Accessible Web Maps for Visually Impaired Users: Recommendations and Example Solutions
Due to advances in information and communication technology, web maps are an increasingly important means of communication. While paper maps provide solutions that are accessible to the visually impaired, the use of web maps is still difficult for these users. This is true even though technology opens up new possibilities for developing accessible web maps. But, what must be considered when creating web maps suitable for the visually impaired? This paper presents recommendations, including example solutions based on the results obtained in two projects: AccessibleMap and senTour. In both projects mixed methods were used: literature and internet review, questionnaires, and analysis of similar systems. All work was done in close cooperation with organizations that represent the interests of the target group.
The findings underline that web maps accessible to visually impaired users must support different interaction modes and assistive technology. A carefully designed user interface, an easy-to-read map picture, and the provision of a verbal description of the map content are important. Further, additional aspects should be considered to enable these users to fully benefit from web maps. This refers to the need to widen the concept of accessibility, encompassing among others usability, the importance of building up these users’ digital and spatial competencies, and to leverage the advantages that result from the application of the participatory design approach.
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