Please note, the Accessibility Toolkit was last updated in 2014. Recommendations included in the Toolkit may not reflect current standards or best practices.

Maps and data

Introduction

Maps and data can create significant information barriers to users with disabilities. All maps, by their very nature, present challenges for people with vision loss, as the information is highly dependent on images and visual orientation. The following section offers points of consideration when increasing accessibility of procuring new resources.

What are accessible maps?

With printed maps and static digital maps, there are only a few things that can be done to improve accessibility, including:

  • Use of large print
  • Use of high contrast colours
  • Use of braille (in print)
  • Conversion to tactile images (refer to TactileView software for a demonstration)
  • Provision of textual descriptions of the content of the map

The move of maps to interactive online environments, whether on a desktop computer or a mobile device, has brought both new challenges and new opportunities for users with disabilities. Accessibility needs are not limited to those with visual impairments; for example, users who have mobility, dexterity, or cognitive challenges which require them to use specially designed computer peripherals may have difficulty navigating online maps or maps on mobile devices. Internet speed and out-dated browser technology can also affect access.

“Multi-modal” mapping technologies add haptic and audio aspects to the experience of a map. One example is the use of mobile apps to provide audio support for navigating virtual tactile maps. This technology, while promising to people with disabilities, is still in its early stages.

Factors to consider when purchasing accessible web maps

Functionality

  • Simple interface design
  • All functionality usable with keyboard and other devices (not just mouse)
  • Appropriate text alternatives for the controls
  • Usable in high-contrast mode
  • Usable with increased map and text size
  • Using assistive technologies does not break the map functionality

Information being conveyed

  • Provide accessible formats (data tables, text only, etc.)

What are accessible data sets?

Designers of library interfaces that provide access to datasets need to consider:

  • Simple interface design
  • All functionality usable with keyboard and other devices (not just a mouse)
  • Appropriate text alternatives for all functionality
  • All tables which display on the interface should have column and row headers properly identified so that screen reader software can “read” the table
  • Usable in high-contrast mode and with increased text size
  • Offering multiple formats for download so that users can access the data file with their chosen statistical software package (that best meets their needs)

Removing barriers to access for maps and data

While the procurement of fully accessible resources might not always be possible, the first step to addressing the information barriers that providing maps and data create is to acknowledge these barriers exist, and encourage user feedback. For example including a basic statement where this information is found (library website, data repository) that encourages users to contact library staff if they require accommodation due to a disability can go a long way to bridging this gap. Library staff can then work with users to find ways to accommodate their information needs.