile geographic map exploration by blind people

This prototype allows people with visual disabilities to explore tactile maps on touchscreen devices. The data source is an SVG file, freely available from the OSM (Open Street Map) portal and opportunely adapted to the needs of the project. The prototype consists of a tactile paper map made by a heat embosser (Minolta) and superimposed on a portable touchscreen device (Android Tablet) running an application software that contains all the map’s data and responds to user interaction by communicating to them all the information, previously converted into digital format. Feedback to the user is converted into different formats, depending on the type of information (multimodality). For instance, a TTS (Text To Speech) engine is used to announce the name of each route, and different sounds and vibratory feedback are provided to differentiate stations, parks, etc. Compared to the systems described in literature, our prototype could guarantee greater portability, reducing the need for dedicated devices. Unfortunately, map production is still handmade and this limits the number of maps that can be realized.