In most parts of the world it is very difficult for a virtually impaired person to get around outside, and that is why you do not see many of them. Many at times, the virtually impaired rely on committing previously threaded on directions to memory, rely on strangers for help, and navigate the dangerously crowded streets and sidewalks with a cane.
That fear is OVER! The technology that helps drivers get where they are going is now doing the same for the virtually impaired. The many available products like the trekker assist people with visual impairments to navigate the global environment commonly rely upon the Global Positioning System (GPS) and the Geographic Information System (GIS).
How GIS works is, with spatial information it is often presented in the form of maps that viewers actively explore to learn about an area. People who cannot see cannot share the benefits of such a visual representation, and have traditionally relied on audio descriptions, tactile maps, guidance from others, and even trial and error when learning the layout of a region.(1)
GIS is a powerful tool to help record, analyze and map spatial data, which as a visual technology provides spatial analysis and maps for the visually impaired and blind.
A GIS map not only of every road, but also of every manhole cover, storm drain, road sign, telephone or power pole, fire hydrant, walkway, sidewalk crack, and much more. Think of how useful it would be to a blind traveler to know that not only is a telephone pole just ahead on the right, but there could be a large crack in the sidewalk that may not have been repaired yet. (2)
What brings together existing geographical information system (GIS) resources with currently available computer-controlled embossing technologies to yield a revolutionary tool with significant implications for education, orientation, and mobility of blind and visually impaired travelers is what is called the TMAP.
Well, TMAP is Tactile Map Automated Production that uses free GIS data and off-the-shelf embossing technology to allow blind people to download and emboss customized tactile street maps of any location in the US. (3)
These specialize maps are mapped out by a science called cartography and is used in developing color-blind friendly maps.
To read more on cartography and the power of mapping, click here to understand in depth the spatial phenomenon on mapping.