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Computing for Near-Blind Children?

Cliff posted about 10 years ago | from the geography-for-the-sight-impared dept.

Education 209

mjpaci asks: "One of my co-workers has a son, age 12, who is visually impaired among other problems. He is smart, charismatic, and funny--an all around good kid. Due to complications during his mother's pregnancy, he is near-blind. His father is a saint and spends many hours each night helping his child with homework. The problem is that the child is now taking Social Studies in junior high and has great trouble with geography as he cannot read the maps in the book even with his 'overhead visualizer.' Can Slashdot help me help this child?""One of my clients has donated 21" monitors to him in the past and they have helped. The real rub is, even with the large monitors, the child cannot read maps when zoomed-in on. The father has looked to the end of the earth for good, hi-res maps that can be magnified without great pixelization. Are there any good sources out there for hi-res maps for educational purposes or a software package that could help? Questions like: Find the largest city on the Mississippi River and what is the Capitol of the South American country to the west of Surinam are hard for the child as his view of the map is very constrained."

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What makes Slashdot great (5, Insightful)

BWJones (18351) | about 10 years ago | (#10409943)

This is part of what truly makes the Slashdot community great, and why I am proud to be a part of it. Geeks helping out others by poling a resource that has a truly flabbergasting diversity of combined knowledge. This question hits a bit close to home as my research is centered around vision and vision rescue strategies, but this is a more immediate need that I truly hope somebody here can help with.

Just to clarify: I am not sure if you are asking for screen reader software or not as part of the solution? If so, there are a number of alternatives for Windows (fairly pricey), but the next version of OS X will have a built in screen reader solution! combined with other visual aids that will help the blind and near blind use their computer systems without having to invest in another solution.

For the maps, there are a number of high resolution maps available from the USGS which can be obtained in digital form here [http] and in atlas form here [] . In addition the CIA world factbook [] is a nice resource for kids with text and maps that can be remapped with higher resolution.

Finally, a last resort would be Adobe Photoshop. You can take any map or image and simply resize the image with a much higher resolution (say take a map from 72dpi to 600 or 1200 dpi). If there is enough information in the original image to interpret, this might be a good solution to allowing one to zoom in images and maps for ease of interpretation.

Re:What makes Slashdot great (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10410002)

I am afraid you don't quite understand how graphics work. Unless it is a vector image blowing it up will always distort the image. And changing the resolution has absolutely no effect as to how it appears on the screen. You screen has a fixed dpi. dpi only matters when printing. I am surprised I have to explain something like this on Slashdot.

Re:What makes Slashdot great (1)

BWJones (18351) | about 10 years ago | (#10410051)

I am afraid you are an idiot befitting your Anonymous Coward title. Even with graphics that are not vector based, you can resize the pixel count in resolution and like I said in the original post If there is enough information in the original image to interpret, then one can bring up the contrast or otherwise enhance the image enough at a larger size to enable easier interpretation of relationship from point A to point B which would not be possible with fewer pixels.

Take for instance edge enhancement filters..... Do you understand how image filters work? In order to enhance detail, one needs more pixels for the array to work on.

Re:What makes Slashdot great (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 10 years ago | (#10410078)

Take for instance edge enhancement filters..... Do you understand how image filters work? In order to enhance detail, one needs more pixels for the array to work on.

It seems that you don't understand how image filters work. Edge enhancement doesn't need a higher pixel count, as it is usually just a change of color contrast to trick the brain into thinking it sees more sharply. It's quite effective actually, as you do tend to see better edges, but it's just a trick. No information was added to the image.

What you're referring to is interpolation, which is different.

Re:What makes Slashdot great (3, Informative)

BWJones (18351) | about 10 years ago | (#10410123)

What you're referring to is interpolation, which is different.

Mathematically, yes. I agree. However, perform this experiment: run an edge detector filter on a 256 X 256 pixel image and then run the same filter on a 1200 X 1200 image. The image interpolation will make for a much more interpretable image on the higher resolution image because of running the edge detector filter.

You said it yourself "as it is usually just a change of color contrast to trick the brain into thinking it sees more sharply. It's quite effective actually, as you do tend to see better edges,". The issue here is representing the information so that it can be interpreted and not trying to extract more information than is actually present.

Re:What makes Slashdot great (4, Informative)

flewp (458359) | about 10 years ago | (#10410015)

Finally, a last resort would be Adobe Photoshop. You can take any map or image and simply resize the image with a much higher resolution (say take a map from 72dpi to 600 or 1200 dpi). If there is enough information in the original image to interpret, this might be a good solution to allowing one to zoom in images and maps for ease of interpretation.

Changing the DPI doesn't really make the image any more high resolution. You'll still end up with pixelation. It works better than simply blowing up an image by zooming in, but it's not going to allow you to actually blow the image up flawlessly.

Re:What makes Slashdot great (4, Interesting)

BWJones (18351) | about 10 years ago | (#10410073)

Changing the DPI doesn't really make the image any more high resolution.

I absolutely agree. However the issue in geography and geographic information systems often times is how many pixels represent the image. If you have enough pixels, there are operations that can be performed to enhance detail. Yes, your final image will be lossy in effect by resizing it and you will never be able to extract more information than is originally present (unless you have access to multispectral data), but it will be possible to more easily determine edges and relationships from one point to another.

Re:What makes Slashdot great (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10410069)

Sorry to pop your OS X ballon but there is a great deal of "accessibility" built into Windows XP, right now, for free. A combination of Narrator, a screenreader, and Magnifier works well for most vision impaired folks.

Just do a search for "Accessibility Options overview" in help.

Re:What makes Slashdot great (1, Informative)

Fancia (710007) | about 10 years ago | (#10410084)

According to a visually-impaired friend of mine who is testing the new OS X accessibility tools, they're not up to par with the solutions available for Windows a the moment.

Re:What makes Slashdot great (0, Troll)

Joseph Goebbels (524047) | about 10 years ago | (#10410253)

What makes Slashdot bad is that the story submitter in his carelessness forgot to specify the race of the child.

The absence of that information leaves us no option but to recommend participating in the euthanasia programme.

If it is an aryan child with a curable disease, then the matter could be worth discussing further.

Also, I could really use all those 21+ inch monitors. Please contact me for donation details.


Re:What makes Slashdot great (5, Informative)

RatPh!nk (216977) | about 10 years ago | (#10410323)

Just to clarify: I am not sure if you are asking for screen reader software or not as part of the solution? If so, there are a number of alternatives for Windows (fairly pricey), but the next version of OS X will have a built in screen reader solution! combined with other visual aids that will help the blind and near blind use their computer systems without having to invest in another solution.

Along those lines, I think it would be a good idea to check out Apple's Accessibility Page. [] It does a fairly good job with the technologies that are currently in OS X and gives information on OS X's compliance with Section 508 of the Workforce Investment Act Of 1998 or Rehabilitation Act. (IIRC)

Apple also does a good job linking to third party software from that page. I think it would be definitely worth a look, good luck and let us know how it turns out!

What the child needs: Xmag (1)

mefus (34481) | about 10 years ago | (#10410386)

... or something similar. He can use it to scan the map along the Mississippi River or whatever feature is given to place his search.

Re:What makes Slashdot great (1)

sn0wflake (592745) | about 10 years ago | (#10410425)

The USGS link points to a Microsoft Corporation website. Am I missing something or is this correct? Googling the link provided me with something more appropriate, namely this [] .

first post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10409946)

is that a good enough map?

Re:first post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10409979)

Is there anything more pathetic than some jerk who posts first post and says something stupid like is that a good enough map? in response to a serious question like the articles author?

Oh, by the way, you were not first post. BWJones had you beat by a full minute making you even more pathetic and sad.

Re:first post (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10409999)

Ooh looky here, BWJones posting anonymously, gloating about his first post and acting all saintly and gravely and feeling important about what he wrote on the kid's predicament.

Cry me a fucking river...

Mod parent up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10410046)

Well said. I hate "first posters" as much as you do, they're wasting moderator points and love the attention they get by being modded down.

I've suggested many times before that slashdot should have some sort of a FPPS ("first post prevention system"). It could be dead simple: AC's are not allowed to post the first 5 minutes after an article has been published. Implement that, and all the AC FP's are gone.

Hell, make it even better: Allow subscribers to start commenting on articles before they are published ("red"). No AC's.

Unfortunately, there are just as many crazy moderators as AC FP's, so since this will be modded down (and I love my karma), I'm staying AC for this time.

Re:Mod parent up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10410097)

Here's another thing that Slashdot should implement: prevent people from answering their own post.

Eh BWJones?

Re:Mod parent up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10410120)

I'm not BWJones (seriously).

I'm just an anonymous coward like you, except I'm not being rude.

Re:Mod parent up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10410305)

Best idea yet: No one can post unless theirs is at least the second post.

Maybe Garmin's Mapsource stuff? (5, Informative)

kentmartin (244833) | about 10 years ago | (#10409950)

I use Garmin's Mapsource [] quite a bit which, whilst not being the prettiest, turns detail off as you zoom out and adds it as you zoom in, which sounds like it could be helpful.

It isn't cheap, but, I am sure if you contacted their PR department and explained what you wanted to do with it, they would have a hard time coming off as anything other than heartless and moneygrabbing should you they refuse to give you a gratis/cheap copy.

The North American web demo [] of their maps (link near the top right) does similar and may even do the trick, and, is free to use.

As for large screen helping, a cheap projector and a dark room would be a better logical alternative than a big screen it would seem to me, but then again, I hardly know whereof I speak.

Re:Maybe Garmin's Mapsource stuff? (1)

FosterKanig (645454) | about 10 years ago | (#10410173)

You could teach him this song:
Albania, Albania, you border on the Adriatic.

Re:Maybe Garmin's Mapsource stuff? (1)

bobbozzo (622815) | about 10 years ago | (#10410337)

I agree. Programs like Mapsource are mostly vector-based, so zooming in doesn't lose any detail.

The only concern would be if you can get the fonts big enough to read.

Also, PDF maps would usually be vector-based.

I also was going to recommend a projector. Preferably 1024x768 or better, with a decent screen.

I don't know where this kid is going to school, but the school should be trying to accomodate him.

I'm suprised an overhead projector wouldn't work with a printed atlas.
You might need a dark room and a bigger-than-average screen if the fonts are still to small, but it should be feasible.

Not a handicap (-1, Troll)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 10 years ago | (#10409956)

Most people in the US can see just fine and know jack squat about geography anyway.

Re:Not a handicap (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10409992)

I don't need geography - only missile coordinates.

Re:Not a handicap (0, Troll)

div_B (781086) | about 10 years ago | (#10410006)

Most people in the US can see just fine and know jack squat about geography anyway.

True. Not to cheapen the kid's plight, but I reckon he ought to concentrate on what he can do with limited vision, and leave subjects like geography until decent prosthetic visual aids (ie implants) are developed (which should be well within his lifetime, given that they have had some success already. [] )

Re:Not a handicap (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about 10 years ago | (#10410033)

prosthetic visual aids (ie implants) are developed (which should be well within his lifetime, given that they have had some success already.)

Hopefully he'll get better implants than those prototypes: with a resolution of 25x25, the only map he'd see accurately is the map of Utah...

Re:Not a handicap (1)

Sepper (524857) | about 10 years ago | (#10410132)

I know some members of that team and the actual aim is FAR better resolution .The big problem seems to be finding ressources(money,graduate students, etc)
The market also seem to have a bigger interest in their research involving the bladder []

Re:Not a handicap (5, Insightful)

captnitro (160231) | about 10 years ago | (#10410147)

Why would you think this would cheapen the kid's plight? Telling him he can't do something with kids his age because of a disability and that he should put his life on hold until something with a time-to-market of 20 years shows up?

Yes, sarcasm. With all due respect, I understand your position, but it's a cop-out answer.

There are certain things kids with disabilities can't do, obviously. A kid with paralysis of the lower body can't run track. But the point is to show these kids what they can do, not what they can't. He may not be able to run track, but if he wants to be near the sport, there are plenty of wheelchair track clubs he can participate in. Instead of telling the kid, "wait until we develop artificial legs", let's tell him we have the best people in the room, and until then there are plenty of other opportunities and ways he can participate in life just like non-handicapped people.

A kid with vision disability can participate with his classmates in geography, but he might need some help. Help which, I should note, is required by law and for good reason. People with disabilities aren't invalids, but may require accomodation.

It's worth noting that social studies probably isn't an 'elective' for him in junior high.

Re:Not a handicap (1)

div_B (781086) | about 10 years ago | (#10410217)

Why would you think this would cheapen the kid's plight? Telling him he can't do something with kids his age because of a disability and that he should put his life on hold until something with a time-to-market of 20 years shows up? Yes, sarcasm. With all due respect, I understand your position, but it's a cop-out answer.

But did I say he should put his life on hold? No, I simply said he should concentrate on what he can do. When technology adds map-reading to that set, he can do it.

There are certain things kids with disabilities can't do, obviously. A kid with paralysis of the lower body can't run track. But the point is to show these kids what they can do, not what they can't.He may not be able to run track, but if he wants to be near the sport, there are plenty of wheelchair track clubs he can participate in.

This sounds suspiciously like what I said. If technology can help him to some degree, then great. If the technology hasn't been developed yet, looks like he'll have to wait.

It's worth noting that social studies probably isn't an 'elective' for him in junior high.

Probably not. But are they really going to give him a hard time for doing poorly in areas of the subject that really heavily on vision he doesn't have? Is the american education system really that bad?

Re:Not a handicap (1)

Misinformed (741937) | about 10 years ago | (#10410227)


However to understand the layout of something, the world (or whatever) is surely topology, not visual skills. As a visually able person I can recall pretty well a map of most cities, neighbourhoods, countries I've ever seen a map of, which is fine for my needs (getting to a housewarming, LAN party, etc).

But remembering a map is not the only way to remember where somewhere is, or the relative and comparable attributes of a place, as geography (at least in high school) is concerned with. I can do n-dimensional matrix albegra - most with basic math can - so I can think in n dimensions, where N can be more than a 2D (or pushing it 3D) visual map. Although when I'm looking for a place I can remember the local street layout after glancing a map, I too can remember "1st left, second right, number 62). Likewise, for the story's example "Capitol of the South American country to the west of Surinam" just remember wher the Surinam is, and know relative locations of other locations, and no problem - it is the same problem for visually imparred and fully visually able, bar the tiny minority with a 'photographic memory'.

Now, if the exam if open-book, i.e. the kids don't have to remember the location of the Surinam, just open their books, find the river and the nearest town and draw a line... then (aside from that not being a test whatsoever, not a test of memory (perhaps not too important), but not a test of reasoning or judgement either, simply a monkey task) one in the school district must have suggested some ideas for alternatives??? Did you get any suggestions from them?

Re:Not a handicap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10410261)

I was telling your girl the same thing the other day. "If he can't make you finish with that 1/2" pin of his quit feeling sorry for him I'm sure an implant or drug will help him sooner or later and he should concentrate on school or work. Now come here and sit on my fat cock slut." If your ass was blind you might have some more compassion, but as you have 20/20 vision and the manhood of a baby kitten. You will keep telling people to just live with it or you where destined to do this or that and just leave what you are willing to bust your hump for alone and come do what is easy. Fucking communist.

Signed the blind guy with a cock like a Saturn5 missile that your girl loves.

Re:Not a handicap (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10410330)

sorry but thats stupid.

worst thing you can tell someone with an impairment what they CANT do. They'll suprise you everytime (like the amputee in Survivor right now...amazing).

By creating adaptics and aids, we allow persons with disabilities to push the envelop and help them champion the value of everyone in this society by destroying the myths and stereotypes of their condition.

I say give him everything that is presented here, and he'll not only pick the best thing for himself, but improve on it I'm sure.

Never wait for a technology in the future when you can adapt now and benefit from it. Then, when the proper aid (ie. prosthetics) comes, you'll be that much more ahead when you attempt to understand what you are seeing.

It's all good..

Re:Not a handicap (2, Insightful)

Deorus (811828) | about 10 years ago | (#10410067)

And that is what gives those people a chance to score in the world, they can exploit things others tend to ignore. And if the kid is willing to learn, then we should provide him with the resources he needs.

Alternative media for alternative learning (5, Informative)

captnitro (160231) | about 10 years ago | (#10409958)

I feel for your coworker's predicament. My mother and brother have had a total of about fifteen surgeries between them to correct vision problems mostly stemming from retinas that have a tendency to detach, and complicatons thereof. The condition has many of the symptoms of a connective tissue disorder called Stichler-Sachs, but not all. In many cases, it boils down to a combination of the aforementioned, and a nearsightedness that puts a strain on the eye from its length. I got away with one surgery twenty years ago, while my mom and brother have basic vision of shapes and/or colors (with no semblance of stability in sight).

Regardless, I've been through much of this before. First off, make sure his school is accomodating with a IEP (individualized education program)/504 setup. There are many things you can do, but without help from the school, it's won't help. Many accomodations can be made "behind the scenes" and without making the child self-conscious. There are some things that the child can't totally hide, and in this case a sense of humor is particularly helpful.

Many times, the school can obtain (at the school's expense) extra-large versions of books, graphics, diagrams and the like. I know when I was a kid, we had a few raised (molded) topographical maps (? somebody help me out, I can't think of what the right description is) sitting around. I know they also have globes, but they may not be as "high-resolution" if he's studying, say, state geography. They're also not that difficult to make, which can be a family project. The point is to cover all the bases by connecting knowledge with touch and what little sight he may have: think teaching art via texture and collage and sculpture as opposed to traditional "visibles".

In this case, geography may require a rewritten or oral test for the child. Since he had to learn it differently, it may have to be tested differently. YMMV based on what the parents and educator think is best.

Many different ideas can fun or degrading, depending on how severe the disability is; that's true of many accomodations, so it's important to be sensitive to the child's attitude, especially at this age, and moreso in a few years.

Whatever your suggestion and the parents' decision, it won't be a quick fix; this is a long road. I know from experience, however, that with a lot of support, it's definitely doable. I wish you the best of luck. (I will gladly answer questions if you e-mail or reply to this post.)

Re:Alternative media for alternative learning (5, Insightful)

SaV (261390) | about 10 years ago | (#10410105)

I would also suggest that for testing geography the teacher might make transparencies and put them on an overhead projecter then verbally ask the student to identify them based on color, etc. This might require after school work, but it might help retain the visual impact of geography without resorting to Braille.

Re:Alternative media for alternative learning (4, Interesting)

captnitro (160231) | about 10 years ago | (#10410207)

Absolutely, mod parent up! The big problem with "resorting" to braille or VR displays and so many of the solutions others have suggested -- is psychological; it's something that makes the kid different from other kids. And he is, but there's no reason to highlight it needlessly.

There is a very careful balance to be had in educational accomodation that many don't understand: in theory "you can help a child hard of hearing by yelling louder at him" -- but if he's embarassed for his challenge, if he's singled out, he won't use the accomodation.

My brother, in junior high, got poor grades for the first quarter, and being an incredibly bright kid, nobody knew why, until we realized his "big books" were staying at home. During class, when the teacher asked to get out the textbooks, he brought out the normal-sized one, which of course he couldn't read. He was embarassed at having to carry an 11x14-size collection of schoolbook chapters around with text sizes ripped from "Spot Goes To School".

I think brightly projected transparencies would be an ideal way to display maps without bringing attention in school to his disability.

Also been there, here (4, Informative)

mblase (200735) | about 10 years ago | (#10410286)

My stepdaughter is in a similar predicament as the poster. Her vision isn't as bad as "near-blind", but one eye is near-blind and the other is severely nearsighted.

My wife has always been her primary advocate in school, but we've done much of what the parent poster has done: get an IEP (even though she's at a private school which isn't required to follow an IEP, they do so), and use it to get enlarged books (they're free) and worksheets, and special consideration for homework (she's only required to do half as many math problems, for instance) and tests (her time limits are always extended).

She's tried electronic devices to enlarge her books and papers, but since she had to wheel it from classroom to classroom it was both unwieldy and very obvious -- not a good thing for a peer-conscious preteen. So yes, they have those devices and they work, but they're not as good as simply enlarging the books and papers. (I look forward to the day when all the textbooks come on an electronic tablet which can simply enlarge the font and/or invert the black and white as needed.)

Telling your child to have a sense of humor about such a situation is easier said than done; I'm sure we all remember how cruel kids of any age can be. The better thing to do is, as a parent, be understanding, comfortable, and above all be a strong advocate for his/her needs. Don't expect your child to speak up when he/she needs special assistance, because that may not be in his/her nature. But do ask him/her about any problems in the classroom and go to the teachers, or principal if necessary, yourself to correct it.

Re:Alternative media for alternative learning (4, Informative)

shoesaphone (706480) | about 10 years ago | (#10410316)

The American Printing House for the Blind, [] , is a great resource for "adapted educational" products. And not just in Braille but also large-print, audio, tactile, software, etc. Their online catalog includes products to recommend to your school.

I'm not affiliated with them, but I do have dear friends that work there. APH is a non-profit (so they're not in it for the money).

Re:Alternative media for alternative learning (1)

johnnyb (4816) | about 10 years ago | (#10410384)

Speaking of schools and IEPs and dealing with special needs, one of the best schools for special needs kids is The Little Light House [] . It is a private tuition-free school (not funded by the state or United Way, either), and initially started to serve blind children, although they serve pretty much every disability now. It's probably not that useful for your situation -- it's for kids under 7 -- but it is waaay better than state special needs education.

This Saturday is a special event called mini-laps -- all of the kids take a lap around the school mini-track in whatever way they can the best. My kid was pulled in a wagon last year, but he is going to walk with a walker this year!

Anyway, it's the greatest school with the greatest staff ever. If anyone here ever is pregnant with a possible special needs kid, I suggest you move to Tulsa, OK and get on their waiting list (it's 2 years long at the moment, but they do have a class for certain disabilities of newborns).

You would not believe the commitment from the staff, either. It's truly amazing.

Braile Monitor Relif Maps (3, Informative)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | about 10 years ago | (#10409980)

Seems to me that would be the ultimate solution. If you're not familiar with the device, a braile monitor uses steel pins at different heights on a flat, horizontal field to represent colors in a computer graphic. It seems to me that would be the solution required here- but I'm not sure where to get one (as I'm not blind myself) nor have I seen one in several years. You might check out a few schools for the blind and see if this technology is still available.

Re:Braile Monitor Relif Maps (2)

AndroidCat (229562) | about 10 years ago | (#10410044)

Does anyone currently make a mouse with a finger pin-pad? (The vibrating pins represent the screen under the mouse cursor, allowing the user to feel their way around the screen.)

Re:Braile Monitor Relif Maps (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | about 10 years ago | (#10410320)

You've been looking on too many pr0n sites ;)

Next thing you know, you'll be asking for a scented mouse!

There are map suites with good zoom (3, Informative)

royli57 (742263) | about 10 years ago | (#10409983)

I got Microsoft streets and trips for use with my GPS device. The nice thing about these maps is that they are meant to be used down to the street level and even let you select every available address in America.

Within the US, you can view the entire nation and zoom in as much as you need. Imagine how PDF files work - the information is stored in database and is not pixelated by maginifcation. This would help for any US maps.

For international, the same suite (Streets and trips 2004) works on the city level, but only has major streets. You would have to find the speicific maps you are looking for.

Re:There are map suites with good zoom (2, Informative)

gnuman99 (746007) | about 10 years ago | (#10410076)

The nice thing about these maps is that they are meant to be used down to the street level and even let you select every available address in America.

Geography is not about street maps. It uses topographical maps. Street maps are vector maps while topographical maps are raster, *always*. This has to do with the nature of the measurements.

You can get topographical maps down to 30m resolusion though (NASA shuttle radar project a few years ago, now at USGS here []

Re:There are map suites with good zoom (1)

bhtooefr (649901) | about 10 years ago | (#10410104)

I'll second Streets and Trips. It's VERY nice if you use Windows (which that, and the fact that my Linux box is REALLY old, are the reasons it's not on there). Microsoft has a few gems in there...

MapPoint might be better, especially considering the statistical information it's got. Streets & Trips is basically a home version of MapPoint. The only problem is the pricing on MapPoint isn't that great. MapPoint is, unfortunately, not available in an academic version (MS academic versions are rarely above $100, which is nice if someone like me wants 2003 Pro, which is $100, but the unlucky guy who ISN'T a student has to pay $549 for "Special Edition" (which adds Server 2003 and SQL Server 2000) or $1075 if he or she doesn't want the extras (backwards MS pricing, I know, but at least VS.n2K3PSE is technically a sale price).)

I'm not sure... (1)

robochan (706488) | about 10 years ago | (#10409986)

... if such a thing exists, but what about a 3D topographical globe/map/what-have-you? Something with state/nationality borders included perhaps. Like I said, I don't know if such a thing exists, but I recall some globes having topographical features (raised mountains, oceans, the Great Lakes, etc.) included as features.

Re:I'm not sure... (1)

f00zy (783212) | about 10 years ago | (#10410040)

A quick search revealed a number of tactile mapping efforts though most were on a very small scale (e.g., a building).

Floor Puzzles (1)

kninja (121603) | about 10 years ago | (#10410338)

I know that there are large puzzles of at least the 50 states, probably Europe and other regions exist.

The puzzles that I'm thinking of are large wooden cutouts of a state or region, and would be great for learning by touch the shapes of states/countries. If you glued them down near eache other, possibly a spatial relation between them could be formed as well.

We had one of these big floor puzzles in kindergarten. It was a riot!

I know this is a stupid idea, but . . . (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10410008)

Perhaps you could contact that guy from MIT who has all of the implants and stuff. The "bionic man". I'm not trying to be silly here, but it may be possible that he or someone he could put you in touch with would be able to help the child (or even associate with him on the basis of a project) with some sort of augmentation.

I don't necessarily mean some sort of physical augmentation - but some sort of technical assistance that would help paint images onto his retina in a way that he could see the material on a computer, through an adapter, in the same way that some of the new "head monitors" do.

It's a long shot, granted - but it might be worth a shot? If there isn't a solution out there now, get the kid and father in touch with people on the foreront of technology and science and they could possibly actively pursue a solution with interested professionals.

Whatever you do, don't post his homepage here (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10410014)

It'll take down another avenue for learning.

Maps (4, Interesting)

bomb_number_20 (168641) | about 10 years ago | (#10410022)

How about a relief map of the world that is also a puzzle. Ocean names are in raised text, and the continents are inset into the board. Each piece of the puzzle is a country in the continent.

By feeling your way around the oceans, you can feel the 'holes' where the continents go. Then you fit the pieces into the holes, learning which countries go with which continents as well as geographical features.

Maybe breaking it up into smaller pieces will make building a larger picture in the mind easier.

without knowing the situation completely... (1)

ChipMonk (711367) | about 10 years ago | (#10410034)

It sounds like this is exactly what scaled vector graphics (the SVG format) was designed to address.

But a world map? That'll be one huMONGous SVG file!

Re:without knowing the situation completely... (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | about 10 years ago | (#10410307)

Can SVG use external references?

#include each continent, and country within.

Heck, you could svg yourself down to atomic scales that way ;)

Check out... (5, Insightful)

j_cavera (758777) | about 10 years ago | (#10410041)

a company called GH, LLC [] . The specialize in converting educational materials from traditional sources into raised print -- braille text and raised lines for diagrams. This is for totally blind individuals (obviously) but should serve your child as they would be able to feel raised maps. Note that I am not affiliated with them - just knew some people who worked there.

Another great resource is the Alliance for Technology Access [] . They have directories of companies that create technologies for handicapped individuals.

Good luck.

raytech marine navagator (3, Informative)

donald954 (784977) | about 10 years ago | (#10410043)

the RNS marine mapping system includes a vector based mapping system that zooms to any level, can be blown up, ect. I use this on my boat :).

Ever heard of BATS? (5, Interesting)

SmithG (688785) | about 10 years ago | (#10410045)

This might be of interest to you. Not sure how visually impaired the kid is, but this is for those with no sight at all. BATS []

Re:Ever heard of BATS? (5, Interesting)

SmithG (688785) | about 10 years ago | (#10410118)

I suppose I'll elaborate a bit. BATS is a project that uses auditory clues and a pointing device (like a mouse) to let blind people explore maps. An example from this pdf [] says that you could have your cursor positioned with a large body of water just to the left, in which case the user would hear sounds of water and the name of the body coming from their left side (I suppose it requires stereo sound). It sounds pretty neat, and may be just what is needed for this kid. Not sure what the availability of maps for it is like, but you can download the software from the link I provided above. It's funny that this came up, because I had just heard some co-workers talking about BATS the other day (one of them had worked on it apparently). Anyway, hope this helps.

Re:Ever heard of BATS? (1)

Zonnald (182951) | about 10 years ago | (#10410158)

There inlies the problem with the earlier post suggesting that one should not be allowed to reply to their own posts.

Thanks SmithG for elaborating!

Re:Ever heard of BATS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10410285)

BATS does draw maps on the screen to give some visual cues to people with some residual vision. The BATS map maker allows the map creator to specify custom stylesheets that can be used to make points bigger, lines thicker, overlapping regions contrast in color, etc.

Taking a cue from Keller... (4, Interesting)

Ironsides (739422) | about 10 years ago | (#10410054)

About the only thing I can think of is to make a "3D" map. I don't mean a relief map. Take an existing map, and put it on carboard or something. Put something along the borders that raises it up. Tulip Paint [] (a really thick paint applied like Icing), Silicon Glue or wire should work for this. Essentially, think along the lines of helping out someone who is completely blind.

Also, it might be possible to take a couple of those monitor, run them through a splitter and have each one displaying 1/4 of the picture.

Near Blind? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10410059)

How about just setting the monitor to 640x480 resolution? :-P

Oddly enough, google can answer those questions. (4, Interesting)

IvyMike (178408) | about 10 years ago | (#10410062)

I understand that the question is really asking "how do you get maps that can be enlarged", but...

Questions like: Find the largest city on the Mississippi River and what is the Capitol of the South American country to the west of Surinam are hard for the child as his view of the map is very constrained."

Put those questions into google, and you can pretty quickly find an answer using only text. Using google to answer questions about maps is probably not the skill they were trying to teach, but on the other hand, it is a skill of some kind.

For the blind or near-blind (2, Insightful)

Hugonz (20064) | about 10 years ago | (#10410066)

For some years now, there has been at least one Linux distribution. Zipspeak [] is a variant of zipslack (Slackware for UMSDOS)that supports several voice synth cards.

The Speakup Project produces a screen reader [] that is used in the above distro.

There is also a Knoppix based distro [] called Oralux, that will also support braille terminals (these are usually one line at a time vt100 emulators) connected to a serial port.

I know this does not solve the map problem, but this, along with Links, for example, will give any vision impaired person far more tools that are available in Windows, for instance.

Virtual environments can help... (3, Interesting)

jordanda (160179) | about 10 years ago | (#10410093)

You could try a Virtual Retinal Display. They've shown promise for people with macular degeneration and retinal pigmentosa. I think Microvision is the only company selling them though.

Slashdot did an article on them a while back. tml []

Assistive Technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10410100)

CCTV can magnify a great deal. []

Also there is something called Pictures in a flash which provides tactile representation for graphic images through the use of heat and thermo-type paper. ts/tactile/piaf.htm []

Both of these things are mechanical in nature and costly but if the school has a Disability Resource Center or if a local college has a DRC then you should be able to get access to both.

tactile graphics (4, Informative)

n-boy (818371) | about 10 years ago | (#10410108)

The first thing I thought of when reading your question was "tactile graphics". In my experience, it's the best way to convey spatial distances when one can't see the distances. A tactile graphic is, for example, a map with details raised, effectively making it so that the individual can "feel" the distance and relation of different features. The drawback is that these graphics are expensive *and* tend to be very large (it's difficult to feel the separation of two tiny lines when they're close together). A quick google will find you plenty of information on companies that make these products. (I happen to work for a company that makes tactile gfx, in addition to other low vision/blind products, but no plug for them today)

BBC (3, Informative)

Kurt Russell (627436) | about 10 years ago | (#10410130)

I read this [] fascinating article some time ago. With the way the way things are headed the kid might have 20-20 vision soon ;-) I'm sure there are all sorts of neural type implant projects for vision impaired people, so the future looks bright.

Re:BBC (1)

mr_clem (155428) | about 10 years ago | (#10410326)

...i gotta wear shades

Maybe use a projector or large screen TV. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10410140)

This might be too costly. But what about using a projector. A 1024x768 will run you around $1500, an 800x600 for less than $1000. Project the maps on the wall. You an easily get a 100 in diagonal this way.

If you happen to have a large screen TV already, perhaps try getting a video card that can do TV out.

Some MS Windows tips (2, Informative)

marcomarrero (521557) | about 10 years ago | (#10410155)

Windows XP has an Accessibility menu with Magnifier and Narrator. Most map software use vector graphics, so zooming in doesn't degrade the image. Speech to text software could be nice if the keyboard is too cumbersome to use.

I would recommend installing two or more monitors which can be configured (since Win98) as one big desktop. Or maybe plugging the PC to a large TV with svideo or better. Most video cards also have custom brightness/contrast settings. XP's "built-in" ultra-plain generic drivers doesn't allow that, be sure to download new drivers.

Also, it's important to know about government and private institutions benefits for handicapped persons - especially for education and training.

I'd second the idea of a projector, or tv adapter (1)

digitalgimpus (468277) | about 10 years ago | (#10410161)

A projector would be best, but a TV adapter may help too.

Hook the computer up so you use the TV as a screen. It's not as high quality as a good monitor of course, but would be easier for the kid to see.

A projector would be more expensive... but would provide even greater benefit.

A low tech solution. (1)

suso (153703) | about 10 years ago | (#10410164)

Perhaps something that this child could do is use a puzzle map of the world. I don't know where you'd find something like that. I used to have a puzzle map of the U.S. when I was younger.

This probably couldn't go very far, but its a start and might make the father think of other things to try.

IM GOING TO HELL! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10410182)

Karma will probably give me retarded children because of this, but what the hell... Time for a Blind Joke!

A blind man walks into a restaurant and sits down. The waiter, who is also the owner, walks up to the blind man and hands him a menu.

"I'm sorry, Sir, but I am blind and can't read the menu. Just bring me a dirty fork from a previous customer, I'll smell it and order from there."

A little confused, the owner walks over to the dirty pile and picks up a greasy fork. He returns to the blind man's table and hands it to him. The blind man puts the fork to his nose and takes in a deep breath.

"Ah, yes, that's what I'll have, meatloaf and mashed potatoes."

Unbelievable, the owner says to himself as he walks towards the kitchen. The cook happens to be the owner's wife and he tells her what had just happened. The blind man eats his meal and leaves. Several days later the blind man returns and the owner mistakenly brings him a menu again.

"Sir, remember me? I'm the blind man."

"I'm sorry, I didn't recognize you. I'll go get you a dirty fork."

The owner again retrieves a dirty fork and brings it to the blind man. After another deep breath, the blind man says, "That smells great; I'll take the macaroni and cheese with broccoli."

Once again walking away in disbelief, the owner thinks the blind man is screwing around with him and tells his wife that the next time the blind man comes in he's going to test him. The blind man eats and leaves.

He returns the following week, but this time the owner sees him coming and runs to the kitchen. He tells his wife, "Mary, rub this fork on your panties before I take it to the blind man."

Mary complies and hands her husband the fork back. As the blind man walks in and sits down, the owner is ready and waiting.

"Good afternoon sir, this time I remembered you and I already have the fork ready for you."

The blind man puts the fork to his nose, takes a deep whiff and says, "Hey, I didn't know that Mary worked here?"

Google (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10410183)

Really, how would any of us find out what the biggest city along the Mississippi is? I for one, having 20/20 eyesight, am certainly not going to get a book or a map out and look all along some blue line for the biggest square or dot or whatever denotes the population count. Just Google for it:

West of Suriname [] : West of Suriname lies a country called Guyana, which was a colony of Great Brittain

There we go. Finding out the capitol of Guyana is easy enough.

Largest city along the Mississippi [] : In population, Memphis, Tennessee is the largest city on the Mississippi

Both of these from the first few results. What is a basic Geography class really besides a few basic skills? It's all about looking things up and applying a few simple rules (what is longitude and lattitude, West = left, North = above). People (Americans) aren't bad at Geography because they don't spend X hours a week staring at a colored map. It's because they just don't care. All it boils down to is taking an interest and generic research skills.

Just have the kid be creative when he can't do his lookup work in the exact same way as the other kids.


Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10410196)

Yeah, yeah. Someday I'll register an account.

MVA (Most Valuable AC)

Interesting problem... (4, Insightful)

TiggertheMad (556308) | about 10 years ago | (#10410241)

All the suggestions are decent ideas, but I wonder if the solution might be to change the problem.

If a person has such problems reading maps, that simple image enlargement techniques don't help then why try teaching geography visually? It is unlikely that that skill (Being able to find the Mississippi on a map) whill ever be a useful one to a person who is severly visually impaired. You can visually describe geography to someone and achieve the same end.

Tell the teacher to stop wasting time teaching skills that aren't ever going to be of use. Just because a standardized skill test has a question like that doesn't mean that it will be applicable to every child that takes the test...

Tried OS X? (2, Informative)

v1 (525388) | about 10 years ago | (#10410262)

Macs have always had good support for users with visual and physical disabilities. In OS X, go to System Preferences - Universal Access. The visual enhancements availabe there can switch the display to black-and-white, greyscale, enhance contrast, and can magnify the display greatly for people with low vision. Zoom can be set from 2x to 20x. On my powerbook, 20x zoom makes the mouse pointer almost 3" long, which should be plenty enough for anyone that's not completely blind.

These enhancements are part of the base OS, there is no additional software to buy.

GMT Software (2, Informative)

chris_sawtell (10326) | about 10 years ago | (#10410263)

Generic Mapping Tools []

"These are an open source collection of ~60 tools for manipulating geographic and Cartesian data sets (including filtering, trend fitting, gridding, projecting, etc.) and producing Encapsulated PostScript File (EPS) illustrations ranging from simple x-y plots through contour maps to artificially illuminated surfaces and 3-D perspective views. GMT supports ~30 map projections and transformations and comes with support data such as coastlines, rivers, and political boundaries."

The data set is available on CD from The Geoware Online Store [] or alternatively from various ftp archives. I have not got the various the url's to hand but the data is freely available from US institutions. ( several hundred megabyte download )

Create suitable images according to the need of the moment using the GMT software and project them onto a horizontal board. Us the projected image as a guide to making plaster reliefs. Great educational fun for folks of all ages who want to learn that there is a real World out there which is more than just target co-ordinates.

Interactive Text Adventure (1)

spaceling (521125) | about 10 years ago | (#10410266)

This sounds to me like an opportunity for an interactive atlas organized like a text adventure. For example, let's describe a map with the starting point as America: to the west you see another ocean (the Pacific) vast and wide, to the east you see another ocean (the Atlantic)not quite as vast as the Pacific, to the North there is another county (Canada), to the south you see another country (Mexico). Would you like to zoom in (out)? zoom in You are in Ohio, there are three large cities here, and a number of smaller one, they are... to the west is... to the east is... etc. Options can be extended to request geographical details, political and economic information, and history.

Tactile Maps (2, Informative)

Egonis (155154) | about 10 years ago | (#10410272)

I worked at the CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind) for some time...

A very valuable tool for youth (typically provided by the educational institution) is to create tactile maps, in which thin strips of foam are used to represent maps which can produce:

- Directions in a Neighbourhood
- Basic City Plans
- Geographical Maps

Basically, you take a piece of hard construction paper, and glue strips and curves of thin foam to it, and name each section with braille.

For further information, reply and I am willing to assist.

Maps for the blind... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10410275)

My geography teacher had a novel approach. He would blow up maps to poster size and outline the boundaries with puffy paint. He would use varying weight lines for different features(but never too much detail at once). He would then have us take turns at the map with a blindfold on and have us tell him which country/river/continent/whatever we had our finger on.
It was unorthodox (especially since this was a public school) but extremely effective. To this day (14 years later) I can still remember most of what he taught.

Blind + Linux = BLINUX (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10410276)

Blind + Linux = BLINUX [] . This is the best solution in the long run and it doesn't cost anything, unlike solutions from Microsoft and other proprietary software. I wish you the best luck. The command-line interface is ideal for blind users.

Emacspeak is a speech interface that allows blind and visually impaired users to interact independently and efficiently with the computer. Available free of cost on the Internet, Emacspeak has dramatically changed how the author and hundreds of blind and visually impaired users around the world interact with the personal computer and the Internet.

In my humble opinion Emacspeak is the most advanced voice enabled user interface currently available. If I wouldn't have seen a trained Emacspeak user reading his email faster that I ever could I never would have believed it. Did you ever see a person which is blind playing Tetris amazingly fast? It sounds incredible. Emacspeak makes it possible.

I won't tell you that you don't need some training until you are at home with Emacspeak. But if you are willing to invest some efforst, chances are good that you will be able to handle your computer faster than many sighted users.

When reading, writing, designing, or programming, the totally blind individual is inevitably restricted to a one dimensional world, be it speech or braille. This linear stream may take the form of a single-line display on a braille output device, or the words spoken by a speech synthesizer. There are brief moments when the blind user can enjoy the benefits of a 2-dimensional presentation. If he has a braille printer he might print out a chart or spread sheet and explore it with both hands. Indeed, when I studied mathematics at U.C. Berkeley I often had to write the equation, or set of related equations down in braille, and review it as a whole, before I understood it. However, one rarely has the time to construct such a two-dimensional tactile representation, similar to the screen or the printed page. As a general rule we must admit that the blind user is stuck in one dimension.

Unfortunately, almost all modern applications present information in a two-dimensional format, and most employ graphical icons that have no meaning for the blind. Since it is impractical to rewrite all these applications, the blind community has been forced to perform a rather awkward retrofit, using various adapters. We should recognize that this is not the ideal solution. Pasting a screen reader on top of Netscape makes it accessible, but the result is hardly efficient.

Over the past decade a small minority of blind users have discovered Linux, a free, text-based operating system for the home computer. Linux applications rarely employ graphics, and most of them are already linear, just like the mode (speech or braille) that is our Karma. All other things being equal, Linux is the best operating system for a blind user.

Of course things aren't always equal. If your job requires the use of a proprietary order entry system that only runs on Windows, then you'll be using Windows, with an adapter that tries to make the application somewhat accessible. But this scenario is actually quite rare. An employer may insist on a Microsoft Word document, but that doesn't force you to use Windows. You can write html code on Linux and mail it to your boss, who can then import it into Word. Conversely, your co-workers can easily export their Word documents into html for your benefit. There are very few reasons why you must use Windows. Let's assume you are considering Linux, where the applications are less graphical. That's a fair assumption, since you're already visiting this web site.

If you watch a sighted Linux user for an hour, you will notice that he spends most of his time in screen applications. He doesn't need the labyrinth of "helpful" menus and drop down boxes that Windows is famous for, and he has no patience for the "are you sure you want to do that" and "click ok if you really want to quit" dialog boxes, and he'd rather type in a cryptic command than click on a cryptic icon, but at the same time, he's not willing to give up the power that comes from a 2-dimensional visual search and scan. Thus the Linux editors, browsers, and mail clients still present information screen by screen, and the sighted user assimilates information by the page, his eyes jumping straight to the item of interest. This kind of power will never be available to us. To think otherwise is to live in a state of denial.

Even though the blinux community has taken two courageous steps away from graphical interfaces, it is still married to the screen. We try to squash our two-dimensional applications into the linear streams of braille and speech, because it seems easier than rewriting those applications. And indeed it is, in the short run, but screen readers and screen applications will never be as powerful as a well-designed command line program that conveys a minimum of output, tailored precisely to our needs.

At this point I should admit that the above assertion is a matter of opinion - my opinion - and there are many intelligent people who disagree. Every existing adapter (except mine) reads the text on the screen, and only the text on the screen (or related attributes of that text). You may not want to call them screen readers, but that's what they are. These adapters are then used to "explore" the pages that result from various applications such as emacs and lynx. Dozens, even hundreds of blind users are happy with this arrangement. However, for reasons that are difficult to articulate, I am irreparably confused by screen programs, no matter how excellent the adapter, and although I may be part of a minority, I am definitely not alone. Consider a simple edit in Emacs. The blind user must track the reading cursor (the words he is hearing or feeling) and the visual cursor (where the "work" is being done) simultaneously. Often they are close together, but sometimes the user must read other parts of the document, e.g. when moving text about, and it is easy to get lost.

In my opinion, the "friendliness" of an application is measured by its output: the less the better. I don't mind typing detailed, often cryptic commands to get precisely what I want, as long as I don't have to wade through extraneous output.

Please read this [] . Good luck!


Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10410367)

Score:0? WTF?! This is the best post so far!

Low tech is often better (2, Insightful)

hacksoncode (239847) | about 10 years ago | (#10410278)

How about a quality atlas and a big old magnifying glass?

Technology is great stuff, and all, but...

Relief Maps (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10410287)

My father was a geology professor. When I was a kid, I had a plastic relief map of the U.S. He grabbed from me to use with a blind student.

I googled this supplier - they have better maps than the one I had in the 60's rc e=google

*Mother's* pregnancy? As opposed to who else? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10410298)

Oh, you mean maybe the Father's pregnancy?

It's a subtly sexist remark, but sexist nonetheless. Why should the mother be singled out? Does he know that it wasn't the father's sperm that caused problems?

From personal experience... (2, Insightful)

GabrielF (636907) | about 10 years ago | (#10410299)

I don't know where you are located in the country (or the world), but many states have agencies designed to help solve these problems. I am visually impaired and I had a case worker from Connecticut Board of Education Services for the Blind throughout school who helped me with these issues. They have assistive technology consultants as well as people who can deal with the often public school administrators. Other states have similar agencies as well. Middle school can be absolutely hellish so it can be very helpful to have someone on your side. Even if this isn't an option make sure he has an IEP (or equivalent) so that the school has written records of his disability and a formal plan for dealing with it. If you've got all of this on file than its much easier to get individual teachers or administrators to help out, and even possibly pay for a special equipment and large print books. I actually was really good at geography as a kid, (national geography bee state finalist way back when) but I suspect that was because I really liked puzzling over maps and trying to figure them out. However, I know that geography bee national finalists have been completely blind in the past. To be honest if the tests he has to take are entirely the questions that you listed than they need to be modified, but geography is more than capitals and directions. A good question might be something like "What do Mindenao, Correigidor, and Luzon have in common" you don't need to know anything about the shape of the Philippines to answer that one, all you need to have done is maybe read a little about WWII or current events etc. I doubt that I could draw a map of the world better than a 5 year old but I can assure you I know much more geography than the average american. The truth of the matter is that this kid might not be able to give you directions from a little roadmap on the highway without a lot of help, but that doesn't mean he isn't capable of understanding the nature of the world around him. I suspect that the best thing for him to do is to read as much as possible and to try to absorb information and visualize it. That worked for me anyway.

How my "near blind" brother-in-law solved this... (1)

Narril Duskwalker (530445) | about 10 years ago | (#10410311)

was to get an atlas and use a CCTV+Magnification+System [] With a CCTV for any printed media and using the Microsoft "Magnifier" on his computer, he's able to work full time in an IT department doing phone support.

Helpful resources (4, Informative)

Kartik3 (590836) | about 10 years ago | (#10410314)

Helping people is, I think, one of the best uses of the slashdot community. That being said...
Here are some (hopefully) helpful resources:

American Printing House for the Blind [] :
They're a great resource of learning materials for the blind. (You should try and see if the school can (or maybe should) pay for these materials)

APH geography learning materials []

Royal National Institute for the Blind (UK) []
The RNIB looks like a good resource and charity in the UK for the blind as well.

This article in the 4th issue of their Curriculum Close-Up magazine dealing with learning geography for the blind might help as well.
Article []

I hope this helps and I wish you and them the best of luck!

BATS: Blind Audio Tactile Mapping System (1)

parente (818377) | about 10 years ago | (#10410335)

Check out the BATS project [] from the assistive technology research group at UNC. It's an open source mapping program written in Python to make maps accessible to people with visual impairments using text-to-speech synthesis, audio icons, 3D sound, and tactile feedback all using cheap commodity hardware. More info is available on the BATS web page. The latest version of the software for Windows is also available for download.

VR headset (1)

rubberbando (784342) | about 10 years ago | (#10410349)

What about using a VR headset?
They have been around for years and put the images right up to your eyes. Many can be plugged into the VGA port on a computer and video outputs on a TV/VCR.

Other projects (1)

parente (818377) | about 10 years ago | (#10410353)

Some of the other projects developed by students in the Enabling Technologies class [] at UNC might also interest you. Many of them are aimed at kids who have nothing to do in computer classes while their sighted peers get to use all the latest and greatest multimedia software. The assistive tech research group's [] home page also has some projects listed.

CIA World Factbook Maps (5, Informative)

alexburke (119254) | about 10 years ago | (#10410354)

The CIA World Factbook has some EXCELLENT reference maps [] , available in 100% vector PDF (meaning they can be infinitely scaled without any pixellation).

perhaps (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10410366)

this is really mean to say...but why not just let natural selection ran its own course...flame me, please

yes, i am bored

3-d maps (1)

zogger (617870) | about 10 years ago | (#10410380)

note, I haven't read the thread yet, just something I've seen, maybe it's already mentioned.

They make 3 dimensional maps -I mean textured, the mountains are raised, you can trace rivers, etc, that are NEAT. He could literally feel the maps and have someone explain what he is touching, eventually he'd figure it out. No idea what they cost, but even a few of them, generic US, generic continents, etc, might be of great help.

UCSB digital map library (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10410391)

Don't know much about it beyond the URL, and that they've been collecting digital maps for many years.

Analog Solution (1)

Black_Macrame (23938) | about 10 years ago | (#10410412)

I have a friend who is blind and I set up a SUSE system for her with emacs speak. All well and good, but you know what caught my eye, literally, in her home? It was a map of the united states about 4x3 on the wall. All the states were outlined in simple yarn and glue, with some braille stickers of the state names. Her mother made it for her by hand, and I bet she can find most states more accurately than most of us (where the hell is Indiana anyways?). I realize this is labor intensive, but its a great project with the kid and you can learn as well. Plus its a gift that lasts a lifetime, just like the good globe my mom bought me when I was 11.

Slashjobs! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 years ago | (#10410427)

I thought they all got jobs as slashdot dupe checkers
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