Future Reflections Fall 1991

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Reprinted from:

Handbook for Itinerant and Resource Teachers of Blind and Visually Impaired

Students by Doris M. Willoughby and Sharon L. M. Duffy.

Editor's Note: The book from which this article is taken is absolutely

top-notch. It is, in my opinion, one of the best investments any parent or

teacher of a blind student can make. If you doubt it, just read this segment on


The book is available in print ($23.00), Braille ($33.00), and cassette ($33.00)

from the National Federation of the Blind (price includes shipping and

handling). To order send request (please be sure to say which format you want:

print, Braille, or cassette) and check or money order to: National Federation of

the Blind, Materials Center, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. You

may also charge it to your Discover, MasterCard, or Visa provided you send in

the name of your card, card number, expiration date, and signature. Payment must

accompany order. For more information, or to request a publications order form,

write to the address above or call (301) 659-9314.

Partially Sighted Students

     The student with some useful sight will probably make maximum use of it in

map work. Use large, clear maps and keep them as uncluttered as possible.

Experiment with magnifiers and various kinds of markers. If a closed circuit

television is available (see Other Modes of Reading"), this may be one of its

best uses. The student may be able to use sight profitably for map work even

though he/she does not ordinarily read inkprint.

     At the same time, students who ordinarily use regular print may have

trouble reading detailed maps, and find magnification helpful.

The Beginner

     The young student who is forming concepts of geography must have maps and

globes he/she can use. If print is not appropriate, Braille maps and globes

should be provided. Some are available from the American Printing House for the

Blind (APH) and other sources.

     APH has recently developed a number of helpful kits and booklets for

teaching map reading. However, as of this writing, APH seems actually to be

decreasing its production of regular Braille maps of actual places-despite the

importance of these materials and despite the fact that few are available

elsewhere. This is a most unfortunate trend, to which consumers should object


     Do not assume that when a geography book is transcribed, the maps will be

included in usable form. Tapes generally omit maps altogether. A large print

book will have the maps, but they will be black and white and often of very poor

quality. A book ordered in Braille (even one actually entitled "Map Study") may

or may not contain real, usable maps. Often only the text will have been

transcribed. Until better technology and/or greater attention to the importance

of maps solves this problem, you will often need to compensate for this problem.

     An ordinary relief map may be satisfactory for some purposes.

     Among the many advantages of the Patterns Braille reading series is its

beginning map work. Map-skills workbooks for the sighted can also be transcribed

into Braille.

     The regular reading-readiness activities may be helpful to the student with

poor skills in using his/her hands. After all, if the student cannot easily tell

a triangle from a square, or determine which symbol is smaller, then he will not

do well with a regular Braille map. Even good Braille readers may do poorly in

these skills, and these ideas may be used at any age level.

     Consider using selections from Braille reading-readiness books. These

usually have many pages of simple raised shapes of various sizes-circles,

squares, triangles, etc. There may be several on a page, in various positions.

Often these can be used for elementary map practice. Using simple pages of this

type, devise basic map skills lessons, designating symbols as you see fit:

     1. (Several circles in a row horizontally): "These are cities. Show me the

city that is farthest east; west."

     2. (Circle, triangle, and square): "This is a map of a park. The circle is

a fountain, the triangle an evergreen tree, and the square a flower garden. look

them over and then show me how to walk from the tree to the flower bed without

getting wet."

     3. (Three triangles of graduated sizes): "The larger the symbol, the larger

the city. Show me the largest city; the smallest city.

     4. Attach letter labels to certain shapes, and explain, "A is Apple City,"

etc. Make a Braille key.

     Two readiness books I have found especially suitable for this kind of thing


* A Tactual Road to Reading, Skill Books, Kurzhals and Caton, APH (Some volumes

are better than others for this purpose).

* Modern Methods of Teaching Braille, Book 1 (Kansas Braille Reading Readiness

Book), Stocker, APH
                             The Value of Map Skills

     Map work sometimes prompts the question, "What will she get out of it,


     Explain that maps teach important concepts which are part of a basic

education. Give practical examples. Many jobs require a basic grasp of distances

and geographical relationships a travel agency or an airline; a traveling sales

job; a supervisor over a wide area. As a close-to-home example, consider the

blind itinerant teacher: he/she must hire and instruct a driver, who may have

limited education and be inept at reading a map and using the scale of miles.

Appropriate Maps

     Keeping the map uncluttered is very important. It may be necessary to

provide two maps, each with some of the information, instead of one cluttered

one. Another useful technique is to provide a very basic Braille or large print

map (for instance, just the state boundaries, abbreviated state names, and marks

for the capitals), and give other information in a key.

     It is often helpful to explain orally while moving the student's hand over

a simple political map. ("Look here at the western states. Now, the Rocky

Mountains extend all along here. Actually they start `way up north in Alaska and

Canada, which are clear off the map here, they extend through Idaho, Montana,

Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado and on into Arizona and New Mexico, here. This is

the southern border of the United States. The mountains don't cover all of each

of those states, and there are valleys in between mountains, but this is the

area where the Rockies are. Now, I' Il show you that once more, and then I'd

like you to take your hands clear off the map for a moment and then you show me

the general area where we find the Rockies.")

     This same general approach can be used with a very simple large print map

if the student cannot see much detail. Because of frequent need for various

explanations, some individual attention is usually needed for map work.

Creative Ideas

     For the older student who has already acquired basic geographical concepts,

oral discussion alone may be sufficient. ("As you know, the Rocky Mountains

appear in the western part of the United States. This chapter expects you to

know rather precisely where they are. I will describe the map on Page 35. They

begin in Alaska and extend through western Canada, and on through Idaho,


     What if the assignment is to mark up a map-say, insert the state names and

draw rivers? Just as the sighted student will essentially copy the information

from a ready-made map, the blind student can examine a Braille map and dictate

to a sighted assistant. He might indicate position on a simple, unlabeled raised

outline map, `marking off' each state as he names it by placing a pin or a bit

of tape. (After all sighted students can easily tell which answers have been

given.) An adult might "check off' each answer as it is given, with or without

actual transcription onto a printed map. ("I will name several states, and you

show me where they are on this raised outline map. Then show me where the

Mississippi River runs. You may refer to the Braille atlas.")

     More ideas for making and using maps include:

     1.   Make a floor plan of the school and a simple map of the student's

immediate home neighborhood.

     2.   Try to provide a selection of map-skills sheets, plus maps of

continents and regions. With a little adaptation and explanation, a basic

political map of France can be used for almost any map work about France.

     3.   For a general map-skills unit consider using a ready-made package

which is equivalent but not exactly the same. Custom-producing Braille maps for

one student is so time-consuming as to warrant the strongest consideration of

other alternatives.

     4.   For the partially sighted, laminate bold-line outline maps of

countries and regions. These can be written or drawn on with china marker or

crayon, then wiped off and used again.

     5.   Temporary labels can be attached in many ways. Form a short segment of

masking tape into a loop, or buy double-stick tape, and apply to the back of a

label. Or, attach small "flags" to pins, and tack the map to a soft board. For

practice or testing purposes remove one or more labels and have the student put

them back. Or, replace keyed labels with simple numbered labels, and ask the

student to tell what each represents.

     6.   Braille maps are usually not as precise or uniform as print maps.

Often it is unfair to practice with one map and then give a test with a

different one. Changing or removing labels as above, is one way to give a test


     7.   Maps and globes can be obtained from APH or libraries for the blind.

They can also be constructed with Plaster of Paris, clay, or papier mache.

     8.   Certain maps are so detailed that it is hardly ever worthwhile to

custom-produce them in Braille. An example would be topographical maps showing

altitude delineations within a small area. If the student does not understand

the concept of such a map, try to get a previously-made one of a small area, to

demonstrate the general idea. Then verbally discuss the maps the class is using.

Include whatever specific concepts are being taught by the classroom teacher.

     9. Sometimes a complex map is more meaningful if broken down into two or

more simpler maps. For example, a state map with a great deal of information

might be reproduced as three Braille maps: counties; major cities and highways;

and rivers.

     10. Ways to make various kinds of dots include:

* The Perkins Brailler or the slate

* Pushing with either end of a pen or pencil, or with the stylus from a Braille

slate, into paper that is on a soft surface

* Gluing on seeds, beads, or other objects

* The Swail Dot Inverter from APH (makes a large dot)

     11. Tactually different lines must be used to show different things (e.g.,

county lines, roads, rivers). Otherwise, when lines cross on a tactile map, it

will be hard to know which line goes where. Various ways to make lines include:

* Any of the above dots in series

* A tracing wheel or wheels - steady or interrupted

* Gluing on string or yarn, cutting the ends with a razor blade for precision

     12.  There is a common method of making lines which I have not found very

satisfactory: trailing "Elmer's Glue," or a similar product, on a line and

allowing it to dry. This is difficult to follow by touch, and not very durable.

It is far better, and not much more work to trail the glue into a line and then

apply string or yarn.

     13.  The Tactile Graphics Kit from APH has special symbols such as a print

v-shape in raised form. These are applied like Notary seals.

     14.  A very durable map, especially suitable for Thermoform, may be made

from the special heavy aluminum foil from APH. Any of the above methods,

including gluing objects on, can be used with this. Some things are much easier

to do with this medium, especially making a "flat" line (comparable to a pencil

line, with no interruptions).

     15.  Except on the very simplest and most uncluttered maps, labels should

be abbreviated and keyed. Try to make the abbreviations logical. For example, sw

for swimming pool and gf for golf course would be much more easily remembered

than an arbitrary a and b. Save space by using no capital dots.

     16.  Graph paper (available from APH With raised lines or bold lines) can

be used for practice with latitude and longitude.

     17.  Ink for easy ways to enlarge a map. A photocopier with enlarging

capabilities may produce a suitable map for a large print user. The enlarged

copy may also be traced with felt pen or a tracing wheel (using carbon paper to

compensate for reversal with the latter). Alternatively, tape a large piece of

paper onto the wall, and use an Opaque Projector to create a very large image.

Trace over the image with pencil. Then the paper can be taken down and used to

make a bold-line map or a Braille map.

     18.  Use reference books such as the Tactile Graphics Guidebook from APH.

This book gives practical suggestions and shows good and poor examples of

Braille maps and tables.

     19.  Especially for the beginner, it is helpful for the student actually to

face north while studying a map.
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