Language of Maps for Blind and Partially Sighted People: Expressive and Perceptive Skills
Cartographers create maps to be read by other people who may know nothing about cartography. The cartographer uses expressive conventions that must be learned and interpreted by the user, who in turn employs receptive skills and techniques. Both expressive and receptive skills are involved in the fascinating transfer of symbolic information from one person to another.
In the world of blind and partially sighted people, these expressive and receptive skills are different in many ways from those used by the sighted. Tactile cartographers must learn numerous guidelines for the development of tactile maps and charts, bearing in mind that the tactile sense is restrictive compared to sight. Print maps allow the use of color, variations in fonts and print sizes, overlapping layers of symbols, and other visual features. The tactile map-maker uses none of these, instead using tools and conventions unknown to most print cartographers.
And how does the learner who is blind interpret maps and come to understand that a map is a set of symbols for a real place? How does the learner with low vision learn that she may use color to infer real meaning with regard to maps? To teach the receptive side of mapping with blind or low-vision readers requires training, experience, and specific techniques that are discussed here.
KeywordsCartography Conventions Interpretation Map skills Tactile Teaching
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