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Davis, California

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Students and visitors with visual impairments are able to navigate the UC Davis’s campus with new Tactile Audio Campus Map 

The three-dimensional, interactive map allows users to explore the layout of various campus destinations with auditory guidance 

By KAYA DO-KHANH — campus@theaggie.org


An interactive, audio-tactile map of the UC Davis campus is now available for use at the Memorial Union student drop-in center. The three-dimensional printed map was created for students and visitors with visual impairments to be able to explore buildings, roads and other campus destinations, according to a recent press release

On the left side of the map, there is an index of campus locations in both print and braille. When an item on the index is pressed, the route to the destination can be traced on the map by following lights and a tone that rises in pitch as the user’s touch gets closer to the destination.

The map is designed for multiple touch points as users can touch anywhere on the map with both hands to feel around the map. If a user lifts all of their fingers except for one off of a building, the map announces information about that building, including the name, a description of the destination and how to get there.

“The map adds an accessible feel [to] the campus and gives an innovative opportunity to interact with the information, creating a more inclusive experience,” creator and Accessible Technology Coordinator Joshua Hori said via email. “While it’s meant for blind and low vision students, it has audio captions which are helpful for neurodiverse students. Everyone who has had a chance to try it out has gravitated towards the technology.”

In 2018, Student Affairs offered grants to employees for innovative projects that could benefit the workplace. Hori, who was working at the Student Disability Center (SDC) at the time, applied, and received a grant for this project. He then teamed up with Professor Susan Verba in the Design department, who created a course in which design students and visually impaired students created the prototype of the map and tested out tactile patterns for it. Some of the research from the course is available at the SDC.

“The map was created under Joshua’s vision while he was working at the SDC and we’re very fortunate to have it,” Jennifer Billeci, the director of the SDC, said via email. “It adds important accessibility for many individuals with disabilities. Further, it expands the understanding of multiple modes of communication for those without a disability.”

On Oct. 12, the Tactile Audio Campus (TAC) Map was presented at the annual Disability Awareness Symposium, which was put on by the Disability Issues Administrative Advisory Committee and the Office of Diversity Equity and Inclusion. At the event, Touch Graphics, the company that created the prototype based on students’ design proposal, discussed its collaboration with UC Davis.

Billeci expressed hope that similar inter-department collaborations can take place at UC Davis in the future. 

“The SDC hopes to collaborate with other departments to design and implement new ways for students to interact with technology which is inclusive to the campus community,” Billeci said.


Written by: Kaya Do-Khanh — campus@theaggie.org