4th Issue, April 2016

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

Newsletter No. 4

ATMAPS completion of 2nd year

Welcome to the fourth Newsletter of the ATMAPS project. In this newsletter, we would like to inform you about the progress of our project "Specification of symbols used on audio-tactile maps for individuals with blindness (ATMAPS)". It has been over two years now the project has been going on. In this issue of our newsletter, we provide information about what we have accomplished in the fourth semester of the project implementation phase.

Highlights of progress in our Project

4th Progress Meeting

The 4th progress meeting was held online. Representatives from six partner organizations attended the 4th progress teleconference meeting of the project, marking the end of the second year of our project. Planning for the next steps was made according to the project’s work plan.

Data Analysis of the "Tactile Symbols Evaluation"

Data was collected from over 130 individuals from 4 countries (Greece, Turkey, Germany and Cyprus). The lead partner (University of Macedonia, Greece) conducted the data analysis. In order to take a final decision on the optimal set of symbols to be used on the audio tactile maps, indicators were used and results of statistical analysis of collected data were combined with the results of the qualitative analysis.

Workshop and three papers accepted at ICCHP 2016

Based on the data analysis, our consortium members submitted three scientific papers and a proposal for the implementation of a workshop to the "15th International Conference on Computers Helping People with Special Needs - ICCHP 2016" (http://www.icchp.org/) which will be held between July 13-15, 2016 (Pre-Conference July 11-12, 2016) in Linz, in Austria. Our papers and workshop proposal are accepted and will be presented at ICCHP 2016. More information about our planned workshop and excerpts of our three papers to be presented at the conference can be found below:

Workshop: Developing and Using Effective Symbols for Audio Tactile Maps - ATMAPS, July 12, 2016

Excerpt of paper No. 1 titled "User requirements regarding information included in audio-tactile maps for individuals with blindness"

The implementation of multisensory environments on the field of map construction for individuals with visual impairments can be of great significance, particularly in the field of construction of Orientation and Mobility (O&M) aids. Information technology offers the possibility to convert the spatial information in audio, tactile or audio-tactile form.

In the present article, the term audio-tactile map describes the tactile map that can be read with the use of an audio-touchpad device (e.g. IVEO or T3) exclusively. The research presented is part of a wider research conducted in the frames of the ATMAPS project. The ATMAPS project titled "Specification of symbols used on Audio-Tactile Maps for individuals with blindness" (Project No. 543316-LLP-1-2013-1-GR-KA3-KA3MP) is a project financed under the Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP).

The aim of this project is the specification of symbols used in audio-tactile maps for individuals with blindness. The purpose of the research presented in this article is to investigate the user requirements of young adults with blindness regarding the information to be included/ mapped into two different types of audio-tactile maps: a) audio-tactile mobility maps of the indoors/inner space of buildings, and b) audio-tactile maps of campus (school, college or university campuses). The result of this research would be the definition of the most important information that should be included in each one of the two different types of audio-tactile maps.

Excerpt of paper No. 2 titled "Specification of Symbols used in Audio-tactile maps for individuals with Blindness"

Teaching individuals with visual impairments (IVIs) utilizing touch and/or hearing aids, multisensory environments focused on tactile and acoustic cues, audio and tactile access to scientific content, are challenging areas for end users, teachers of individuals with blindness, psychologists, rehabilitation specialists, orientation and mobility trainers as well as designers of orientation and mobility aids. The development of Orientation and Mobility (O&M) aids and particularly the depiction of multisensory environments in the field of map construction for IVIs can be of great significance. Information technology offers the possibility to convert spatial information in audio, tactile or audio-tactile form. Therefore the benefits of tactile graphics can be combined with audio information with the use of special devices. Audio-touchpad devices are touch-sensitive pads that offer individuals with visual impairments access to the benefits of tactile maps and verbal aids simultaneously while they explore tactile graphics with their fingers.

Audio-Tactile maps (AT-maps) can present a large amount of spatial information. Bibliographically, the definition of audio-tactile maps refers to a series of audio-tactile aids. In the present article, the term audio-tactile map describes the tactile map that can be read with the use of an audio-touchpad device (e.g. IVEO or T3) exclusively.

Ιn the case of AT-maps, in addition to tactile symbols and Braille labels, audio and audio-tactile symbols are used as well (e.g. a tactile symbol that when a user touches it, he/she can hear additional information like names and/or descriptions in audio format, etc). That means that a considerable piece of information is presented in auditory modality (e.g. street names, soundscape of locations, route descriptions, obstacles, building numbers etc.). Therefore, what needs to be carefully examined is the basic query of which information should be presented in haptic mode or with Braille labels and which information should be delivered via an audio or audio-haptic mode. In practice this means that a reasoned process of defining the appropriate symbols for audio-tactile aids/ maps should be implemented. The fundamental aim of the project presented in this article is the specification of symbols to be used in AT-maps for IVIs. The ATMAPS project titled "Specification of symbols used on Audio-Tactile Maps for individuals with blindness" is a project financed under the Lifelong Learning Programme (LLP).

Excerpt of paper No. 3 titled "Tactile identification of embossed raised lines and raised squares with variable dot elevation by persons who are blind"

Most of the current Braille embossers incorporate a graphics mode capability. With variations in resolution, the dots can be embossed closer together than when embossing Braille text. Some embossers permit a change in height of the dot as well. While research has shown that elevation influences detection and discrimination thresholds for tactile stimuli, and that the physiological response of fingertip receptors varies with texture, little is known about the influence of these parameters on the identification of embossed stimuli with variable dot height and density. Based on the above considerations, we conducted an experimental study with ten congenitally blind participants, to systematically address the identification of embossed tactile lines and squares at various elevations. All tactile stimuli (lines and square) were produced by a Tiger Braille embosser (VP200) on paper of 160 g/m2, in two dot densities (10 and 20 dpi) and in eight dot elevations. The target set includes the same type of stimuli in multiples of 4 for each height in a random order. A total of 1.280 responses were recorded. The identification accuracy and response time of the matching task were examined for each type of test stimuli. The results of correct and misclassified stimuli are presented in confusion matrixes for the raised-dot lines and squares stimuli. Moreover, the overall mean response time of the identification task is provided. Participants identify better the lower three dot elevations for both lines and squares on 20 or 10 dpi, with an exception for 20 dpi squares where the highest dot elevation is third in the order of recognition. The application of a multilevel model fitting to the data indicated significant effects for the role of the DOTs (raised dot lines versus raised dot squares) with the raised dot squares being associated with significantly elevated correct responding.

Next steps

During the next months, we will focus on developing a web-based multilingual library for audio-tactile symbols. The library will provide the optimal symbols for point, linear and areal symbols derived from our study. Additionally, we will develop training material on how to create audio-tactile maps and how to use them.


Prof. Konstantinos Papadopoulos
University of Macedonia
Economic and Social Sciences
Research Committee
Attention of Ms. Varvara Vamvoura
156, Egnatia str
Website: www.atmaps.eu
Email: info@atmaps.eu

ATMAPS Consortium

  • University of Macedonia
  • Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
  • GeoImaging Ltd
  • National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
  • Mustafa Kemal University
  • 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 [communication] reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.