1st Issue, December 2014

ATMAPS - Specification of symbols used on audio-tactile maps for individuals with blindness

Newsletter No. 1

Welcome to the first Newsletter of the ATMAPS project. In this newsletter, we would like to inform you about the project "Specification of symbols used on Audio-Tactile Maps for individuals with blindness (ATMAPS)", the reasons why we initiated the project, who is involved, and what the project's activities are.

The Project ATMAPS is supported by the European Commission in the Lifelong Learning Programme from January 2014 until December 2016.

Project idea

The ATMAPS project brings basic educational and training needs as well as problems and challenges of individuals with blindness into focus.

Orientation and mobility are the most important issues for persons with blindness. Thus, we initiated this project in order to make significant contributions towards the construction of Audio-Tactile Maps as aids to improve orientation and mobility of the particular group. Traditionally, tactile maps are used for better orientation. However, we believe that adding audio information to tactile maps makes it easier for users with blindness to get to know new surroundings. In the case of Audio-Tactile Maps, information is represented by audio symbols, tactile symbols, audio-tactile symbols (combined) and Braille labels.

In this project, we pursue two main goals.

Firstly, we want to derive from individuals with blindness what information is important for them on a map and how it should be represented (as a tactile symbol, as audio information or as an audio-tactile symbol).

Secondly, we want to specify these audio-tactile symbols in order to be used in Audio-Tactile Maps for education and training of individuals with blindness.

After the specification of the audio-tactile symbols we will make them publicly available, create Audio-Tactile Maps and train individuals on how to create those maps and how to use them. All material such as audio-tactile symbols, maps and training material will be freely available on the project's website (www.atmaps.eu).

During the project, we perform various studies in order to derive from users with blindness from different countries, what their needs and preferences are. We are very grateful that over the past months so many individuals were willing to contribute and cooperate with the project team and would like to thank everyone who already participated in our studies.

Schematic map showing an ear for audio and a hand for tactile information
Figure 1: Audio tactile map example

Who is involved?

There are seven partner organizations from four countries working together in this project. All of them bring a different perspective to the project according to their profile.

Aims and Objectives

The fundamental aim of the ATMAPS project is the research based specification of audio, tactile and audio-tactile symbols to be applied on a wide spectrum of different types of maps, frequently used in education and training of individuals with blindness.

Tactile maps are an important aid for the orientation and movement of individuals with blindness. Classic tactile maps include raised graphic patterns and Braille labels that are recognizable only by touch. Nowadays, technology allows the integration of audio information to tactile maps with the use of special devices. Audio-touchpad devices are touch sensitive pads that can simultaneously provide users with tactile and audio information, while they explore tactile graphics by their fingers. A specifically prepared tactile map printed with a tactile embosser is placed on the device's touch sensitive pad and additional audio information like streets names, landmarks, historical information etc. are stored in a separate file. The audio information can then be accessed by tapping on a specific tactile symbol on the Audio-Tactile Map.

In the project, the focus also lies on the training of teachers of individuals with blindness, rehabilitation specialists, orientation and mobility trainers as well as designers of orientation and mobility aids, on the construction of Audio-Tactile Maps and on the use of audio-touchpad devices.

Project member testing the audio-tactile tablet with an example map
Figure 2: Photo of project members testing the audio-tactile tablet with an example map


The project is divided into different phases:

Phase 1: Specification of user requirements and definition of which information should be represented, in audio, which in tactile and which in audio-tactile form.

Phase 2: Development of audio-tactile symbols, production of pilot Audio-Tactile Maps, testing of audio-tactile symbols and audio-tactile symbol specification activities. The results will be presented at the project's multi-lingual website.

Phase 3: Production of audio-tactile material to be freely available on project's website. Development of a web-based electronic library of audio-tactile symbols and construction of a political-physical audio-tactile atlas.

Phase 4: Production of training material for end-users to enable them to produce Audio-Tactile Maps for individuals with blindness.

Phase 5: Implementation of a series of seminars for end-users on the construction of Audio-Tactile Maps and on the use of audio-touchpad devices.

Meet some of the ATMAPS people

  1. University of Macedonia
    "The ATMAPS project will contribute towards our University's efforts to serve certain areas of education and training of individuals with blindness by exploiting both tactile and audio information and hence increase the level of safety, efficiency and independent orientation and mobility of the particular user group" said Prof. Konstantinos Papadopoulos, Vice Rector of University of Macedonia and president of the Hellenic Research Union for the Visual Impairment.
  2. Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
    "ATMAPS is a very interesting project for our study centre because orientation and mobility is an important issue for our students especially for those who got late blind. I believe that ATMAPS will improve their situation by providing audio and tactile information. It is also very interesting to get to know the situation of blind individuals in other European countries" said Prof. Rainer Stiefelhagen, director of the Study Centre for the Visually Impaired in Karlsruhe.
  3. National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
    "The objectives of the ATMAPS project harmonize well with the research interests of the Speech and Accessibility Laboratory. We expect the deliverables of this project will contribute significantly to our efforts towards the development of advanced accessible location based services for the visually impaired at a European level" said Prof. Georgios Kouroupetroglou, director of the Division of Communications and Signal processing, University of Athens.
  4. Mustafa Kemal University
    "The idea of collaborating with so many institutions/colleagues with such diverse capacities and experience was thrilling for me and the topic itself is something that really interests me. The fact that the project involves hands on experiences with real individuals who have visual impairment makes the project more valuable for me. The outcomes of the project I believe will have a great impact on the lives of so many and this is what inclined me to be part of such an important initiative" said Prof. Suad Sakalli Gumus, Faculty member of the Special Education Department.
  5. GeoImaging Ltd
    "Joining forces with the ATMAPS partners towards achieving our goals is a great experience for everyone involved in GeoImaging. As an SME providing Geomatic and cartographic services the experience we obtained so far from the ATMAPS activities and especially the interaction with the Visually Impaired users has been extremely valuable" said Mr Kostas Smagas, project manager of GeoImaging Ltd.

Highlights of the first year


Project Coordinator:

Prof. Konstantinos Papadopoulos

University of Macedonia

Department of Economic and Social Policy

156 Egnatia Str.

GR-54006 Thessaloniki




ATMAPS Consortium

  • University of Macedonia
  • Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
  • National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
  • Mustafa Kemal University
  • GeoImaging Ltd
  • Panhellenic Association of the Blind
  • Association of Barrier Free Access
The logos of all partners

The flag of the EU with the lifelong learning sloganThis project (543316-LLP-1-2013-1-GR-KA3-KA3MP) has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.