Producing Navigation Signage for Blind Persons
One of the aims of the Teiresias Centre is to make physical environment more accessible to persons with severe visual impairments. We strive to ensure particularly to blind people easy orientation and safe movement at the university premises (and elsewhere). For this reason, the Teiresias Centre produces tactile orientation maps that can be located indoors and outdoors, and adds tactile components to standard physical orientation signs.
As the existing orientation signage in individual buildings might require considerable adjustments, the service is provided in close cooperation with the management of the given building, based on an order or contract (see below). Tactile maps, which may serve as an autonomous source of information independently of the indoor signage system, are of course offered not only to institutions, but primarily to individuals.
In terms of technology, the production of tactile maps is a standard part of tactile graphics and as such, relevant technical and partly organizational details can be found in the Tactile graphics production section.
What is specific is especially the content, which determines the time needed for the production and affects the budget. As any functional geographic map, the production of tactile maps requires correct source data (preferably digital, of course) and knowledge of the place being represented. With regard to the safety of blind persons, the maps may include features that might not be part of standard digital materials but may be of vital importance for tactile maps users, e.g. potential mobile obstacles in the walkway, temporary layout changes, standard operating conditions, etc. Ideally, the map designer should therefore physically visit the place to be represented.
Tactile maps production
In terms of content, all maps produced by the Teiresias Centre staff respect both the reality and the perceptual capabilities of the users as much as possible. For this reason, the maps contain only the elements that can be represented considering the scale of the map and the production technology, and that can be safely recognised by the user.
We strive to achieve maximum consistency when creating interior and exterior maps and pay attention to representing the given map components using always the same area, lines, and symbolic signs. Each map is provided with a map key that contains the features used (e.g symbols or bitmap pattern).
As far as the production technology is concerned, tactile maps are typically produced using relief printing on microcapsule paper and heat fuser technology (click here for details). If the map is expected to be exposed to weather or frequently used, we opt for vacuum forming which uses foils or plastic sheets (click here for details).
Orientation signage comprises particularly signs with tactile features that facilitate basic wayfinding, such as office signs, door signs, name signs, or appropriate substitution for staircase or floor indication signs.
The production process is also determined by the type of the sign holder used. Some signs are less durable, as those made from laminated or plastic sheets; some might be very elegant and highly durable, as for instance those that use raster balls technology (please see the gallery below for examples of the mentioned alternatives). According to the chosen material, one of the following technologies is employed:
Braille embossing is suitable for materials up to 200 μm or 250 g/m2 (e.g. in case of thicker sheets, laminated sheets, or firmer foils, etc.).
Fitting the Braille dots in the form of round pellets (or beads) into the previously engraved surface is appropriate in case of thicker and more durable materials (e.g. plastic sheets of minimum 1.5 mm thickness).
Charges apply for this type of service. Commissions are accepted only by prior arrangement with the staff of the Library and Publishing Section