Tacmap user testing

Feeling a tactile map

To demonstrate the effectiveness of the tactile map booklets, substantial trials have been completed, with extremely positive outcomes. These took place at Sheffield Hallam University in 2009 and at the award winning Winter Gardens and Millennium Galleries in Sheffield in 2010. These field trials supported the development of the tactile map by understanding:

-how blind people perceive the information by touch

-how they figure it in their mind

-and then interpret it to orientate themselves and find their way around in buildings.

Blind person using tactile map

Julie Smethurst (one of the volunteers registered blind who tested TacMap) said: “This is wonderful, this illustrates so many things; plans are really useful, and it is great to be able to go in a room like for example here the toilets and to know where the basins, the WC and the hand dryers are”.

“We were talking about the difference using a tactile map and not using one, the thing is that without a tactile map I wouldn’t have thought to come in here, but the difference is that I have actually attempted to do this”.

Euin Hill, (one of the volunteers registered blind for 45 years who tested TacMap) said: “I have spent a few months at a College for the Blind and it would have been handy to have something to show the layout of that building…

I’m familiar with the Sheffield train station but things change, and there are certainly a lot of things at the train station which I don’t know is there, I have walked passed it hundred of time and I’ll never know it’s there, like the main reception and the lift here at the Millennium Galleries. To have something like this would be very good”.


As a  natural part of the trails, users drew comparisons between alternative navigation systems for blind and visually impaired. Satellite navigation systems have their limitations. For instance they can not be used indoors or close to tall buildings and here TacMap can help. Also the TacMap system has been praised by users for giving a better sense of the environment than using voice direction. Compared to other navigation systems, TacMapenables the user to have a more holistic overview of their environment. Using TacMap doesn’t impede environmental sounds such as doors opening, escalators and lift noises or talking, which helps to provide a greater sensory experience of the users location. The proposed A4 size of the tactile booklets makes it handy to carry around and can be used alongside talking GPS, white canes and guide dogs.

The trials were supported by the Sheffield Royal Society for the blind (SRSB), Zychem ltd. who sponsored the ink swell paper and heater, and Sheffield City Council who provided the space for one of the trials to take place.

Lab4Living, Sheffield Hallam University,
Furnival Building, 153 Arundel Street, Sheffield, S1 2NU
Phone 0114 225 6753 | Fax 0114 225 6931