How Do You See Maps?


Back in the 1990s, I did a bit of volunteer work with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and one of the things I learned was that computers often make life even harder for people whose lives are already hard enough. Remember when classified ads went online? It was several years before screen readers like JAWS caught up, which meant that for several years, finding a job or an apartment was even harder for the visually impaired than it had been. And just when things had settled down, AJAX appeared and broke screen readers again.

Another recent(ish) development that has made life harder for the visually impaired is the increased use of maps on the web. One of my grad students, Alecia Fowler, is trying to address that problem by finding out how best to describe maps to people who can’t see them. If you’re willing to give her 30 minutes of your time, please head over to and give her little “game” a try.