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Tactile Maps, Kensington: More Than Just Wayfinding.

Article: Andrew Mashigo, MaMoMi
Contribution: Loz Simpson, Topografik
Contribution: Mrs Shirley Long, The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
January 2019

The South Kensington and Kensington High Street stations both have tactile maps installed at the stations. The tactile map at South Kensington station is located just outside the station, on Thurloe Street, off Exhibition Road. The Kensington High Street map is installed in High Street Kensington station. To locate it, walk towards the gates and on your approach, it is situated in the corner on the left, just before the ticketing machines.

WHAT ARE TACTILE MAPS?
Tactile maps are images that use raised surfaces so that a visually impaired (VI) person can feel them. They are used to convey non-textual information such as maps, with tactile map symbol conventions for pictorial information sharing. Symbols are chosen as the first focus since they are the features that represent the geographic reality and data.

Image description: Image depicts the robust three-dimensional tactile map featuring colour-coding, raised letters, symbols and braille. The raised letters and braille are finished in grey colour, the park and open spaces are depicted in green colour, the buildings in purple, the roads in dark blue and bus stops are marked with round yellow symbols.
The tactile map has specially designed lectern style stand
Image credit: The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

Image description: Image depicts the robust three-dimensional tactile map featuring colour-coding, raised letters, symbols and braille. The raised letters and braille are depicted in grey colour, the park and open spaces are depicted in green colour, the buildings in purple, the roads in dark blue and bus stops are marked with round yellow symbols. The map is installed on specially designed lectern style stands.

Tactile images, maps and touch installations enhance the experiences that people with sight difficulties have, making their visit more engaging, informative and stimulating, allowing greater independence and inclusion. – RNIB Tactile Maps and Maps 2015 Brochure

THE COMMISSION
The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC), working with Guide Dogs for the Blind and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), and designed by Topografik, produced these robust three-dimensional maps featuring colour-coding, raised letters, symbols and braille. The raised letters and braille are depicted in grey colour, the park and open spaces are depicted in green colour, the buildings in purple, the roads in dark blue and bus stops are marked with round yellow symbols.

The story with the tactile maps in Kensington started with the Exhibition Road project. One of the things RBKC agreed with Guide Dogs for the Blind was to provide some form of wayfinding for blind and partially sighted people to get around the Exhibition Road area.

Most maps are designed and produced for a more utilitarian purpose. Maps represent something, often a portion of the real environment or a collection of data or ideas within that environment. The map user often must interpret qualitative and quantitative data represented on the map as well as the symbology that is actually representing those data. This sounds relatively straightforward, but map reading is a complex task, one that requires the reader to interpret the meaning of symbols and then understand the spatial distribution of those symbols. Sometimes the spatial distribution focuses on tangible features such as a street network and other times the spatial distribution focuses on intangible phenomenon such as population density. – Journal of Blindness and Innovation Research. Vol 5, No 1 (2015)

The mapmaker understands the data to be represented and then chooses the most appropriate mapping method. One of the goals of cartography production is to make the map use as efficient and effective as possible.

Tactile maps contain meaning that must be deciphered and transformed by the map user and if the same feature (a symbol representing water, for example) differs from tactile map to tactile map, then every time a tactile map reader uses a new tactile map, they will have to spend time studying and comparing the map key to the map itself, rather than attending to the geography in the map. On examining both Kensington maps we agree that they are really both effective, informative and immensely valuable.

THE EXHIBITION ROAD MAP
Many people including colleagues in Cultural and Heritage institutions assumed that the tactile map projects were initiated by Transport For London (TFL) because they are located in the stations. That is unfortunately not the case.

The Exhibition Road Map was commissioned by Shirley Long, on behalf of Kensington and Chelsea. Mrs Long is a Special Projects Consultant for Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC). Our understanding is that London Underground do not want to instal any more of the tactile maps, which we feel is really unfortunate. But I am reliably told that does not mean Kensington and Chelsea will not find locations outside of the stations.

We started looking at the RNIB “Maps for All” which is a layered coloured plastic map recognised as a standard wayfinding tool, but a “Map for All” would not withstand outside use so RNIB recommended a metal sculptor who had worked with them on other projects. – Loz Simpson, Topografik

RBKC set up a small working group including RNIB, Guide Dogs, blind and VI users and together produced a map everyone was happy with. It is a multi-layered etched zinc map with coloured areas, large raised lettering and Braille. It was the first of its kind. It sits on its own specially designed lectern style stand outside South Kensington station. RBKC took advice about the height and angle of the stand from RNIB and mobility groups.

Image depicts a close up view of the tactile map, looking closely from the top left side. There is a guide dog to the right with the dog handler wearing a blue Guide Dogs tee shirt, and with the man's right hand feeling the map. We can clearly see the raised letters, symbols and braille on the map.
Image credit: The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

Image description: This Image depicts a close-up view of the tactile map, looking at it from the top left side. There is a guide dog to the right with the dog handler wearing a blue Guide Dogs tee shirt, with the handler’s right hand feeling the map by using his palm. We can clearly see the raised letters, symbols and braille on the map.

Image depicts a group of visually impaired people, volunteers and staff standing around the Exhibition road tactile map for a group photograph. They are all smiling. There is also a guide dog on the right of the picture. The dog is looking towards the camera.
Image credit: The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

Image description: This Image depicts a group of visually impaired people, RNIB and Guide Dogs volunteers and staff standing around the Exhibition road tactile map for a group photograph. They are all smiling. The guide dog is on the right of the picture and looking towards the camera.

THE KENSINGTON HIGH STREET MAP
The Kensington High Street map is actually in High Street Kensington station and was installed in March 2018. Unfortunately, the map had to be mounted on a wall and tucked away in the corner inside the station because of space constraints. And because of this, it is difficult to spot and many people do not find it as accessible as they would have liked.

Just like the tactile map on Exhibition Road, this tactile map of Kensington High Street, for sight and touch, uses colour-coding, raised letters, symbols and braille to identify buildings, roads, open spaces and bus stops along Kensington High Street.

I was actually really concerned that the location of the tactile map at the High Street Kensington Station was known to only a few London underground users, and many regular VI station users were surprised to be told of its existence at our Sensory Trail of Kensington in August 2018.

Another observation was that the area was not well-lit meaning a VI person with some vision will also struggle to read and use the map visually. I brought these to the attention of Mrs Long, the project consultant.

I agree with your observations about the location of the Kensington High Street map. It is far from ideal but we were very restricted by London Underground who had the final decision on the location. Originally, we intended to put the tactile map on the pavement outside High Street Kensington station but the heavy footfall in the area coupled with a narrow pavement prevented this. This is why it had to be mounted on the wall. – Shirley Long, Special Projects Consultant, The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Image description: The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, working with Guide Dogs for the Blind and the Royal National Institute for the Blind, produced this robust three-dimensional map featuring colour-coding, raised letters, symbols and braille. The raised letters and braille are finished in grey colour, the park and open spaces are depicted in green colour, the buildings in purple, the roads in dark blue and bus stops are marked with round yellow symbols.
The tactile map of Kensington High Street, installed inside the station.

Other than those observations, all our VI participants felt this tactile map will help visually impaired users, including those with guide dogs, wheelchair users and other visitors, to map their way around Kensington High Street. They all felt the symbols and colours worked very well and that there was a good consistency in what they understood to be universal design practice and requirements.

The image depicts a visually impaired person touching the tactile map with his right hand. He is feeling the raised letters that read Open Space.
A Visually Impaired participant touches the tactile map of Kensington High Street.

Image description: The image depicts a visually impaired person touching the tactile map with his right hand. He is touching and feeling the raised letters that read Open Space.

We believe that the tactile maps project is a really wonderful project. The maps are informative, relevant and valuable, and can potentially change the experience of VI commuters and the way people use outdoor spaces.

The tactile maps enhance the experience of VI users and can be used as a signpost, a point of orientation and landmark. They are more than just another wayfinding tool, they are an engaging source of information and independence. – Andrew Mashigo

More investment needs to be put into creating more tactile maps so we can have them installed in many prominent locations around the city of London. On my travels to Exhibition road, I have seen the map engaging and being used by sighted travellers, a sign of their value across the community as a whole.

CREDITS
We want to extend our sincere gratitude to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and Topografik for their support in providing information and images for this article. We also like to personally thank Loz Simpson of Topografik and Shirley Long, Special Projects Consultant, RBKC, for all of their assistance.

Image Credits:

Royal National Institute Of Blind People (RNIB)

Royal Borough For Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC)

Topografik

Guide Dogs For The Blind

Home Futures: Living in Yesterday’s Tomorrow

A multisensory Tour at Design Museum

Saturday 12 January 2019

This is an image of Bocca Sofa, 1970. It was designed by Studio 65 for Gufram. The Bocca Sofa, or Red Lip sofa as it is famously known, was based on artist Salvador Dali's original design, itself inspired by the lips of iconic beauty Marilyn Monroe. This is a kaleidoscopic fusion of pop art, conceptual art and modernist design. It is bright red in colour and made from polyurethane material and chromed metal as the support frame. It is 85 cm high, 212 cm wide and 80 cm deep. It comfortably sits 3 people.

Image: The Bocca Sofa, 1970. Designed by Studio 65 for Gufram.

HOME FUTURES Exhibition
The home of the future has long intrigued designers and popular culture alike and this Home Futures Exhibition Immerses us in a series of dreamlike passages and rooms exploring yesterday’s visions of the future.

We know that the home incites an emotional world and is not just a physical place or space. It is a place that can also define us. It is also not something that we own but it has actually become a commodity that few can really own or afford. The changing values of people in our society also express itself in how we are now more interested in access rather than just ownership. And by access, we refer to access to power, influence and recognition.

Walking through avant-garde speculations displayed alongside many contemporary objects, more than 200 objects and experiences in this exhibition that trace key social and technological aspirations that have driven change in the home.

The walls are painted white, with ceiling lighting and spotlights above and good lighting throughout. On the morning of our visit, there was an issue with the lighting levels been a bit low, but that did not impact the experience of the space. Some displays were set in wall units and plinths while many are installed independently on the floor. The rooms did not have any distinct smell other than the warmth of the installation.

Acoustically, this space was a myriad of sounds and digitally sourced conversations. Sounds coming from video installations in different rooms seem to converge in the space as we moved through it, but the sound bleed was only a concern when we congregated close to or between the sound installations.

The exhibition was set in 6 different themes, exploring different focuses on various concepts, domestic behaviours, design ideas and modular furniture systems.

Below is an image of the Gufram Cactus, 1972, designed by Guido Droco and Franco Mello. This is a green cactus shaped coat hanger standing at 7 feet tall. On the top of the Cactus is Andrew’s Fedora hat. That photo shoot request was by one of our visually impaired visitors.

Gufram was once a small production company responsible for the most iconic pieces of Italian radical furniture and is now famous for merging art and design. Their Bocca Sofa or Red Lip sofa, the featured image for this blog, was based on the artist Salvador Dali’s original design, itself inspired by the lips of iconic beauty Marilyn Monroe. This is a kaleidoscopic fusion of pop art, conceptual art and modernist design.

This is an image of the Gufram Cactus designed by Guido Droco and Franco Mello. This is a green cactus shaped coat hanger standing just under 6 feet tall. On the top of the Cactus is Andrew's Fedora hat. That photo shoot request was by one of our visually impaired visitors.
GUFRAM CACTUS, 1972. Designed by Guido Drocco and Franco Mello

Living With Others
This section explores the way in which we negotiate privacy in the home and the impact media has on domestic behaviour.

Living On The Move
We see how modular systems merged furniture with infrastructure, using simple forms and muted colours to frame furniture as a tool rather than a possession. An example is a modular toilet that can be easily converted to a bathroom or bedroom!

“Design comes from the heart and the brain, to cuddle the soul of people and improve life for the best, the livelihood of people.” – Alex Iberti, CEO Gufram.

Living Smart
This section traces the modernist ideal of the ‘home as machine’ and pairs it with the contemporary vision of the ‘smart home’. We see the principles of labour saving by using connected devices that use our data to deliver function.

Living With Less
One recurring ideal of the 20th century was that housing shortages could be solved with fully fitted home units and micro-living solutions. Less space in urban areas resulted in the emergence of hybrid furniture like the sofa bed, folding tables and integrated storage.

This is an image from the Living with less display. Here Andrew explains how the minimalist metal installation operates.
Andrew explains how the minimalist metal installation works. Next to him is a VI having a closer look at the installation.

Below is the Bench, After Judd, 2014, with visually impaired visitors standing around the bench and a few sitting on the bench. This bench confuses the role of the horizontal surface because at 12 cm high and around 4 foot wide, it can function as a seat, a table and a flooring unit. The rug on the bench is a multicoloured rug with blocks of colours in a geometric form. This gives it a mondrian-like look.

The wooden bench was at room temperature but the metal support was a little bit colder but the overall object retained its warmth. The rug was soft, with the stitching along the coloured patterns providing a tactual ridge.

This is the Bench, After Judd, 2014, with visually impaired visitors standing around the bench and a few sitting on the bench. This bench confuses the role of the horizontal surface because at 12 cm high and around 4 foot wide, it can function as a seat, a table and a flooring unit. The rug on the bench is a multicoloured rug with blocks of colours in a geometric form. This gives it a mondrian-like look.
BENCH, After Judd, 2014. Designed by Andrea Zittel

Living Autonomously
This section explores self-reliant models of domestic life that are environmentally responsible and often anti-consumerist. The idea was that an open-source system allowed anyone to make furniture and basic household appliances with parts and tools that can be reused.

Below are the VI visitors touching and sitting on the Single Bed designed by Enzo Mari. In this image, Bernard from the Design Museum explains an aspect of this easy to assemble furniture that can easily be converted to tables, chairs, bookshelves or wardrobes.

The single bed had a well-finished surface, without the worry of splints. the mattress was firm and felt well-constructed and durable. The plant in this image is artificial, with a smooth feel to touch.

In this image are VI visitors touching and sitting on the Single Bed designed by Enzo Mari. In this image, Bernard, the producer of Adult Learning at the Design Museum, explains an aspect of this easy to assemble furniture that can easily be converted to tables, chairs, bookshelves or wardrobes.
VI visitors sitting on the Single bed by Enzo Mari. Bernard, the producer of Adult Learning at the Design Museum, can be seen here explaining aspects of the bed design.

Domestic Arcadia
Some designers emphasise the home as places of irrational and emotional needs, and surreal interiors conjured idyllic landscapes, bringing natural, biomorphic forms and landscape elements into the home.

Below is the FRAME 03 from 2017 and designed by SO-IL. This stainless steel bench with a metal ring chain or mesh structure that is the sit can sit up to 7 people. The industrial material used to make this frame furniture does not reveal its function, at first sight, leaving it open to the imagination.

The mesh structure that creates the sit almost feels like a cobweb that cradles, and though it is cold to the touch because it is made of stainless steel, it feels like a piece of outdoor furniture that will work well in the garden in the summer.

The designers call it an exploration into aporetic architectural furniture, which we can interpret as characterised by an irresolvable internal contradiction or logical disjunction.

This is an image of the FRAME 03 from 2017 and designed by SO-IL, with several VI visitors sitting on it and others standing around it. This stainless steel bench with a metal ring chain or mesh structure that is the sit can sit up to 7 people. The industrial material used to make this frame furniture does not reveal its function, at first sight, leaving it open to the imagination.
The FRAME 03, 2017, by SO-IL.

THE WORKSHOP
After the tour, we went up to the Creative workshop to discuss the exhibition. The workshop activity included exploring some samples of objects from the exhibition and we also took the time to share ideas of what we want the home of the future to be like, for us as individuals and people with specific access needs.

What should the home of the future look like, for me?

Several VI’s reflected on the exhibition and explored ideas of what they would want to have as functional ideas for future home furniture. Today’s future thoughts and ideas can easily be an experience of tomorrow.

VI visitors can be seen sitting around the table and having a discussion in the Creative workshop. On the table are drawing materials like pencils, coloured pens, marker pens and A3 size papers.
VI visitors can be seen sitting around the table and having a discussion in the Creative workshop
A VI visitor is exploring one of the sample materials from the exhibition
A VI visitor explores one of the sample materials from the exhibition.
A VI assisted by a companion explores the material sample from the exhibition
A VI assisted by a companion explores the material sample from the exhibition

The Home Futures exhibition continues until 24 March 2019.

CREDITS

Multisensory Tour Facilitator: Andrew Mashigo

Tour Programmer: Bernard Hay, Producer Adult Learning

Large Print Guide: MaMoMi Initiative CIC

Copyright © The Design Museum 2019

Andrew Mashigo. MaMoMi Initiative. January 2019