Espoo Facilitates Movement for the Blind with Tactile Maps

City of Espoo takes Accessibility into account

The City of Espoo, in conjunction with the Espoo Disability Council, has accelerated various accessibility programmes with the aim to eliminate all obstacles that hinder access and activity from Espoo. The city aims to provide everyone with equal opportunities in everyday life.

Accessibility takes into account not only physically disabled people, but also the hearing and visually impaired individuals.

Better Orientation for the Blind in Leppävaara

In January 2015 we kicked off a pilot project with the City of Espoo to install three tactile map stands in the Leppävaara region. The chosen installation locations were the Sello shopping mall - one of the largest malls in the Nordic countries, the Leppävaara railway/bus station, and the Keskuspuisto Vocational College - an institute for special education needs. This area is Espoo's busiest transport hub where constantly moving flows of people and traffic creates hustle and bustle.

We completed the installations by April 2015. The visually impaired can touch the map to distinguish the terrain, buildings, boundaries and access routes to the stores, stations, as well as various services.

Design for All

The maps are placed outdoors; thus we used full colour plastic to 3D print the maps to obtain the durability. Lifelike building shapes, highly contrast full colour representing the buildings' and terrain's characteristics and clear symbols well serve the visually impaired travellers as well as everyone else with normal vision. Making the maps work for all is also what we aimed to achieve in this project.

Every map stand gets its own website from which users find more information of the areas using NFC tags and QR codes.

Low Maintenance

Require low maintenance is one important factor for public facilities. Because urban spaces and public constructions change frequently, we wanted to keep it as easy as possible to make any changes to the maps in future. With 3D printing, any changes, for example new buildings and roads, can be updated to the 3D models of the maps, then the new version can be easily printed. Moreover, a map is made of multiple pieces combined together and reproduction can be done to a specific piece. Thus there is no need to replace the entire map.

Publication about this project by the City of Espoo: in Finnish
Other publications: